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Veuve Clicquot unveils female entrepreneur finalists

Tuesday, 24 January 2012 | By Michelle Hammond

The founders of Lorna Jane and T2 are among the finalists for this year’s Veuve Clicquot Business Woman Award, with the shortlist recognised for their achievements in everything from food to fashion.

 

Now it its 40th year, the Veuve Clicquot Business Woman Award is held in 16 countries. It was created specifically to recognise the contributions that women make to the business sector.

 

In addition to the financial results and commercial success of the nominees, judges take into account the nominees’ commitment to the community and their employees.

 

The Australian judging panel includes John Holland Group chairman Janet Holmes à Court, Colette Garnsey of Pacific Brands, and Marilynne Paspaley of Paspaley Pearls Group.

 

This year’s finalists are:

 

Lorna-Jane Clarkson, founder and creative director of women’s active wear brand Lorna Jane.

 

Elena Gosse, founder and company secretary of Australian Innovation Systems, specialising in chlorinators and water treatment.

 

Ronni Kahn, founder and chief executive of food rescue charity OzHarvest.

 

Kris Lloyd, chief executive and head cheesemaker of Woodside Cheese Wrights.

 

Maryanne Shearer, chief executive of tea retailer T2.

 

According to Holmes à Court, chairman of the award, this year’s finalists “are an extraordinary group, all leaders and true innovators in their chosen fields”.

 

“They are an inspiration to other female entrepreneurs, and to us all. Every one of them would be a worthy winner of the Veuve Clicquot Business Woman Award,” she said in a statement.

 

 

The winner will be announced on International Women’s Day on Thursday, March 8 at a lunch attended by 100 of the country’s most influential businesswomen.

 

 

The winner will travel to France to join past and present laureates at the annual Veuve Clicquot International Businesswomen’s Forum, where a vine will be christened in her name.

 

StartupSmart takes a look at the finalists, honing in on their early days:

 

 

Lorna-Jane Clarkson

 

Clarkson started out by making gym clothes whilst working full-time as a dental therapist, driven by her frustration with the limited range of fashionable exercise clothing available on the market.

 

As demand for her designs grew, Clarkson relocated to Brisbane and began working as an aerobics instructor, sharing her clothing range with people in her classes.

 

She eventually moved from her small backroom studio to a large warehouse in order to meet demand, launching the label’s first retail store in the Brisbane CBD in 1990.

 

Since then, Clarkson has grown her business to 120 stores nationwide and overseas, with further expansion scheduled for 2012.

 

Elena Gosse

 

Gosse began her career as an actress in her home country of Russia, where she started one of the country’s first private entertainment companies.

 

In 1993, she emigrated to Australia, with no social network and a poor grasp of English. Once in Australia, Gosse put herself through English school and university.

 

In 2000, she and her husband acquired Australian Innovative Systems, which makes chlorinators, chlorine generators, activated anodes and spare parts for the swimming pool and alkali industries.

 

Specialising in manufacturing of electrolyses systems for residential and commercial water disinfection, AIS has established itself as a world force in cost-effective, eco-friendly water treatment innovation.

 

Ronni Kahn

 

Kahn was born and schooled in South Africa before migrating to Australia in 1988. She went on to establish a 20-year career in the events industry and ran her own company.

 

In her business, Kahn was shocked by the amount of food she observed being wasted by the hospitality industry and decided to address the problem.

 

In 2004, she created OzHarvest based on a model she had seen in the United States. In its first month, OzHarvest delivered 4,000 meals to fourteen shelters using one van.

 

OzHarvest now delivers more than 330,000 meals each month, saving 120 tonnes of food from going to waste every month.

 

 

Kris Lloyd

 

With a background in marketing, Lloyd took over Woodside Cheese Wrights in 1999. One day she said to her cheesemakers, “Show me how to make cheese”.

 

Lloyd is now the chief executive and head cheesemaker, supported by a passionate team who produce cheeses to traditional methods.

 

The company has introduced innovative packaging and presentation as well as pioneering a range of cheeses to take advantage of seasonal variations in milk supply.

 

Lloyd works closely with chefs around Australia to develop cheeses exclusively for their menus. From 2002 to 2004, she grew the business fourfold and continues to expand the business year on year.

 

Maryanne Shearer

 

Shearer began her career working in fashion and interiors, where she held creative positions and honed her skills in product development and visual merchandising.

 

Whilst working in her own homewares company, Shearer had the idea for T2 over a cup of tea. She realised there was a gap in the market for a new retail experience in the tea category.

 

Shearer saw an opportunity to apply her background in fashion to give tea a modern edge. She opened the first T2 store in the Melbourne suburb of Fitzroy in 1996.

 

Shearer pioneered a unique educational retail concept, with in-store daily tea tastings, and staff who encourage customers to smell, taste and touch the different ingredients and aromas of the teas.