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Career Crushing on Azzi Williams – Founder of Williamspro Makeup and Freelance Journalist.

Azzi Williams, 37, is the founder of Williamspro, an Australian-owned luxury cosmetics brand that manufactures products that are PETA certified as 100% natural, vegan and cruelty-free, she’s a freelance journalist and was once a lawyer! Azzi was also my lecturer when I attended Macleay College. Oh, and we can’t forget that she is also mum to 10 month old daughter, LJ (who is absolutely adorable!) We chatted to Azzi about all-things makeup and that one time she walked the red carpet with (okay, behind) Robert Downey Junior…

I went to James Ruse Agricultural High School and I always loved art and writing, but because I received quite high end of year marks, I almost felt obliged to ‘use them’. Interestingly, I actually loved studying law and writing about it, but never really felt like I was being 100% true to myself, that I always had a creative and entrepreneurial side that needed exploring.

I studied Arts and Law at the University of Sydney – the same degree as a lot of senators, politicians and high court judges completed – so I was actually initially destined to go into the legal profession! While I was studying, I began working at retail counters in cosmetics like David Jones and also trained with MAC, so that is all where my love of makeup began.

After graduating and becoming admitted as a solicitor, I left my grad role at Gadens in banking & finance after only 18 months, a role that just was not for me on so many levels, to pursue my two loves – writing and art. In my mid-twenties I became a legal editor at Thomson Reuters, while dabbling in makeup artistry on weekends. But being competitive and a dreamer, I wanted to push myself and my career journey to further heights. So I quit my job, sold off everything in Sydney and moved to London.

It was a massive risk, because I had no contacts, I had never even been to the UK before! But I just went with my gut instinct. But the risk paid off, because within months I was writing for The Times UK, thanks to some great legal editors who discovered my ability to write about law and business. At the same time, I signed up with a number of creative agencies as both a commercial model and makeup artist.

And that’s when things really took off into an exciting direction. I was suddenly on set doing makeup for designers like Burberry, Vivienne Westwood and Diesel, as well as brands like Eurostar, Sunsilk and Lloyds Bank. I was also going to some amazing parties, meeting celebrities like Lindsay Lohan, Janice Dickinson, Boy George – and I even walked the red carpet for the premiere of Sherlock Holmes behind Robert Downey Junior!

But the more I was involved in fashion, TV ads and film, the more I realised that the talent I was working with were having the same issues – clogged pores, breakouts, allergic reactions – mainly from over-use of heavy stage and screen makeup and lack of using natural, talc free and skin-friendly options. That’s when I started formulating my own products.

In 2013 I returned to Sydney with my husband who is a photographer. We’d met in London a few years’ earlier through some mutual friends and he was extremely supportive of my idea. During our time of settling back into Sydney life, I also took on a journalism lecturing role at Macleay College, as well as a pro makeup tutoring role at QC Makeup Academy. Both organisations – the students and my colleagues, also highly encouraged me to get the Williamspro brand underway.

We launched Williamspro in 2015 with only three products, but since our launch we received over 1000 positive customers and influencer reviews of our products. Through feedback and customer engagement, we have now expanded our product range from 1 to 15 new products, completely rebranded, created a new ecommerce shop and now want to further expand our sales by targeting the retail consumer.

If I had stayed in corporate law, I probably would be on a lot more stable income, that’s for sure. Working freelance and starting your own business, managing your cash flow and the financial risks associated with startups is definitely something not everyone can cope with. There’s never really any financial peace of mind. But I love what I do and passionate about Williamspro, what we stand for and it’s potential to grow into a global brand, so I’m going to keep on at it!

In all honesty, I do feel in many ways all my choices led me to where I am today – and a lot of people may think I may have ‘wasted’ my time and efforts becoming a lawyer only to throw it all away to do something completely different. But looking back, I feel in many ways my years studying law gave me added skills that have helped me in my business – like managing product and public liability, our trademarks, contractual terms and wholesale negotiations.

A lot of students write to me and say ‘ooh I want to make products and sell them like you do’ – you make it look so easy. Well, it’s not easy, it’s a LOT of hard work, be prepared to try and fail, be prepared for long hours, late nights, and if you’re also becoming a first-time parent, like me, work around 24/7 baby feeding schedules.

Want to learn more about Azzi?


Career Crushing on Sammy Cashen: House of Quirky Brand Manager, Westfield Stylist and Founder of Unzipped Fashion Source

Sammy Cashen, 29, knew that a career in fashion was her destiny toying with the idea of launching her own fashion label, but it was a chance encounter while attending a runway show that really kick started her career in fashion. Westfield Stylist, Sammy chats to us about making it in the fashion industry and creating a backup plan when you don’t make it to your dream uni. 

There isn’t an exact moment in time I can pinpoint when I knew what my future career title was going to be. However I did always know it was going to be a creative role within the fashion industry. I attended Berwick Secondary College which, lucky for me, has a large arts department. Fashion for me seemed like a natural progression or as some call it – destiny. From wearing my mother’s heels, changing outfit 5 times a day to receiving my first sewing machine for my 16th Birthday – I always knew I wanted to do something in fashion, I just didn’t know what the end goal was at that stage.

My school had a Careers Counsellor, so with their knowledge along with the research and guidance of my mother, I narrowed my selections down to three viable courses which included both University and TAFE options. My top two options were fashion-based, and the third option was my backup pathway to lead me into my second preference. My first two preferences were unsuccessful, however having my backup preference – an advanced diploma in Engineering Technology and Jewellery Design – provided me with a stepping stone to move onto the Certificate of Applied Fashion and Footwear Design six months later.

While I was studying I toyed with the idea of fashion design and launching my own label, but it was a chance meeting while attending an industry runway show as a friend’s plus one that saw me land an internship at the Bowerbird Fashion Agency. I commenced the internship one week after the show. My role included things such as; planning and setting up for season fashion parades, dressing models for runway events, showroom set up for major client showings to the more mundane activities such as data entry, steaming garments and doing the old coffee run.

I was exposed to brands like Tigerlily, Cameo, Style Stalker, Rise of Dawn, Shona Joy, Minkpink, Staple the Label and Peeptoe shoes just to name a few. It was during this internship where I discovered the fashion wholesale industry – or known as the rag trade industry. I never really knew too much about this industry nor had I even considered it as a career path.

After completing my internship I was hired as personal assistant to the agency which worked perfect around my school contact hours. I was 19 years old and had officially began my career journey. At the age of 21, I deferred my studies with only a few subjects left to complete in order to accept a fulltime position in the wholesale industry.

I now manage one of Australia’s leading youth fashion houses Melbourne office – House of Quirky. HOQ are the umbrella company for Minkpink Staple the Label, And Co the label, Twiin and Somedays Loving. Although working for HOQ keeps me extremely busy, I have never been the type to only limit myself to one position. This isn’t due to financial needs, it’s the need to continue expanding my knowledge, having multiple skills and creative outlets.

This led to the inception of my blog, Unzipped Fashion Source in 2013. What started as a hobby posting in lunch breaks and weekends has now evolved into an online space for women to get a daily dose of inspiration while learning and understanding key season trends. I found myself thrown into styling by default when working for a fashion agency. It was something which unfolded naturally over time and more recently being approached by Westfield Southland as one of their resident stylists and personal shoppers.

Im fortunate that I have had a working mother who has a very successful career as a senior marketing head. She is hands down, my biggest inspiration, my google search engine, my manager, my life coach, my copywriter, my teacher and my biggest supporter. She has always encouraged me to dream big, work hard, stay true to myself and strive for what I want in life whether that be personal or professional.

Melbourne fashion stylist Lana Wilkinson was one of the reasons I undertook a diploma in Film, TV and Professional Styling. In my early twenties as a retail assistant, I was lucky enough to have met and assisted Lana with some of her celebrity clients for events such as the Brownlow, TV week Logies and Melbourne Spring Racing events. Up until this point, I haven’t even considered dressing and styling people as paying career.

The fashion industry is very competitive and considered a dream industry for most teen girls. I would strongly recommend anyone trying to get into the industry to work on securing as much work experience and internships as possible. Read and watch everything fashion and business related, attend runway shows, industry events, seminars, workshops etc. Knowledge is power and never a waste of your time. There is no right or wrong way to achieving your goals, if you do not succeed at first, try again, try another way, look for back doors and always believe in yourself.

Want to learn more about Sammy?

Career Crushing on Sally Obermeder: Televison Presenter, Co Founder and Creative Director at SWIISH and Best-Selling Author

Sally Obermeder, 43, is a co-host for Channel 7’s The Daily Edition, a best-selling author of Super Green Smoothies, and a creative director at Swiish – a health and lifestyle website she launched five years ago with her sister, Maha Koraiem. Sally chatted to us about the difficulty of making it in the television industry, and reassessing her career after battling breast cancer. 

After I left school, I went to university and did a commerce degree majoring in accounting and marketing. When I finished uni, I worked at Westpac for two years before working in a recruitment agency for a year as their in-house accountant. It was then that I realised I didn’t like accounting and asked instead if I could become a recruiter. I worked for one year as a recruitment agent and realised I didn’t like that either.

I decided to take a few months off and do some temping work where I ended up temping in the dealing room at BT. Once I was in the dealing room I realised I loved it. I stayed at BT as a temp doing some really shitty jobs, but it was because I loved it; basically I was just trying to find an avenue to stay. Eventually a job came up in funds management at BT and I took it! I realised I loved finance, more so than accounting so I stayed for seven years.

But eventually I realised that what I’ve wanted to do my whole life was work in television – so I left.  While I was trying to get a job in TV I became a personal trainer to help pay the bills, and set up a personal training business. But I realised I should probably make a Plan B in case I couldn’t get into television and studied naturopathy.

I was around 30 years old when I left BT and every single person I knew –  with the exception of Maha and Marcus – were like, “What the fuck are you doing?! This is ridiculous, you left a perfectly well paying job that you spent 10 years building; you’ve worked all this time to get a good job, security, to work in a big firm, to get a good job title, and you’ve essentially just walked out so that you can do what again?” But I didn’t care.

For the whole three years of trying to get a job, while I was doing courses, community television, practising at home in my lounge room, people kept saying, “I don’t think this is going to happen for you.” And I was just thought, you know what, that’s ok that you think that. I don’t think that and I don’t actually need you to encourage me because it’s my job to encourage myself.

Eventually I got lucky. I got a job at Sydney Weekender as a researcher and a couple years after that I landed an on-air spot for Sydney weekender for one day a fortnight. The day I got that job was amazing, but I still knew I had a long way to go – it wasn’t the end. That first role was kind of just the very very beginning. I think you always feel like you haven’t made it, I always feel like there’s more to do.

After almost four years at Sydney Weekender I left with no job to go to but I knew I needed to leave in order to go to a bigger show. It took six months of trying to get a job before I landed a role at Today Tonight as their entertainment reporter, where I stayed for nearly five years until I gave birth to my first daughter, Annabelle, and discovered I had breast cancer.

I was in treatment when I started to think, if I survive what is it that I really want to do. Do I even want to go back to work at all, and if I do, what do I want to do? I decided I definitely wanted to go back to television, after all, I loved it. But I wanted to do something else as well. I wanted to start a business with my sister, Maha – which was something we have always wanted to do but our paths were never quite on the same page. So after one of my surgeries I called Maha and told her I wanted to set up a website all about having a great life, at an affordable price – which is just so us. She was just like, “Uh, yeah, ok. But aren’t you still in the hospital? Are you popped up on medication?” I thought, yeah probably. But I was serious – I wanted to work together. And it was one of the best ideas I’ve ever had.

At that point I had finished my chemo but I was still doing surgeries and radiation so I just started to map out if we did this, what would it look like and what would we do? We picked a day and said, right, let’s go! You’re never going to get it right, you are always going to be changing it as you go anyway and that was something that I had realised from having the personal training business. You can spend a lot of time getting ready but eventually you’ve just got to jump off the cliff and do it. We just started and it grew and grew. We learnt from our mistakes, we got better at working out exactly what our reader wanted, we got a better understanding of who our reader was, better at taking photos – it was the skills you need to learn on the job.

My time at Today Tonight really helped with Swiish because the thing you really learn is, what is the headline for this story? What is the tagline that’s going to get people in? What’s the sexy part that’s going to get the person across the line? It might be a lipstick, but what is it specifically about it? And you learn to really dig around, to separate the good stories from those that are a bit more mundane.

I made sacrifices to get to where I am, especially when I was trying to get into television. I was thiry-something; everyone was buying houses, going on great holidays, having kids – and I couldn’t do any of those things. I had no money, Marcus and I had all this debt, we were basically scrimping and saving every cent because we were barely getting by while everyone else was living it up. But I didn’t care, that’s just the sacrifice you make.

I definitely have regrets. I wish I started what I wanted to do sooner. That’s true on one hand but on the other hand, you just don’t have the life experience. Inevitably, the things that you’ve been through can work to your advantage. For instance, Maha and I have come from different corporate backgrounds, but in a business, those two backgrounds mesh together so well – nothing is ever wasted experience.

I think it’s because I have a few different things that I have my dream job. I really love the diversity of them, I love that they’re slightly similar but they’re also slightly different. They’re all very challenging in their own different ways and I like that. I like that it forces me to think and there’s no day where I think I don’t know what I did today, I didn’t just shuffle some paper and come home. I’m always on a sort of adrenalin rush – you’re very alive and it’s very rewarding.

If you want to get into television, I think you should go for it. Be your own cheerleader, I think that is one of the most important things – and persistence. You really need persistence for anything that you want to do because it is tough, it’s tough but that’s what also makes it rewarding.

Want to learn more about Sally?

Career Crushing On Maha Koraiem: Co-Founder and blogger at, health coach and best-selling author

Maha Koraiem, 39, had a corporate career in Human Resources for 15 years before getting roped into launching health and lifestyle blog, with sister, Sally Obermeder. Maha chatted to us about writing a best-selling book, changing for photo shoots on the street, and why she decided to make the career jump. 

After school I studied Psychology at University. At the time, my sister Sally was working in recruitment and I think she got quite sick of seeing me get up at midday and sometimes roll to class and sometimes not. One day she said to me, “Don’t you want to get some experience in the real world and get some part time work in a field that you might be interested in?” So with her guidance I went for a few different jobs and ended up falling into human resources.

My first job was at Bankers Trust in recruitment and then I moved into Investment Banking and Human Resources at JPMorgan. I worked there for almost 12 years where I grew into a senior role as head of HR, before moving to ANZ bank – All up, I had 15 years in HR.

I had always known in the back of my mind that I wanted to own my own business and I wanted to do something quite creative. But I knew there was nothing wrong with what I was doing; it was relatively stable, I had a good salary and I enjoyed the people aspects and the business aspect. When Sally got sick [with breast cancer] it put everything into perspective, and then she called me from the hospital after one of her surgeries and said, “So I was thinking, we should start a business together and I think we should have a blog.” I was like, “Aren’t you meant to be recovering? Are you high on some kind of medication?” But we both thought if not now, then when?!

We started Swiish while I was still working and about six months in was when I made that leap and decided to give it a real go. I ended up leaving my job, starting a HR consulting business on the side for a few years (after all, you have to pay the bills) and then when Swiish got to a stage where I could give up the side HR business, I did. There is honestly not a day that goes by that I am not thankful for making the decision to take that leap and just give it go.

It’s always quite terrifying to make a career jump, because the first thing that comes into your mind is ‘what if it doesn’t work out, then what?’ It’s very easy to think of all the things that can go wrong, particularly when, you know, had I ever been a blogger before? No. Had I ever had a business before? No. To me, the push was getting over myself. What is the worst that could happen? I would need to go back to HR – is that so terrible? No. Will I be proud of myself for having given it a go? Of course!

We had started the passion for making green smoothies when Sally was in her recovery, and I guess as all good sisters do, you end up getting roped into doing things. She was like, “Here, drink this green thing that I’m having,” and I was like, “Eww, that looks so gross.” I tried it and it was delicious. We ended up making recipes and giving it to each other to try. Then every time we were drinking smoothies people would ask, “What is that?”, and we would scribble down recipes on sticky notes. That made us think, why don’t we actually put this into a book? And that’s where that came from. It also fuelled a desire to have a better understanding of nutrition – I’m a bit of a nerd so I like to have the textbook understanding of what it is I’m doing so I decided to do some extra studies in nutrition.

It was such a surprise when Super Green Smoothies hit number one, because although we knew we loved them and we loved drinking them and creating different flavours, we didn’t expect that it would be embraced the way that it was. When we first had the idea for the book we approached a couple of publishers, both of whom said, “There’s no way that would be popular – green smoothies are just a fad and they will be over in a minute.” There was a lot of rejection so we ended up self-publishing first; we created an eBook, put it on Amazon and iTunes and it went to number one on iTunes within the first couple of days. We doubled the amount of recipes and brought it out in paperback through Allen and Unwin about 6 months after it came out as an eBook.

It’s really not easy to fit it all in. When I worked in HR we used to spend a crazy amount of time talking to employees about how to get work/life balance, and when I reflect on that I think, there’s no such thing; some days you feel like you’re nailing it, and some days it just doesn’t happen. If I’m focusing on one thing, I will give that my attention and try and give it my all and then move onto the next thing. But in our business there’s so many different arms but at the end of the day it’s books and it’s clothes and that’s supposed to be fun.

It would be incorrect of me to say it isn’t a lot of hard work and sacrifice because it definitely has been and certainly in those earlier years of setting up a business there are those 1,2 and 3am nights. We used to sit on the floor in Sally’s lounge room and teach ourselves how to use Photoshop to crop images to fit into the blog post – everything we were doing we were kind of learning from scratch. When I left HR I was thinking, ‘oh yeah, I will be one of those bloggers that sits in a café and taps away at their laptop, has a few lattes and gets to go to a lot of glamourous events. I guess the reality is it’s nothing like that. You can be very creative but there is so much hard work. It’s hard to do it all so you do what you can, with what you have, in the time that you’ve got. You just don’t really beat yourself up and just try to make sure that you prioritise other stuff that’s just as important like spending time with family.

You lose a few friendships because people don’t understand that you don’t have much time and that’s unfortunate, but that’s one of the sacrifices. There’s been things that I have had to say no to because I’m working or I’m doing stocktake. And the other is money, because the pay check takes a long time – it can take years and years to get paid and that’s why I think you need to have the passion for what you are doing. Not having a pay check come in every week the way I did when I had a corporate job has been really hard. And any money that the business makes typically goes back into the business.

My biggest achievement to date is this business – without a doubt, but it’s very hard to pinpoint one particular aspect of it. I was saying to Sally just a few days ago that we should be so proud of ourselves. You don’t often take the time to think about it because you are just trying to do your work but, for two people who had never had a business, had never had a blog, had never had a store, had never developed products, I’m just so proud. I think without a doubt, the business is my biggest achievement.

I encourage students to be willing to start wherever. Be prepared to work hard, to be a nice person to work with and just be willing to do anything. A flexible attitude goes a very long way, a willingness to do whatever; no job is too big or too small – that serves you well. And have fun! Life’s short, don’t forget to have a good time.


 Want to learn more about Maha?



Career Crushing on Steph Adams: Author, Publisher & Art Director

Steph Adams, 39, is an author, publisher, art director and influencer but in high school she had didn’t have a clue what she wanted to do for a career. Steph has since worked with large scale magazines such as; British Vogue, Elle, Conde Nast Traveller and Grazia. Steph chats to us about her career journey. 

I went to a very privileged school – St Hilda’s Anglican School for Girls in Perth, WA – and was lucky to have a very good education. But despite that, school was never really my forte, I always had my head in the clouds, and therefore had absolutely no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up. But after school, I attended TAFE where I studied Graphic Design and then I attended University whilst I was modelling internationally. It took a few more years to finish as I had missed quite a few classes. But I did it and got my Bachelor of Arts Degree in the end.

It took me a while in the beginning to break into the publishing industry. I remember getting back from overseas after finishing my studies and I took a couple of different jobs in Sydney. I was working at reception desks, tennis clubs, at a Chanel cosmetic counter in sales – all so I could pay my rent. It was the hardest part because I had a degree and I couldn’t get a job in my industry. Then I finally got a call from FPC publishing and that’s where it really began.

It seems like the longest road when I look back. When I first started working for Vogue Australia as a young designer, we did not have the luxury of social media. I had more than a decade in the publishing industry producing the first ever magazine for Net-a-Porter, working with British Vogue, Elle, Conde Nast Traveller, Grazia, Vogue Living, Gourmet Traveller and many more before I even started a blog that featured inspirational stories from women and places around the world. It was the blog that started to open up the most doors for me and since then I have published two books, with another one on the way.

I am an author, publisher, editor and creative director. I have two books out and another one on the way. I have my own design studio where I work with clients all over the world creating everything from logos, business cards, branding and brochures to coffee table books. I also blog in my spare time and attend events and work closely with various brands professionally.

But I still couldn’t pinpoint an exact career highlight. Maybe releasing two global coffee table books and having one printed in three different languages. Being asked to work with British Vogue and working with the publisher: Stephen Quinn. Also designing Net-a-Porter’s first ever magazine and working with Natalie Massenet the Founder.

This is definitely my dream job, because I love what I do. I work with passion and I love being creative and working with friends. My father was always very entrepreneurial and from a young age we as kids always had to help him with marketing and advertising of his business, so I guess it was a natural progression to always go out on my own after I built enough experience in the industry.

If you want to get into the industry, I encourage you to work hard and if you are really passionate and dedicated you will get there in the end. Also, know that it takes baby steps to get into your career, sometimes you have to take a different path but you will always get to where you are meant to be. You have to work for it. Things don’t fall in your lap. Write down your goals and always keep in mind what you want.

Want to learn more about Steph?

Career Crushing on Jarred Baker: Founder of App, Groupee

Jarred Baker, 29, is the Founder and CEO of Groupee – a mobile app that makes it a hell of a lot easier to split bills amongst friends. Jarred came up with the idea of Groupee while taking a career break after selling off his clothing business, Saveus. He was working at Sydney’s Catalina Rose Bay when he discovered what a pain it is for both customers, and restaurants to split bills. Jarred shares his journey from studying HR and Business to jumping into the tech world. 

I always wanted to do something in business as both my parents were company directors and they totally inspired me to do something on my own. My choice to pick Business with a HR major was a combination of the content and how versatile it was, but also because of the group of people I was studying with and wanting to experience uni with them.

I tend to take each opportunity on the basis of how excited I am by the business, with an emphasis on working with purpose driven people when I take on new projects. My career is varied and I’m so glad that I have had the opportunity to work across such a broad spectrum of projects. It makes me far more agile in business with all this diversity under my belt.

I met my business partner of Saveus through work and she immediately inspired me to back her talent and go into a partnership where we could leverage her creative talents and I could bring my business experience to create a business that we ran for almost 4 years, including 5 stores, employing over 15 people.

The changing fashion landscape both locally and internationally made it very difficult for a new label to grow without access to significant capital investment. It was a difficult decision to close the label, but the decision was made because we felt we were working so hard for so little, it was killing our passion for the industry and we couldn’t see this changing in the foreseeable future. We offloaded the production side of the business and the label itself, after our last international fashion week in Malaysia, was put to bed.

I was burnt out from working on my own business that I wanted something that was flexible and stress free so I decided to take a career break and work in my friend’s family restaurant. I had absolutely no idea what my next move was going to be at the time, but I knew that my end game wasn’t to work for someone else. I still really wanted to do my own thing.

I realised through my work that split bills universally sucked. Restaurants couldn’t stand offering it to their customers. It created errors, it kept customers that had stopped spending money in the restaurant and they almost always lost the tip they’d worked hours for. For customers, they hated it just as much. It was always a dampener on a meal – this cringe worthy moment at the end of a lunch took the shine off even the loveliest of events. As I walked around a table of 10 people, swiping cards over and over, listening to people squabble about their bill, knowing very well that I wasn’t getting any kickback, I knew there had to be a way to fix it. 2 years later – Groupee was born!

The biggest lesson is that an idea is only as good as it’s execution. Sometimes even the best ideas don’t get off the ground because the work surrounding communicating the ideas message to customers doesn’t land. We are constantly working on crystallising Groupee’s value proposition for both new and existing users. It’s something that we will evolve constantly.

Short term wage reduction is for me, the most visible sacrifice I have made starting my own business. When you are pre revenue you cannot draw a big wage, especially when you are investor funded. This is meant that I have had to miss out on some exciting things that my friends who are established in their career get to do. It is a short term sacrifice though as the benefits of leading my own business will hopefully make this sacrifice worth it in the future.

I love that I am building a business that solves a problem for my two customers: restaurants who hate the inefficiency around splitting bills and customers who are screaming out for a solution to an age old problem. I love that everyday is different and get to come into the office and work hard and immediately see the effects of my teams hard work. I love that I watch every new user register for Groupee and watching people see the value in the product is something that I find immensely rewarding. I definitely believe I’m on the way to creating my dream job as the founder of Groupee.

Starting your own business is not for the feint hearted and be sure to question your logic, judgement and faith many times through the journey. What sets entrepreneurs aside from your regular job goer is the ever present desire to go above and beyond, to dare to try something out of the box and a little crazy and to have a true belief in the problem you have set out to solve.

It is this tenacity and resilience which means I as an entrepreneur will never be fulfilled in a regular job as it is this ride that gets me out of bed everyday, happy to take an immense risk for the chance of building something that changes the way people pay.

Want to learn more about Jarred?

Career Crushing on Katia Santilli: Co-Founder Nimble Activewear

Katia Santilli, 30, is the other half to women’s activewear brand, Nimble. Katia always had a passion for fashion, but she never expected to launch her own clothing line with bestie, Vera Yan. Katia was headed for a promotion at Burberry when she decided to give it up and go all-in on her own brand. Katia chats to us about landing her first gig at Puma and working her way up in the industry.

I’ve always had a creative side but did not want to pursue a straight fashion design degree. Fashion Merchandising at RMIT covered many of the business aspects of the industry, which really appealed to me. It did have a very practical element where we learnt pattern making and fabric construction, but it also taught us merchandising planning, buying and marketing.

I did not intern before I started my career but I was lucky that Puma approached my course at RMIT looking for a maternity cover for a six-month position. All successful applicants were put forward for interviews, and I was the successful candidate in the process. However, there was a two-month overlap with finishing my degree and starting work at Puma. Juggling both exams and final year projects along with a new job was a challenge but very worth while in the end as I was offered a full time position in the company after the maternity cover roll was completed.

In the early days of my career, I never saw myself launching my own brand. I have always loved working in this industry and when I was working in London for Burberry I was very focused on growing my career over there. It was not until I needed to come back to Australia for a few months while I was finalising my EU passport that the idea for Nimble Activewear started brewing.

Vera and I moved in together and really encouraged and motivated each other to lead a healthier and more active life. We followed our passion and instinct and founded Nimble Activewear on the belief that leading an active and healthy life should be neither complicated nor expensive. Our pieces are just one part of the journey to a healthier being and have been designed to empower women to get moving and get active in technical, long-lasting activewear that looks great and doesn’t break the bank.

I think a lot of people that go out and do their own thing sacrifice a lot especially in the early days. I was at a great stage in my career where I was on my way to another promotion at Burberry. It was a hard decision to walk away from this opportunity and start on my own business. However, I am really grateful I have got to do this with my best friend and we have both supported each other along the way. You also learn the importance of balance and taking a minute to stop and look back at how far you have come – that is the greatest feeling and achievement.

I have absolutely no regrets. I’m really glad I started off working for someone else as I learnt really valuable information and skills that I have taken with me while running Nimble Activewear. When I worked for Puma and Burberry I had fantastic bosses that mentored and supported me through my career. I think these are skills I would not have learnt if I dove straight into starting my own business fresh out of uni.

This is my dream job. I get to create something that is being recognised and worn by people around the world – I still pinch myself when I’m walking down the street and I see someone wearing Nimble Activewear. If you want to get into the industry, I encourage you to be persistent, work hard and don’t give up on your dreams.

Want to learn more about Katia?

Don’t forget to read Katia’s business partner, Vera’s journey here!

Career Crushing on Vera Yan: Co-Founder Nimble Activewear

Vera Yan, 29, co-founded women’s clothing brand, Nimble Activewear in 2014 alongside her bestie, Katia Santilli. Nimble was born out of a desire to create a range of women’s activewear that was not only on‑trend and technical but also affordable for the everyday woman. Vera’s career journey began in the fast-paced environment of financial services, where she learnt resilience and how to be resourceful, oh and how to conquer the dreaded excel spreadsheet! Vera chats to us about her journey.

At Melbourne University I studied a combined Commerce & Law degree with a Diploma of Modern Languages in Mandarin. I chose the university as it was the one that many of my school friends were attending! In terms of the course, I had always been a bit of an all-rounder so chose the course as it was so general in nature and gave me the freedom to choose from a range of career options.

My career in finance started after landing an internship in the industry at Macquarie which then led to a full-time job after finishing uni. I got the internship through the usual internship application process that happens in your penultimate year at university. At that stage, I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do so I cast my net wide and spent many hours applying for internships across both finance and law – luckily for me Macquarie must have liked something that they saw in my CV and offered me an internship.

Once working in finance, I was really attracted to the fast-paced environment, the strong emphasis on problem solving and also the incredible access that you had to senior people at amazing corporations. The role also taught me resilience and how to be resourceful – two things that have come in very handy when running your own business.

The idea for Nimble Activewear actually came from our own frustration as consumers – we found that there was a real gap in the market when it came to activewear with the aesthetic that we wanted, that was accessible in terms of price and importantly, also offered the functionality that we needed to get us through a sweaty workout. It was from this realisation that the idea for Nimble Activewear grew as we set out to create the pieces that we, as consumers, were looking for.

Bringing the idea to reality was really a case of one foot in front of the other – we started sourcing fabrics and developing the product about twelve months before we launched and then once the website launched, it really was all systems go. My background in finance helped in terms of understanding financial jargon and the ability to analyse figures. I have to say that the comprehensive training in Excel has also proved to be invaluable.

The decision to take the leap to resign from my job and run Nimble full time was certainly a scary one but I wouldn’t say it was a particularly difficult one. After a couple years of juggling the two, there came a point where having both was no longer sustainable – I found myself totally burnt out and once I realised that I was unable to commit myself properly to either of the two roles that I had been juggling, I knew that it was the time to make the leap.

I’ve made sacrifices to achieve my career goals; moving away from family and friends in Melbourne to Sydney to complete my internship definitely felt like a fairly big deal at the time though looking back, it has also been one of the best decisions that I could have made. More recently, the jump into working for yourself has certainly made it much harder to switch off and I find that my brain is constantly ticking and on the look-out for new ideas and workshopping how we can make the business better. I’ve found that as my mind gets increasingly full, yoga is a must for me to de-stress and feel grounded.

I really don’t have any regrets about my journey so far – there are different aspects of every role that I’ve had that have taught me fundamental skills in terms of running our own business. Looking back, I would have loved the opportunity to work on an e-commerce or retail transaction to get an additional insight into the industry from another perspective.

I love the variety that comes with my current role – no two days are the same and I am constantly learning and being challenged in a range of different ways. It’s also incredible to have the freedom to implement ideas. We have a great team and as a small and young company, we can also be very agile and innovative which is exciting. I also love the fact that we are building a community and being a part of other women’s active lifestyles. It’s still the most exciting feeling to walk down the street and see someone wearing Nimble Activewear!

If you want to get into the industry; be persistent and do your research. If there’s a particular company that you are wanting to target, make sure that you read up about that company and approach them with a well thought out CV and cover letter. You should never underestimate the power of persistence and a targeted, well-researched application.

Want to learn more about Vera?

Don’t forget to read Vera’s business partner, Katia’s journey here!

Career Crushing on France Colignon: Co-Founder, Marketing and Branding Director

France Colignon grew up in Paris with a love of high-end fashion. Her desire to see the world brought her to Sydney where she expected to spend a few months, little did she know she would fall in love with Australia and choose to stay. As seasons ticked by, France struggled to find designer handbags in Sydney as a reasonable price, that is when the idea of Cosette emerged. France shares with us her love of luxury handbags and bringing a business to life.

I am born and bred in Paris where I’ve studied Modern Literature and Communication in La Sorbonne University. When I started studying, I wanted to be a journalist specialised in Design, Fashion or Art. But as I was passing degrees, doing my internships in PR, Event and Advertising, I realised I was really fascinated about Brands, how they communicate through relevant media strategies including digital and innovative platforms.

After I finished my degree, I was lucky to integrate one of the best advertising Agency: BETC Euro RSCG, as a strategic planner. I absolutely loved it, learning so much about talented, brilliant people. All my relatives have been involved in fashion industry for many generations. I grew up from an Italian heritage, surrounded by artists and designers between Paris and Milan. I remember from a young age wanting to work some day in Fashion.

The need of travel took me to Sydney where I thought I would spend a few months before going someplace else for a year or so, before going back to Paris where I thought my life was.

When I settled in Sydney, I found it very frustrating to have such a small choice amongst high-end designer collections from international brands at such unreasonable prices in comparison to those found in Europe. By taking advantage of the season inversion between Europe and Australia, I realised we were able to purchase all of the overstock from European distributors and bring them to Australia for very competitive prices.

After a few months of brainstorming and hundreds of emails with established department stores and boutiques who were thrilled to sell their overstock so far away from their main marketplace, COSETTE was born!

The behind the scenes aren’t as glamourous as a Fashion Week Events but they are for sure as busy and exciting! A typical day working at COSETTE includes an early-healthy-start with a yoga or a run followed by reading the news and catching up with emails a Latte (or 2) in hand; prioritizing tasks and goals (I’m a strong believer of an organised life).

Then there is no day similar to another as I am splitting my time between our head office – writing briefs, discussing ideas, organising phone calls, meeting people, planning, etc… and our 3 stores in which I love to go, staying as close as possible to our beautiful products, staff and clientele. It is not rare ending up with a Skype Call with Paris.

Being so far from my family and friends is the sacrifice I am making today, but this is more about lifestyle goals. Plus I am very lucky to be able to travel a lot back to Europe thanks to COSETTE. So I try to never have regrets, believing everything happens for a reason.

I am in my dream job; working for myself, doing what I like in one of my favourite industries. And I have to admit I love being surrounded by the most beautiful handbags.

I encourage students wanting to get into the fashion industry to believe in yourself, work hard, be curious, network and always remember to have fun.


Connect with France:




Career Crushing on Jade McKenzie – Event Planner

 Jade McKenzie, 34, had absolutely no idea what she wanted to do in high school. She spent six months studying a psychology course because she felt the pressure to attend university. After trying her hand at a few jobs – from aged care to financial services – she found her calling for event planning. Jade now runs her own event management company, Event Head, where she not only plans parties, but writes about them too! Here is her career journey. 

My whole life is centred around meaningful connection. Without it, I have no drive, no purpose and no passion. And I know that for many others, they feel the same. And what better conduit for connecting people is there than events? In every single role I had as an employee, I loved working on the events. They gave me such joy that I looked for any excuse to plan. You can imagine how stoked I was when it came to planning my wedding – ha! And going into a not for profit and running all the fundraising events was a dream come true!

I wasn’t crazy about the idea of study – any study makes me go cross eyed! I have got certifications in Business Administration, Financial Planning and Event Management, mostly through a mix of study and recognition of prior learning. I received my diploma of Event Management via RPL which was the best way for me to get it as I had so much experience in the field.

Event Head came to life in 2013, about 3 or 4 months after I had given birth to my first child. I knew that it was the right time to go out on my own and start my own business and from there it evolved into what it is today. It was a natural thread that had followed me my whole life and so it was a natural progression that I would eventually start a business in it and go from there. It certainly wasn’t easy but it was definitely one of the best decisions I ever made!

Every day is so different but mainly my days consist of forgetting to eat breakfast, touching base with my team, figuring out the priorities for the day or week, attending to client queries and emails, working on event strategy, doing administrative work such as newsletter copy or finances, skyping with clients, doing interviews like this one, getting ready for launches (I feel like I am always working on a sales page!), coaching my mastermind girls, ordering gifts, doing my social media posts, working with suppliers and venues, going to meetings, trying to get to the gym and randomly, a lot of singing to the radio or my iTunes.

I launched EH Magazine because I absolutely love what I do but I am not the only one who has wonderful experiences to share about events. I wanted to give a voice to people who love events as much as I do and have wisdom and knowledge that they can share with others. The digital magazine is a way to share our experience as a collective and help inspire other entrepreneurs and business owners create amazing events. It is a beautiful way to showcase the incredible work that people do putting together their own amazing experiences.

I made plenty of sacrifices. They have been financial, such as going for experience over dollars. They have been around relationships, such as not be able to attend certain things or hang out with friends as often. They have been physical, such as not taking care of my health and doing long hours. And they’ve been emotional by putting other people’s needs in front of my own. Constantly! But it’s all been worth it for the lessons I’ve learnt, the experience I’ve had, the people I’ve got in my life and the stories I can tell over a wine!

The most memorable and the hardest events I’ve ever worked on are the ones I did during my time as GM and BDM for a national cancer charity. They were memorable because they were for such an incredible cause as well as being personally fulfilling – not to super fun to plan! And they were the hardest because I planned them all with skeleton resources, volunteer teams and no budget! It was a lot of long hours and a lot of hard work but they were always amazing in the end.

When I’m hiring I look for motivation, drive, past achievements, career progression, how they interact with others, their current situation and how they would like to evolve. A qualification does not dictate whether someone is good at their job or not, their personality does. So if someone fits in well with our culture, can work with my crazy brain, is self-motivated and can take the ball and run with it, then they are the one for me!

Students who are trying to get into the industry should get hands on experience. Volunteer at local festivals, send your resume out to event management companies that may appreciate an intern, assist charities at their events and most importantly – be proactive! Take all that learning you’ve had in the classroom and apply it to a real-life situation. And the more open you are to working your way from the bottom up, the more opportunities will naturally come your way.

I’m in my dream job. I love that I’ve found my own little pocket in the world where I can create what I want to create, give value to my clients based on real experience, surround myself with the most amazing people EVER and that I have so much room to grow and evolve. Every project gives me a sense of achievement, every client helps me grow and get better and better at my craft and every hug, smile and kind word makes my heart burst with happiness!