I’ll prove great mums can have interesting careers: Business woman of the year Carolyn Creswell
Readers talk back
Must reads site wide
A former arts student who turned a part-time university job making muesli into a global snackfood company has been crowned the 2012 Telstra Australian Business Woman of the Year.
Carman's Fine Foods managing director Carolyn Creswell, who collected her prize at a ceremony in Sydney last night, outlined how much her range of healthy food had grown in the 19 years since she was "laughed at" for asking to buy out the owners of a small muesli business while she was still a student.
Some kind of Carman's product – be it muesli, muesli bars, porridge or biscuits – is now purchased every two seconds, she said. The range is exported to 32 countries and shelved in Australia's major independent supermarkets.
She used her speech last night to challenge how working mothers are perceived in the community and to prove women could "be a great mum and have an interesting career".
"I have a full-time job, I sit on a number of boards and I'm a good mother," she said, explaining that organisations were working hard to eliminate a stigma associated with working mums. But she said some schools, and other aspects of society, had some catching up to do. "Let's do what we can to challenge, challenge, challenge."
She said her story could be any woman's story. "I didn't have money. I came from the checkout at Coles ... You can do what you want if you put your mind to it."
Creswell explained how her success had allowed her to access unique opportunities and meet extraordinary people, including Prince Charles just a few weeks ago. She said she reached into her handbag and gave him a muesli bar during the encounter, because he said he wanted to try her product and she "didn't have an hour of Prince Charles small-talk".
Creswell was also awarded the Commonwealth Bank Business Owner Award.
Other women to take home national gongs included ballerina turned investment banker Cynthia Whelan, who won the Hudson Private Sector Award for her work as CEO of Barclays Australia and New Zealand.
The South Australian Department of Premier and Cabinet's deputy chief executive Sandy Pitcher accepted the White Pages Community and Government Award for helping to develop the state's strategic plan and policies.
The Nokia Business Innovation Award went to Maureen Clifford, the founder of environmental accounting and reporting system Ndevr, while Sentis CEO Chandra Clement took home the Marie Claire Young Business Women's Award.
Read why the winners don't believe in luck.