Awards celebrating success of inspirational Victorian business women

Media Release, 16 September 2013

Two refugees who used their experiences as young women as inspiration for creating successful businesses are among 20 finalists for the 2013 Telstra Victorian Business Women’s Awards.

Zahra Baho, Director of Roxburgh Early Learning Centre, and Dr Jehan Loza, Founder and Director of Social Compass, a social research consultancy that measures the impact of corporate citizenship programs, are both finalists for the Business Owner Award.

Ms Baho fled from war-torn Eritrea to a refugee camp in Sudan when she was 15 and a year later she was forced into an arranged marriage and moved to the United Arab Emirates. She arrived in Melbourne in 1990, a single mother seeking asylum with three children under seven.

After a new daughter Mona was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, Ms Baho sold her house and established the childcare centre north of Melbourne that today caters for up to 85 children and 130 families from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds.

Ms Baho says: “The unintended benefit of being a refugee is that it instills a hard-work ethic - since the age of 12, I learned to depend on myself and make my own success.”

Dr Loza, who arrived in Australia as a six year old refugee from Egypt, conducted research into marginalisation and exclusion and later, in a Post Doctoral Research Fellowship at Deakin University, led research on the relationship of corporate citizenship to organisational and community development.

In 2004 she established Social Compass and today has clients across government, academic, corporate and not-for-profit sectors, conducting social research and evaluating programs that deliver solutions for a socially inclusive future. Dr Loza says: “Our work with Indigenous communities marries my desire to see social change and give voice to the marginalised.”

Another Business Owner Award finalist is author Jen McVeity whose Seven Steps to Writing Success program has been incorporated as a resource in Australia’s national schools curriculum. She says: “It’s been a difficult personal journey with the entire family finances resting on a fledgling business but it’s now profitable and making a real and measurable change in Australian education.”

Finalists for the Private and Corporate Sector Award include Dr Marianne Broadbent, former Associate Dean of Melbourne Business School and now senior partner and co-owner of leadership advisory services firm EWK International, Sadhana Smiles, CEO of real estate network Harcourts Victoria, and Julie Mack, General Manager of Gippsland family business Maffra Trenching & Boring Pty Ltd.

Kate McKenzie, Group Managing Director Telstra Innovation, Products and Marketing and Ambassador of the Telstra Business Women’s Awards, said the Awards celebrated the hard work and determination of business women in Victoria.

“For 19 years we’ve run the Awards to inspire leading business women to realise their potential and celebrate their success. We believe the 2013 Victorian finalists are entrepreneurs, innovators and managers who can inspire our nation and the following generation,” Ms McKenzie said.

CommBank’s Women in Focus program, which opens doors to opportunity for women across Australia, is an Official Partner of the Telstra Business Women’s Awards.

Karen James, General Manager, Women in Focus and Affiliate Business Banking said: “Partnering with the Telstra Business Women’s Awards for the fifth year is vital to our purpose. The Alumni inspire the community through speaking at our events, sharing their story and expertise online, and mentoring women in the community.”

Winners of the 2013 Telstra Victorian Business Women’s Awards will be announced on Tuesday 15 October in Melbourne. The Victorian winners proceed to the national finals in Melbourne on Thursday 14 November.  

For winners across Australia the awards offer a share in $200,000 in cash and prizes.

Previous winners of the Telstra Victorian Business Woman of the Year Award include Carolyn Creswell, Managing Director of Carman’s Fine Foods, Shelley Park, Chief Executive of Southern Health, and Janet Matton, formerly Vice President Operations for IBM Australia and New Zealand.

Finalists for the 2013 Telstra Victorian Business Women’s Awards are:

Business Owner Award

Zahra Baho, Monalisa Nominees, Roxburgh Park
Jo Fisher, Jo Fisher Group, Melbourne
Paula Heenan, Ballarat Centre of Music & the Arts, Ballarat
Dr Jehan Loza, Social Compass, Research
Aimee Marks, TOM Organic, St Kilda
Jen McVeity, Seven Steps to Writing Success, Sandringham

Private and Corporate Sector Award

Cate Bakos, Empower Wealth Property Advisory Pty Ltd, North Melbourne
Dr Marianne Broadbent, EWK International, Melbourne
Elizabeth Coe, Umow Lai, South Yarra
Julie Mack, Maffra Trenching & Boring Pty Ltd, Traralgon
Sadhana Smiles, Harcourts Victoria, Cheltenham
Samantha Stevens, BHP Billiton, Melbourne

Community and Government Award

Sarah Burns, Mornington Secondary College, Mornington
Natalie Collard, Australian Dairy Farmers, Melbourne
Dr Erin Lalor, National Stroke Foundation, Melbourne
Kelly O'Shanassy, Environment Victoria, Melbourne

Business Innovation

Aimee Marks, TOM Organic, St Kilda
Leanne Raven, SIDS and KIDS Australia, Hawthorn

Young Business Women’s Award

Dr Natalie Flatt, OnPsych, Mornington
Aimee Marks, TOM Organic, St Kilda
Athena Prib, gemaker Pty Ltd, Melbourne
Lauren Ridgway, Bunnings Warehouse Vermont, South Sandhurst

More information on the Telstra Business Women’s Awards can be found on the Telstra Business Women's Awards website.