Boss Lady

Age is just a number, not a prerequisite


At some point in our lives we’ve all been asked the question; “What do you want to be when you’re older?”.  But how old exactly is ‘older’? If Australia’s startup industry is anything to go by… there is no definitive answer.

Take Melanie Perkins for example, an Aussie entrepreneur from Perth who co-founded Canva in in her early 20s and is now one of the youngest female CEOs to lead a tech startup valued at more than a billion dollars since its launch in 2007.

Or Janine Allis, who proved her worth against the young guns on the 2019 season of Survivor. She’s no stranger to outwit, outsmart, outplay having started Boost Juice in 2000 from her home in her mid-30s.

In a world where technology has become entrenched in our everyday lives, age is no longer an overwhelming barrier – whether you have a degree, or years of industry experience or not, Australia’s emerging startup scene proves it has no prerequisites.

Have you got an idea but don’t know where to start? I spoke to two emerging tech leaders for their top tips, proving that age really is just a number.

Why sit and wait when you can innovate

For many of us, it can be easy to get caught up in a tick-a-box of ‘must haves’ before we even consider starting on an idea, qualification, funding or a team – or all of these.

Former athlete turned startup founder Naomi Henn says there’s no need to play ‘the waiting game’ when it comes to making a start on your vision. Nominated for a WiTWA Tech [+] 20 Award this year, Naomi continues to race for the finish line when it comes to business.

“I think people get caught up in the idea that they must have a degree or must have money before they can launch their idea – but from my experience it’s all about taking those little steps, everyday,” Naomi says.

While at university, Naomi saw a need to create better efficiencies for catering at sports stadiums, later applying those learnings to innovating with restaurant infrastructure booking technology, Yumtable. This app grew into the second biggest booking engine in Australia.

Now in her mid-twenties, Naomi’s focus remains on the sports industry, where clubs are under constant pressure to produce video content at a fast pace. A lack of simple processes or templates to create and distribute videos, as well as measure ROI on video marketing led her to establish CrowdClip.

“I’ve never taken ‘no’ as the be-all-end-all; as a former professional athlete, if I didn’t get results I just tried harder. And I think having that determination and self-drive is very important for getting tech startups up off the ground,” she says.

No need to fear switching careers

The idea of changing careers can be scary, but Amanda Healy is proof that all it takes is a leap of faith, and passion. After studying social science, Amanda spent years building her human resources and industrial relations profile, working for global mining companies such as BHP and Rio Tinto, before establishing her own business Maxx Engineering.

In April 2015, Amanda sold her business and began her transition from mining to fashion, two very different worlds. Amanda is from the Wonnarua people of New South Wales and launched social enterprise and luxury resort-wear brand Kirrikin, which features contemporary Indigenous designs.

“I’ve always been on the lookout for a nice Aboriginal-themed scarf that really represents my heritage and the depth and beauty of the culture, but there wasn’t much around that was made in Australia and made from really nice materials,” Amanda says. “It was just out of sheer frustration that I thought I’m going to do this myself.”

Amanda encourages other women who’d like to start their own business to hold firm to their dream and currently has another engineering business, Warrikal, undertaking shutdowns and project work in the resources sector.

“It’s hard work but it’s worth it, particularly if it allows you to work in your time and with your own resources,” she says. “For me, the most important aspect of having my own business was being able to watch my son grow up and gain his own sense of self. I’ve rarely missed a sporting event or an important milestone and that wouldn’t have been possible if I’d been working for someone else.”

Business versus family – both can co-exist

With the rise of flexible working and technology, we can all work anywhere at anytime. We’re no longer restricted by the confines of the traditional ‘9 to 5’, breaking down the walls between business versus family. Enjoying parenthood and spending time on your startup passion can now co-exist – with some planning and juggling.

We’ve all got the tools to self teach, so what are you waiting for? Never let anyone tell you you’re too young or too old.

About Pia Turcinov

Pia Turcinov is the chair of WiTWA (Women in Technology Western Australia), a not-for-profit organisation providing a framework for women in tech to expand their networks and knowledge on a broad range of professional topics. Pia is an accomplished Executive and Non-Executive Director with broad and strategic experience across a range of industries. As the mother of three daughters, Pia remains an enthusiastic champion for diversity and enabling women. The organisation’s inaugural WiTWA [+] 2019 conference will be held in Perth on October 24, headlined by Lyndsey Scott, international model, actress and Freelance iOS Developer.

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