Naomi Simson: Author, entrepreneur, tech success, Red Shark

We know her from Network TEN’s Shark Tank as the ‘Red Shark’ and the bestselling author of Live What You Love. But she has many labels: entrepreneur, author, blogger, innovator, a passionate individual, and a mother. As an entrepreneur she founded one of Australia’s tech success stories, RedBalloon, in 2001 which has now served close to 3 million customers. As a LinkedIn influencer she has over 900,000 followers reading her thoughts on leadership and well-being. Her personal motto is “If it is meant to be it is up to me.” Naomi is passionate about great workplaces and her entrepreneurial energy is focused on, a leadership tool that drives the alignment of teams to the overall purpose and shared values of the business. 

Naomi is, by definition, a true entrepreneur.

Naomi has recently become an ambassador for Barnardos Mother of the Year as she shares the strong family values that Barnardos champions and wants to help celebrate great Australian mums.

She encourages people to share their insights with her on Twitter @naomisimson and if you know a great mum, consider nominating them for Barnardos Mother of the Year

Growing up, what kind of career did you want to pursue?

It was always the marketing industry that I was most interested in. I studied at Uni, but of course the best way to learn is on the ground. I was so passionate about the process of talking about the customer journey, and sharing that message far and wide, which of course later inspired me to start RedBalloon.

Who inspires you?

Too many to mention! Barbara Corcoran, Oprah Winfrey, Marilyn Monroe, Rita Mae Brown, Nadine Champion, Amelia Earhart...the list goes on!

Who (apart from you) is most surprised by your achievements?

I wouldn't say "surprised" but more excited by. My kids are proud of me in their own way but particularly because they have been so involved in my journey. I was so amused last year when my son Oscar rang me and put me on speaker while he was at school. He was with his entire class and they decided to pitch me a couple of business ideas to see if I would invest in them. Very cute.

How have women helped shape your success to date?

My mother, absolutely, is a feminist and believes in equal voice - she believes in balanced voice. She’s all about equal opportunity and making sure that everything that is available and offered to men, is available and offered to women. Mum was a role model by working and sharing the load at home. She led by example, and I learned that from the early days. There was a lovely balance in their relationship, and my dad is equally a feminist.

If I was to say I have inherited one thing from my mother it would be the way I listen deeply to others. Being truly present with someone is something she taught me and I live by every day.

What qualities do you most admire in a female colleague?

I think I am most drawn to women who share my belief in the importance of a balanced voice; have shown tenacity in their chosen career path and have the guts to stand up to the "nay-sayer's" and achieve the success they have always dreamt was possible. I admire women who share my passion for success; my positivity in all that I do and my persistence in ensuring I get the end result I am seeking.

What's the key to successfully balancing work and life?

The funny thing is that I never would have invented this business if I had not become a Mum. If you are passionate about creating a business it takes 150% commitment and you just can’t give up. I’m very careful when I refer to ‘work-life balance’. It’s a label that we put on everyone that often makes us feel bad - because we don’t have it. What the "key" is, is to ensure that when you are with your children, you are truly present during that time. No phones or emails - being truly present.

If you had an afternoon to yourself, how would you spend it?

Oh wow, an afternoon to myself? That is something very rare in my crazy schedule. If I did have an afternoon to myself though, I would spend it enjoying a long coastal walk with my beautiful dog, Dexter and my partner Stuart followed by a session of yoga.

Who do you regard as your mentor?

We all need role models and people to inspire us. I feel very fortunate that I had strong women around me as I grew up (and continue to grow). I wouldn't say one person alone has been my mentor, but I have been very fortunate to have many inspiring and successful role models along my journey, and continue to be inspired by them.

What personal attributes have you used to overcome adversity in your life?

I would never say that I have everything handled - in my book 'Live What You Love' I focus on Purpose; Passion; Persistence and Positivity. With these at the front of my mind, I really am prepared and focused to take on anything that comes my way. I encourage others to embrace the same.

If you could make one change to women's lives, what would it be and why?

I really am all about balanced voice - I see it time and time again (the lack thereof). Panels with only one female; Boards with only one or two women - and I often challenge the organisers to think about that in the lead up to their event for example. I stand for balanced voice in everything I do. From Shark Tank to events to Speaking Engagements; even to my encouragement of RedBalloon's previous CEO Jemma Fastnedge to grow the SaaS business Redii to a point of exiting RedBalloon and going on its own trajectory. It is so fundamentally important.

What is the hardest part of your job?

I would say the hardest part of my job, would be ensuring that I am maximising my time in everything I do. And that sometimes means I unfortunately have to say no to events, meetings or requests for mentorship. I really do try my best, but honestly there is only so many hours in the day, and I need to ensure I am truly present with everyone I give my time to. Rushing around and only giving people a tiny window of my time is not productive for anyone. My intention is to be the very best version of me every single day and giving that to others in the same manner.

What advice would you give to someone aspiring to success in your field?

Often people want "what I have" but I really do challenge people to do the work on themselves before they contemplate heading out on the entrepreneurial journey. Finding out whether they are the person for their intended idea or invention is the first big question they need to ask themselves before they contemplate how they will gain success.

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