Australian entrepreneurship was once almost exclusively reserved for men. Not anymore! Now, female entrepreneurs are not only competing but also beating men at their own game.
We obviously still have a considerable way to go before women have an equally fair shot at being a successful Australian entrepreneur as men do.
Consider this statistic: Just 22.3 per cent of Australia’s founders are women. But more and more female entrepreneurs are starting businesses and revolutionising industries.
While there are thousands of women who deserve to be celebrated for their achievements, in this article we highlight some famous female entrepreneurs (and some not so famous ones) who are absolutely crushing it in 2023. You can also check out our list of the 10 Richest Australian Tech Entrepreneurs or the 50 Most Popular Women Celebrity Entrepreneurs.
So here is our list of the female Australian entrepreneurs who are leading the way and inspiring the next generation of women entrepreneurs around the world. (The list is in no particular order)
1. Melanie Perkins (Canva)
Net Worth: $6.5 billion
“Top Under 30 Founders of the decade” Forbes
Melanie Perkins is the CEO and Co-founder of the billion-dollar Australian Tech startup Canva. She co-founded the disruptive online design and publishing tool in 2013 and has since managed to make Canva one of the world’s most successful tech companies.
Melanie has raised one of Australia’s largest early-stage investment rounds as CEO of Canva. Canva was valued at $40 billion in 2021, making her not only one of the most successful female entrepreneurs in Australia but also one of the most successful Australian entrepreneurs of the modern era.
2. Katie Page (Harvey Norman)
Net Worth: $80 million; Harvey Norman revenues – $2.547 billion
Named 4th in ABR’s list of “50 most powerful women in business” 2015.
With a long 21 year career as Chief Executive Officer of Harvey Norman Holdings, Katie Page has also been referred to as the mastermind behind the success of her empire. She manages a network of 277 stores in eight countries, while also acting as the Retail Council Director.
Katie Page is also a backer of several professional sports and an active promoter of women in sports. She was the first woman to be elected to the board of the National Rugby League (NRL). In 2005, she went on to introduce the NRL’s ‘Women in League’ initiative. Katie Page is truly an exemplary Australian entrepreneur, inspiring men and women all over the world.
3. Kayla Itsines (Sweat App)
Net Worth: $64 million
In the Times list of “30 most influential people on the Internet” 2016.
This Australian entrepreneur has gone from being a personal trainer at a gym in Adelaide to building one of the world’s most successful fitness app Sweat. At 29, she is still under 30 and has already achieved great things in the world of business.
Kayla Itsines is a great example of how you can leverage the power of Apps to launch your business and potentially earn millions from it. We at Elegant Media have developed several successful Apps that are generating substantial revenue for entrepreneurs.
4. Diana Williams (Fernwood Women’s Health Clubs)
Net Worth: Turn over more than $75 million/year
In 1989, Diana Williams was a stay-at-home mom in Melbourne. Which is when she realised there was a need for a female-only gym and opened her first one in Bendigo, Victoria. Thirty years later, her health club brand Fernwood Women’s Health Clubs has 70 clubs around Australia and 73,000 members.
Diana’s background in weightlifting has helped her hone her vision for women’s fitness, not just in Australia but all around the world. Her fitness studios offer a staggering variety of classes, from yoga and Pilates to Tai Chi and Zumba. Add to that the perks of free breakfasts, hair care products and even creche facilities – no wonder Diana’s business is crushing it!
5. Janine Allis (Australian Entrepreneur Boost Juice)
Net Worth: (upwards of) $66 million; Retail Zoo revenues – $350 million
In Australia, you are more likely to spot a Boost juice bar than a kangaroo. Janine started selling juice from her home in the year 2000, 20 years later, she has managed to build an empire of 550 Boost juice stores around the world. Janine has always been outspoken about the importance of leadership and given a good example of it herself by leading her company from her kitchen to Prahran’s Chapel Street and onto a worldwide phenomenon.
She is also the part-owner of Retail Zoo, which is the parent company of Boost Juice, Salsa’s Fresh Mex Grill, Betty’s Burgers and Cibo Espresso.
Janine Allis has authored The Accidental Entrepreneur – The Juicy Bits, which signifies the importance of resilience to achieve success. She had also worked with Village Roadshow and United International Pictures prior to starting off on her entrepreneurial path. Once it started, there was no looking back for her – just like there shouldn’t be if you, too, intend to become a famous female entrepreneur. Who knows, you might find yourself pitching to her on Shark Tank!
6. Catriona Wallace (Australian Entrepreneur Flamingo AI)
Net Worth: Major stockholder in Flamingo AI
Recognised by the Australian Financial Review as the Most Influential Woman in Business & Entrepreneurship, Dr. Cariona Wallace has a PhD in Organizational Behaviour and is furthermore a Director of the Gradient Institute, a Responsible AI consultancy.
One of the few female experts in the field of Artificial Intelligence, Catriona Wallace’s company Flamingo, was one of the first of its kind to be listed on the Australian Stock Exchange. With its flagship virtual assistants program, Flamingo is now drawing even more capital from the market for future developmental strategies.
Under her leadership, the company landed premium accounts like Nationwide and HSBC. She is also on the board of Fargo Enterprises. In April 2020, she also launched Ethical AI Advisory, aimed at developing and integrating ethical AI into businesses of the future.
7. Maxine Horne (Vita Group)
Net Worth: Compensation as CEO – AUD$1,468,210; Vita Group revenues – $773 million
2006 QBR Businesswoman of the Year, 2014 EY Entrepreneur of the Year (Northern Region), and Courier Mail Business Person of the Year in 2019.
Maxine Horne is a woman who has faced failure but still picked herself up to achieve success like never before. Horne’s Vita Group employs more than 400 people and is recording more than 30% growth in its revenue on a yearly basis.
Being the CEO of a $700 million annual revenue business is certainly something aspiring female entrepreneurs will find both empowering and inspiring!
She came from the UK to settle in Australia. Her entrepreneurial journey began with a single retail store on the Gold Coast – and today includes 130 locations all across the Australian continent.
In 2021 Maxine Horne announced her resignation as CEO of the Vita Group and sold its Telstra stores for $110 million along with a move to concentrate on its beauty businesses.
Thriving in a fast-growth but hyper-competitive telecom industry has made Maxine Horne one of the most inspiring Australian entrepreneurs.
8. Leslie Gillespie (Female Entrepreneur Bakers Delight)
Net Worth: Bakers Delight has annual revenues of ~$600 million
Leslie Gillespie was a simple baker at one point in time. But her small bakery store has expanded to 700 locations across Australia, Canada, USA and New Zealand e business and along the way, created a multimillion-dollar company: Bakers Delight.
Leslie has also set an example for the world with her initiatives towards community service and was awarded the Order of Australia in 2006 for her service to the community.
Her children now head the business, while she and husband Roger focus on charitable work, most notably, the Breast Cancer Network Australia. Her example is awesome for those aspiring entrepreneurs who want to achieve great things while also having a positive impact in the world through their work.
9. Naomi Milgrom (Sussan Group)
Net Worth: $933 million
Companion of the Order of Australia Award (2020)/ Officer of the Order of Australia Award (2010)
Fashion retailers Sussan, Sportsgirl and Suzanne Grae are all part of the same company: ARJ Holdings of which Naomi Milgrom is the Chief Executive.
Naomi comes from a generational business family, which probably helped in developing her keen entrepreneurial acumen. She started a computer books publishing company when the information technology age was just beginning, went on to co-found a video game studio in 1980 in Melbourne, and then made Sussan into the international women’s fashion retailer conglomerate it is today.
Milgrom is also a charity loving entrepreneur and is an active participant in philanthropic activities, focusing on promoting mental health and cultural innovation, particularly architecture through the Naomi Milgrom Foundation.
10. Charlotte Vidor (Australian Entrepreneur Toga Group)
Net Worth: the Toga Group has revenues of ~$285 million
Charlotte and her husband Ervin Vidor, migrated from Poland in the early 60s and set up a small hotel in Australia. They have not looked back since. Charlotte Vidor is the founding member and co-owner of the Toga Group, which she and Ervin established in 1963 in Sydney, which has a chain of hotels and apartment buildings under its ownership including the Adina and Medina chain of hotels, as well as Rendezvous and Travelodge as well.
In 2013, she expanded her business’s footprint with a $450 million joint venture signed with Far East Orchard, a property group based in Singapore managing nearly 100 hotels in Australia, New Zealand and Europe.
Charlotte was named in the 2021 Queen’s Birthday Honours List for significant service to the multicultural community, tourism and urban planning.
This kind of foresight bears out her long-standing respect not just in Australia’s entrepreneur community but also in the world.
11. Sarina Russo (Sarina Russo Group)
Net Worth: $103 million
Sarina Russo is an entrepreneur with her roots in Australia but her business spreads out all over the world. The Sarina Russo Group has offices in countries like China, UK, India, and Vietnam with a current revenue holding of about $122 million. She came to Australia as a child in the 1950s and later worked in a string of jobs that taught her a lot about recruitment.
Using that experience of getting fired from eight jobs, The Sarina Russo Group is today one of Australia’s largest education, training and employment providers, with locations across Australia. Her company has helped over 85,000 individuals get jobs over more than three decades. Amazing!
Ernst & Young recognised Russo as their 2018 Champion of Entrepreneurship (Northern Region).
Check out this video to see her tips on becoming an entrepreneur and the need to disrupt yourself.
12. Barb de Corti (ENJO)
Net Worth: Difficult to ascertain
Taking even a small step towards protecting the environment gives you immense benefits in the long run. Barb de Corti’s ENJO cleaning products, based in Perth but headquartered in Austria (Barb’s country of birth), have helped Australia take big leaps in environment protection initiatives.
Although established as far back as 1994, ENJO has also created an online presence which has led to a surge in popularity for its products.
Barb de Corti is an adamant proponent of female entrepreneurs. As early as 21 years of age, she taught aerobics, started a news agency in collaboration with a post-office, and designed baby and gym wear. It was only when her son’s asthma showed her the link between potentially hazardous cleaning chemicals and how they could be excluded from homes, that she embarked on creating ENJO. What an eventful life it has been for her! Do you agree?
13. Yenda Lee (Bing Lee)
Net Worth: $608 million
Running a family business with her son, Yenda Lee is successfully managing the company that her husband set up. 60 years in business and still running successfully, the Bing Lee electronics stores are highly popular in Australia.
Her charitable contributions are highlighted by donations to the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute and the Cure Brain Cancer Foundation. She unwinds from business duties with her grandchildren. Inspiring, indeed!
14. Jo Horgan (Cosmetic Cubed)
Net Worth: Business net worth $538 million
What happens when you realise that there is something that you want which is not available in the market? You start your own company of course. At least, that is what Jo Horgan did when she set up Mecca Brands in Melbourne in 1997, to make high-quality cosmetics products available in Australia.
“I had a very clear vision that I wanted to revolutionise the cosmetics industry, a lofty goal for a 28-year-old” – Jo Horgan.
Mecca Cosmetics is now the largest cosmetic retailer by sales in Australia with revenues of A$538 million in 2019 from over 100 Australian and New Zealand stores. Mecca Cosmetics has also expanded into China in partnership with the Alibaba Group.
Jo Horgan was the EY Entrepreneur of The Year 2018 Australia Award winner.
15. Kylie Lewis (Female Entrepreneur Kin)
Net Worth: Difficult to ascertain
An entrepreneur in the digital industry and a leading figure in content promotion and social media marketing, Kylie’s small project called Kin, started in 2013, has now turned into a big company. She is the Founder, Leadership Facilitator and Coach of the company.
“Kin supports the development of creative, curious and entrepreneurial organisations and their teams interested in daring leadership, humanising work, building brave cultures and cultivating professional and personal courage.”
Armed with a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) (Psychology & Sociology) and a Masters in eBusiness and Communication, Kylie is one female entrepreneur that the world needs to watch out for in 2023 and beyond.
If that doesn’t make her someone that future entrepreneurs would like to emulate, we don’t know what does. She is also an author of two books and the host of a podcast as well.
16. Julia Ross (Australian Entrepreneur Ross Human Directions)
Net Worth: $65 million in 2014
Number 20 on BRW’s Rich Women list.
Once the owner of Ross Human Directions, Julia Ross resigned from the board of a company that she had made out of nothing, when the company was bought for a hefty sum. That still makes Ross one of the wealthiest women in Australia and an inspirational figure for all.
She is now based mostly out of London, having made real-estate waves with her sale of a prime Sydney waterfront property before moving abroad. With a long career path that took her through many varied industries (including a stint in construction!), she certainly is an entrepreneur to look up to, for ambitious entrepreneurs both male and female!
17. Gina Rinehart (Hancock Prospecting)
Hancock Prospecting revenues – $16.6 billion
No list of female entrepreneurs would be complete without Georgina ‘Gina’ Rinehart, not just an Australian list, but any list of business leaders throughout the world, such is her success!
Gina Rinehart may well be one of the few females who has carved a place among the top leaders in Australia’s mining industry.
Known as the ‘“iron lady’”, Gina Rinehart rebuilt her late father’s financially distressed mining company, Hancock Prospecting, making it among the top three revenue-earning companies in Australia and Australia’s third-largest cattle producer with a portfolio of properties across the country.
Her company has made Gina the richest person (and female entrepreneur) in Australia, as of February 2021 with a personal fortune of A$36.28 billion.
Other notable female entrepreneurs:
- Vicky Teoh (TPG)
- Christina Quinn (VIP Petfoods)
- Fiona Geminder (Pact Group)
- Julie Mathers (Flora & Fauna)
- Marita Cheng (AuBot)
Over to you future Female Australian Entrepreneurs
Did this list inspire you? Do you see on this list ten years from now, maybe five years from now? The world needs more female entrepreneurs and the more women we will have becoming Australian entrepreneurs the better Australia will do as a country.
At Elegant Media, we are all about turning ideas into successful Apps and websites that can generate revenue and help you build your own business. Get in touch with us for a FREE consultation call with an experienced App strategist.