Lisa Sweeney thinks big.
As Executive Director and Co-Owner of Business in Heels — a women’s organisation dedicated to creating a global marketplace where entrepreneurs and women can succeed with equality — she needs to.
Here in Australia, the struggle to close the gender pay gap wages on, while the Me Too movement continues to deliver some confronting home truths about our society. Overseas, things also remain problematic.
So, given the current climate, it seems right that Business in Heels is going from strength to strength. More than 50,000 global connections were made in the last year and the business currently operates in 40 locations across eight different countries. But that’s not the whole story.
After purchasing the business in 2014, Lisa Sweeney and her partner, Jo Plummer, have worked tirelessly — and strategically — to get the women’s organisation to its current state of play, and there are no signs things are slowing down anytime soon.
Lisa gives us her two cents on leadership, her personal journey and the importance of getting noticed.
On her career zigzag
“My career has followed a zigzag from agricultural scientist to fashion retail buyer [and now business owner]. At the time, the changes seemed strange but it is more typical of the career paths of today.
I ‘fell’ into buying and started day one with Jo Plummer, my partner in Business in Heels, 25 years ago. It’s hard to imagine now!
Buying is a very entrepreneurial job involving trends and lots of travel; the skills I learned along the way have really helped me in my current position.”
On a life-changing trip and finding your calling
“[When I was a fashion buyer], I was on a trip to China and visited the factories where I got to meet lots of local people. It was there that I learnt about the one-child policy and the impact it was having.
Parents were abandoning young girls because they could not imagine that these girls would ever earn enough to sustain them in their old age. It was shocking. At this stage I was sure women and men were equal.
It forced me to re-evaluate things and soon I saw that so many things were not equal. It set me on the path to Business in Heels.”
On getting noticed
“As my career progressed, I was mentored and encouraged by many great people and I learned early on that it is not what you know but who you know that is important.
Many women put their heads down and work hard, waiting to be noticed — well this may never happen.”
“Being a leader is a people business. Those that will succeed are those that show initiative and are willing to get out there and ask questions.
Even if you don’t think you tick every box, you need to understand that growing and stretching is uncomfortable and that you will never be 100% prepared or perfect.”
On her motivations
“I am lucky enough to speak daily to amazing women carving out value-driven businesses. It is an exciting space and I feel privileged that I can help them on their journey by connecting them to someone who can help, market them for more exposure or give them a resource.”
“I am inspired daily to unlock the potential of women in business. Our Filanthropino Project has been amazing, we’ve just opened a branch in the Philippines. We are working to educate and mentor online workers to grow into real business owners, ultimately knowing that as they grow and employ others, we will create social change.
On the surface, the Philippines look very equalist but when you dig a little deeper you realize that this is bolstered by money sent in from overseas. We want to be a part of that change.”
To find out more about Lisa Sweeney and Business in Heels, head to the website here.
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