Media Release, 01 October 2014

A vibrant list of innovative Victorian Telstra Business Women’s Awards finalists released today, has added fuel to the argument that Australia is the second best place in the world to be a female entrepreneur.

A recent survey by the Global Entrepreneurship and Development Institute found that Australia ranked second, behind the US and ahead of Sweden, in a 30-country analysis of the conditions that foster high-potential female entrepreneurship.

A woman helping to drive this phenomenon is one of 18 Victorian Awards finalists, Laura McKenzie, CEO of Scale. Scale is a non-profit ‘angel’ investor network inspired by the US-based Golden Seeds, which encourages Australian women to invest in female-led companies. In its first year Scale has recruited 55 ‘angels,’ received applications from 100 entrepreneurs and invested $2 million in four companies.

Young entrepreneurs on the list include Mia Klitsas, who founded female sanitary products business Millie & More at just 22 with $1000 in hand and, eight years later, exports to the US, Europe, UAE, Taiwan and South Africa.

The 2014 finalists join a prestigious list of entrepreneurial Telstra Victorian Business Women Award winners, from Carmen’s Fine Foods founder Carolyn Creswell, designer furniture manufacturer Margot Spalding of Jimmy Possum and Boost Juice founder Janine Allis, as well as not-for-profit sector leaders including Beyond Blue’s Dr Nicole Highet and Natalie Collard, CEO of Australian Dairy Farmers.

Other finalists who’ve followed their entrepreneurial aspirations include agricultural scientist Dr Kristy Howard, founder of Inspiring Excellence which provides business development support for rural women, Dr Kate Kerkin owner of socially-committed urban planning business K2 Planning, and online pioneer Kate Morris of

Among the finalists for the Young Business Women’s Award is Justine Flynn, co-founder of social enterprise Thankyou Group, which developed a consumer app that reports on the impact that sales of its Thankyou Water, Food and Bodycare products make to people in developing countries.

Finalists from the Community and Government sector include Australian manufacturing advocate Samantha Read, CEO of national peak body, the Plastics and Chemicals Industries Association, and Anna Skarbek, Executive Director of ClimateWorks Australia, which works with business and government to help reduce Australian greenhouse gas emissions.

Kate McKenzie, Telstra Chief Operations Officer and Telstra Business Women’s Awards Ambassador said, “The diversity of our 2014 Victorian finalists shines a light on Australian business women whose innovations and leadership are changing the industries and communities around them.

“As the longest standing national business awards program for women in Australia, the Awards have uncovered stories of amazing business women at all stages in their careers.

“The 2014 Victorian finalists join a long list of incredible alumni who have inspired us with their individual achievements, and done so much collectively for the promotion of women in the Australian business world,” she said.

As a partner of the Telstra Business Women’s Awards, Vanessa Nolan-Woods, General Manager of Commonwealth Bank’s Women in Focus network, said: “For 20 years, the Telstra Business Women Awards have provided a high profile platform that celebrates the achievements of successful women. The Awards create positive role models for other aspiring women.

“Women in Focus is proud of our partnership with the Telstra Awards, and the role we have played together to create a supportive network of women to inspire future trailblazers,” she said.

Winners of the 2014 Telstra Victorian Business Women’s Awards will be announced on Tuesday 21 October in Melbourne. The Victorian winners proceed to the national finals in Melbourne on 26 November.

For finalists across Australia the awards offer a chance to share in $650,000 in cash and prizes.

Finalists for the 2014 Telstra Victorian Business Women’s Awards are:

Business Owner Award
Dr Kristy Howard, Inspiring Excellence, Beechworth
Dr Kate, Kerkin K2 Planning, Newtown
Kate Weiss, Table of Plenty, Cheltenham
Melanie Wilkinson, Fenton, Melbourne

Private and Corporate Sector Award
Dr Tracey Brown, Alchemia, Clayton
Caroline Kennedy, Cox & Kings Australia South, Melbourne
Danielle Press, Equip, Melbourne
Caroline Stevenson, Quantium, Melbourne

Community and Government Award

Sherri Bruinhout, Melbourne City Mission, Melbourne
Maria Deveson, Crabbe Marie Stopes International Australia, Melbourne
Samantha Read, Plastics and Chemicals Industries Association, Melbourne
Anna Skarbek, ClimateWorks Australia, Melbourne

Business Innovation Award
Dr Tracey Brown, Alchemia, Clayton
Justine Flynn, Thankyou Group, Collingwood
Laura McKenzie, Scale, Melbourne
Kate Morris,, Brunswick West
Anna Skarbek, ClimateWorks Australi,a Melbourne

Young Business Women’s Award
Justine Flynn, Thankyou Group, Collingwood
Mia Klitsas, Millie & More, North Melbourne
Donna Markham, Monash Health, Clayton
Zoe Waters, Barwon Health, Geelong

More information on the Telstra Business Women’s Awards can be found at

The Gender Global Entrepreneurship and Development Index (GEDI) was released in June 2014 with the support of the Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network.