Expanding entrepreneurial horizons with mobile technology


Amanda Ogilvie, from the Australian Chamber’s Biz Better Together initiative, talks to Jo Burston, CEO of Inspiring Rare Birds, about the opportunities for Australian women entrepreneurs.

Australia is proving fertile ground for female entrepreneurs, with women making up one third of business operators nationally. More than 90% of female Australian business operators are running small businesses, and the 2015 Global Women Entrepreneur Leaders Scorecard ranks Australia in equal second place. In the past twenty years, women have been setting up their own business at almost double the rate of men, and female business owners are reporting high levels of life satisfaction.

Jo Burston, entrepreneurial founder and CEO of global hub Inspiring Rare Birds, is familiar with the statistics, and the ups and downs of being a female entrepreneur in Australia today. “It’s been 10 years on a roller coaster. I build businesses, I break businesses; sometimes the business breaks me,” she says. Jo has an equally colourful analogy for what it takes to succeed in business.

“You can never drink the finest champagne out of a crystal glass until you’ve eaten a few glasses first.”

Jo wants to change the script in the minds of young people and especially young girls and women, to make it clear that entrepreneurship is a career for everyone and it can be a choice. When she returned to her high school some years ago, she was dismayed to discover that young girls associated being in business, or being an entrepreneur, with it being a man’s job. “Women control 27% of the world’s wealth, that over $21 trillion worth of wealth globally, and this figure is increasing.”

“One of the reasons why women are attracted to the idea of running their own business is that they are seeking flexibility. They are willing to work very hard, they are not at all afraid of putting in the hours, but they want to be able to schedule those hours around their other commitments.”

Inspiring Rare Birds is an organisation that supports women who want to be entrepreneurs, but it is not exclusive to women. There are men involved with running the organisation, and men who want to be entrepreneurs can make an approach. “We are not a women’s organisation, we are an organisation that supports women entrepreneurs and that support comes from all diversities. We have an empowerment focus on women,” Jo says, “but we are not going to turn men away.”

Jo says that technology is critical to business development, especially mobile technology. “A third of the small businesses run by women in Australia are located in rural or regional Australia. For instance, I know of a technology business based in Wagga Wagga NSW that is doing very well. Sydney may be the beating heart and hub of entrepreneurship and tech, but that doesn’t mean everyone wants to live there. With the technology available now, you don’t have to. You can conduct all your business through digital platforms.”

Jo’s top tips for entrepreneurial success:

  • Believe in your gut instinct – it is always right
  • The right time is now – to start, to do, to learn, to grow
  • Be self-responsible for your own learning
  • Always improve the average of yourself through the company you keep – surround yourself with the people you want to become
  • Be ‘all in’ or ‘all out’ – you’ve got to be 100% committed, because to be successful it will consume every day and every night for a long time
  • Use kindness in your relationships with everyone
  • Always observe your own values and don’t  do business with people who don’t share those values
  • Be vulnerable, allow creativity to flourish, and feel good about your own opinions
  • Be curious
  • Be open to opportunities

Jo believes that being able to see where you want to go is just as important as having the technology to take you there. “Vision for me is a well-exercised future. I need my team to help me stay focused on the day, because I am always looking ahead.”

Biz Better Together, an initiative of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, aims to engage businesses across Australia through events, seminars, professional development, in-depth articles, tips on social media and much more. The next Mobile-ising Women in Business event, featuring successful entrepreneurs and leading digital innovators, will be held on 1 September 2016 at The National Wine Centre in Adelaide, SA. Early bird tickets (save $200) on sale now.

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