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Canberra’s Jessica May wins Telstra Start-Up Award

HerCanberra Team

ACT equal opportunity employment champion recognised as one of Australia’s top business women 

A Canberra woman providing employment opportunities for people with disabilities has been named winner of the Start-Up Award at the 2015 Telstra Australian Business Women’s Awards last night. Jessica May is the first ACT finalist to win one of the categories at the national awards. Read our interview from last year with Jessica here.

After being diagnosed with a panic disorder after the birth of her first child, and her subsequent experience seeking out suitable work opportunities, Jessica set up Enabled Employment with the idea of matching people with a disability, as well as returning veterans from the Australian Defence Force, into suitable employment opportunities through an online portal.

Jessica has spent the past two and a half years growing her start-up business that proudly boasts a connection with more than 180 employers, including leading government and banking organisations. Enabled Employment has filled more than 100 positions of the 240 advertised in last twelve months.

According to Jessica, winning the Award will help her achieve her dream of becoming a spokesperson for people with a disability and for returning veterans who experience challenges in coming back to the workforce.

“As a person with a disability and a female, the statistics were against me in gaining private venture capital for a start-up company,” Ms May said.

“My business is changing the way people are perceived by employers and expanding job options for people with disability. This Award win will provide a platform for creating change. We’re here to be that voice for people and get them into employment.”

Telstra Business Women’s Award Ambassador and Chief Operations Officer, Kate McKenzie, said all of the national winners have demonstrated incredible resolve and determination throughout their careers.

“The 2015 Telstra Business Women’s Awards winners are seven brilliant, courageous women who have pushed the boundaries and truly innovated in their respective categories,” Ms McKenzie said.

“Jessica’s online business model has delivered a niche employment solution for people with a disability. She has demonstrated an incredible amount of initiative and vision to deliver a clear business structure which has resulted in the rapid growth for her business.

“Jessica’s unwavering and clear purpose to change the outlook for our wounded servicemen and women from the Australian Defence Forces should be commended.”

2015 Telstra Australian Business Woman of the Year

Captain Mona Shindy, Royal Australian Navy, Maroubra

After 26 years’ service in the Royal Australian Navy, Captain Mona Shindy’s current role is vital to Australia’s future military preparedness. As Director Littoral Warfare and Maritime Support, she presents business cases to government for acquisition of affordable and suitable Defence assets including patrol boats, tankers, and littoral warfare equipment. Migrating to Australia from Egypt when she was three, Mona has led teams in operational roles as a weapons engineer on warships and in technical support organisations. In 2013, Mona became the Chief of Navy’s Strategic Adviser on Islamic Cultural Affairs, receiving a Conspicuous Service Cross for this work on Australia Day 2015. Judges were struck by Mona’s strength in the face of adversity and her determination to effect change and pave the way for those who follow in her footsteps.

Entrepreneur Award

Marie Piccone, Manbulloo, Horseshoe Lagoon

Marie Piccone is a leading figure in Australia’s mango industry and Managing Director of Manbulloo, the nation’s largest producer of popular Kensington Pride mangoes. After 18 years running Piccone Horticultural Consultancy with clients in Australia, New Zealand and Asia, Marie bought three mango plantations in 2005 and in 10 short years has developed a sophisticated business that is revolutionising the mango production industry. The Telstra Awards judges praised Marie’s visionary leadership, her dedication to growth and inspiration as a female trailblazer within agriculture. 

For Purpose and Social Enterprise Award

Kate Thiele, Guide Dogs SA/NT, Adelaide

After a career in the private sector, Kate Thiele aligned her love of leading dynamic teams with social enterprise and became the Chief Executive of Guide Dogs SA/NT. Kate says the most significant change she has led at Guide Dogs SA/NT is driving the expansion of the Guide Dogs program to include Autism Assistance Dogs. When Kate joined in 2009, the economy was uncertain. Using her sales and marketing experience, Kate brokered a multi-faceted giving program which has tripled turnover, grown active donors from 5,000 to more than 50,000 and grown regular donors from 450 a year to an amazing 21,000. Judges highlighted Kate’s ability to marry her business acumen with her passion for the cause; as well as her innate understanding of the organisation at a grassroots level.

Government and Academia Award

Katarina Carroll, Queensland Fire & Emergency Services, Brisbane

The first woman to be appointed Commissioner of Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) in 2015, Katarina Carroll has carved an impressive career within a largely male-dominated workplace.  QFES is the primary provider of fire and emergency services in Queensland and Katarina’s role is to drive change including setting the vision and strategic direction.  Last year, as Queensland Police Assistant Commissioner, Katarina led the Queensland Police Service (QPS) G20 security operation in Brisbane. Judges described Katarina as a visionary leader, who has driven substantial cultural change and championed gender diversity in her position. 

Corporate and Private Award

Dr Catherine Ball, Brisbane

Dr Catherine Ball has delivered a number of world firsts the use of drones for environmental and infrastructure surveying. This includes high-resolution, 3D-walkthroughs of remote islands from data collected by drones, enabling scientists to assess turtle rookeries without leaving the office. Catherine is an active contributor to Emberin’s My Mentor Ignite: Courageous Women program and a mentor for the Smith Family, where she supports a pair of young female twins. She is passionate about more women becoming involved in technology and innovation, particularly in male dominated areas such as aviation, technology, UAS, big data and science. Telstra Awards judges praised Catherine as an inspiring, bright and vibrant leader – someone who stands up in the face of a system that needs change, identifies solutions and makes things happen.

Young Business Women’s Award

Kim Tran, La Belle Peau Skincare Clinic, Perth

Kim Tran opened her first skin and beauty clinic in 2007 at the age of 19, a year after she was Student of the Year in Dermal Science at Curtin University. As Managing Director of La Belle Peau Skincare Clinic, the dermal therapist runs a business offering clients cosmeceutical skincare, paramedical skin treatments and beauty treatments. While a coach and role model for her team of experienced dermal and beauty therapists, Kim is highly-motivated to ensure she stays abreast of the industry’s latest technology in skin and beauty treatments. The judges were impressed by Kim’s determination to change the lives of others through both her business and her wider work within the community.

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