15 amazing women making ideas happen in Australia

In recognition of International Women’s Day this year we want to highlight some of the amazing women entrepreneurs and leaders that we’ve been privileged to profile on Ideas Hoist over the past year or so.

These 15 inspiring women are not only making their ideas happen but at the same time creating positive change through a range of ways from community projects to global enterprises.

Learn more about how they are making their ideas happen by clicking on the link at the bottom of each profile – their varied ideas, business models, challenges, routines, recommendations and future aspirations make for inspiring and interesting reading.

Jillian Kenny, Machinam

Jillian Kenny_1 (1)

Named as one of 2014’s ‘100 Most Influential Australian Women’ by the Australian Financial Review and Westpac, Jillian’s has a passion for providing opportunities for non-traditional entrants into science, technology, engineering and maths professions, leading her to establish two social enterprises serving this space: Machinam and Power of Engineering.

As one of the Founding Directors of Machinam, Jillian develops innovative mathematics resources that are engaging and relevant to real life. Employing the experience gained through her doctoral research, Jillian is committed to ensuring the delivery of thoroughly researched and tested, world-class products.

Read more about her fantastic work and how she made it happen in our interview with Jillian here.

Olivia O’Connor, Don’t Tell Summer and the #RadLivin festival

Olivia O'Connor 2

Olivia O’Connor is the founder of Don’t Tell Summer, a lifestyle blog and producer of Hats with a Purpose  – to inspire you to do what you would love to do now, rather than waiting for some point in the future.

A young Portland native now living in Sydney, Olivia is passionate about adventure and inspiring her generation to say yes to the things they would love to do.

Olivia has also recently produced Don’t Tell Summer’s first festival, #RadLivin, which took place on the 20th of February in Sydney – a mix between a conference and festival with speakers, live music, and like-minded people coming together to get inspired, share their dreams and celebrate living life to the fullest.

Read more about Olivia in our interview here.

Pheobe Yu, ettitude

Collaboration: Phoebe (right) with Limedrop founder Clea
Collaboration: Phoebe (right) with Limedrop founder Clea

Phoebe is the founder and CEO of ettitude, an online retailer of eco-friendly bedding essentials. With over a decade’s experience working in supply chain management and merchandising, Phoebe’s inspiration for ettitude came when her entrepreneurial instincts and her interest in sustainability and environmental awareness came together. ettitude was created with the vision of offering luxury and ethical bedding essentials at an accessible price directly to consumers.

Read more about Phoebe and how she made ettitude happen in our full interview here.

Jessie Williams, The Groundswell Project


Jessie Williams is the Executive Director of The Groundswell Project, a leading social enterprise known for using innovative arts and health programs to create social and cultural change about death and dying.

As a learning entrepreneur, she’s facilitated for over 20 years for The School for Social Entrepreneurs, The Centre for Community Welfare Training, the Hunger Project and the Create Foundation. She also runs learning sessions on grief, ethics and coaching.

After losing her first-born son in 2006, she experienced post-traumatic growth thanks to her community and the practice of death ritual. Her passion with the GroundSwell Project keeps her up at night and she invites everyone to be a part of the collective change around death and dying in Australia.

Read more about Jessie in our full interview here.

Anna Donaldson, Lively


Anna Donaldson is a the founder of Lively (formerly Life Experience) – a social enterprise that aims to connect generations while creating meaningful employment opportunities for young people, and increasing the connectedness and inclusion of older people in our community.

Lively’s first program is a technology help service – engaging young people in paid positions to work one-on-one with older people, helping them learn how to use the internet and technology as a tool for connecting with people, interests and the community.

Learn more about Anna and her fantastic social enterprise in our interview here.

Alison Harrington, founder of DiscoDtours


Alison has a background in law and technology as a pioneering digital executive and serial entrepreneur, with a passion for social change. In 2015 she founded discoDtours – a social enterprise business that is committed to spreading the fun, happiness and joy of dance through silent disco tours around Sydney and now Byron Bay. The social enterprise also aims to make a meaningful difference in the world by donating back to charities.

discoDtours have recently been awarded an innovation grant by the NSW Department of Family and Communities to develop a program using silent disco for seniors. Alison will be working with both a music therapist and physiotherapist to run a pilot program in two retirement villages in NSW. She hopes to create a new super-fun form of music therapy that can be rolled out to many retirement villages across Australia.

Read more in our full interview with Alison here.

Rosie Williams, Open Aus

Rosie (in the green dress) at the Random Hacks of Kindness Hackfest - volunteering on team Ocius.
Rosie (in the green dress) at the Random Hacks of Kindness Hackfest – volunteering on team Ocius.

Rosie is the founder of OpenAus, a website dedicated to transparency and open data. Rosie collates data – tracking budgets, grants and tenders, political donations and entitlements, charity statistics and other data in the public interest of all Australians, in order to bring open data to life in projects that are searchable for the public and cut through the spin.

Rosie has been an activist most of her life and is now using technology to turn that desire for greater good into tools that provide ways to investigate, advocate and improve transparency in Australia.

Read our full interview with Rosie and her important work here.

Abby Clemence, Infinity Sponsorship



Abby is Managing Director of Infinity Sponsorship and one of Australia’s foremost strategic sponsorship advisors to the Not-For-Profit Sector.

Abby’s proven pathways to infinite sponsorship success support Not-For-Profit organisations, charities and events to understand their value to corporate partners and make a compelling approach that allows them to diversify their income streams and continue their vital work in the community.

As founder of the world’s first online Sponsorship University for Not-For-Profits and Charities, Abby is excited to bring an affordable, step-by-step, end-to-end sponsorship solution to the sector. Based on the work she has undertaken on behalf of Not-for-Profits as a sponsorship broker, the Sponsorship University provides fundraisers everywhere with a proven framework, including videos and webinars, ‘real life’ examples and templates to successfully plan, find, connect with and keep corporate partners.

Read more about Abby’s work in our full interview here.

Alison Gray, Gifts4Good

Alison Gray

Alison Gray is a social entrepreneur and founder of Gifts4Good, a shopping portal for consumers wanting to make a positive contribution with their shopping.

Alison is passionate about enabling individuals and businesses to make a difference every day. After 25 years of corporate experience and a strong skill set in marketing and business management, Alison came to a crossroads in her career in 2014 and made the decision to direct her energy towards philanthropy and social impact, starting her own social enterprise. This had been a long-term dream, ever since reading Muhammad Yunus’ book ‘Social Business’, and being inspired by the capacity of business to make a positive social impact.

Read more about Alison’s story in our full interview here.

Juanita Wheeler, Full and Frank


Juanita is the Managing Director and founder of Full & Frank, a nonprofit consulting firm. She has extensive experience as an organisational strategist and adopts a holistic approach that demands all aspects of an organisation’s operations be mission-driven.

Juanita is passionately committed to fundamentally changing the way Australians think about charity, charitable giving and the role of nonprofit organisations in our country.  Juanita spoke at TEDxSouthbank 2014 debunking the overhead myth, and challenging Australians to ask themselves “Am I a part of the nonprofit problem?”

Read more about Juanita and how she’s making her ideas happen in our interview here.

Ali Phillips, BAMD

Ali Phillips

Ali Phillips is the founder of Bust A Move Dance (BAMD) – a dance program for teens and young adults with disabilities. A dancer since the age of four, she has been teaching dance since leaving high school, and in 2009 began her social business by leveraging her skills in dance to create an inclusive dance troop for teens and young adults with special needs. Ali has successfully blended her passion for dance, her skills in performing and her awareness of inclusive communities to build a fulfilling and inspiring career as a dance teacher.

Read more about Ali’s interesting story in our full interview here.

Clarita Farrugia, Tom Boi Clothing


Clarita is a born and bred Melbournian, and the founder of Tom Boi clothing, an ethical clothing company providing clothes for women in the style of men’s fashion, starting with an awesome men’s styled underwear range.

Clarita has always been a tomboy and has played with ‘boys toys’, which she found much more fun, educational and engaging. Having two older brothers also made access to the fun toys and activities accessible. Fast forward 30 years and Clarita is still a tomboy, and still gets excited about the same toys (except now they belong to her nephews)!

Clarita has a lifelong love of learning and pushing boundaries. If anything, it has just gotten stronger as she gets older. She’s never been one to do things just because that is what ‘should’ be done by society’s standards. And out of this mentality and strength grew Tom-Boi Clothing.

Read more about Clarita and Tom Boi clothing in our full interview here.

Margaret Quixley, Young Opportunities Australia

Social entrepreneur Margaret Quixley

Margaret Quixley is the founder of Young Opportunities Australia (YOA), a social enterprise dedicated to providing information, support and advice to students and graduates seeking personal and professional development opportunities. YOA is not only focused on empowering young people with the tools and skills to find or create sustainable employment, but also on furthering social good, by connecting such individuals with their communities, leaders and peers.

Margaret knows firsthand many of the challenges that young people face in entering an increasingly fragmented and globalised employment market. YOA is a centralised space where young Australians can access useful information whilst also drawing inspiration from their peers through the sharing of knowledge, experience and advice, both online and offline. 

Read more in our full interview with Margaret here.

Lily Wu, Austern International

Jamie Lee and Lily Wu, founders of Austern International

Impressively at only age 19, Lily Wu started Austern International, a practical leadership program for Millenials providing work experience and opportunities to develop skills before entering the workforce. or starting a business. Aa year later she was joined by education co-founder Jamie Lee.

Whilst still doing full-time study, Lily took more than 100 students, along with her team of student organisers, to China within the first 8 months of starting up. In December 2014, Lily won the AMP Tomorrow Maker Award from a field of 5,600 other contestants. She is a current UNSW Bachelor student studying Commerce and majoring in Business Law and Accounting. Lily is also a creative individual, having held her own solo art exhibition at Chatswood Concourse as well as having published two children’s books by Scholastic at the age of 13 and 15.

Read more about how Lily is making her ideas happen in our interview here.

Caitlin and Lizzie, Wild Rumpus

WR workspace
Caitlin and Lillie, Wild Rumpus

We interviewed Caitlin and Lizzie back in late 2014 and since then their Wollongong-based social enterprise, Wild Rumpus seems to have gone from strength to strength. Wild Rumpus is a creative ‘skillshare’ social enterprise that runs short affordable classes taught by skilled locals, aiming to build a resourceful, creative and sustainable community by providing:

  • affordable adult education classes in areas of sustainability, creativity and DIY
  • entry-level opportunities for emerging freelancers, creatives and educators to gain experience in workshop delivery, public speaking and business promotion
  • opportunities for local makers, creatives and designers to showcase and test their wares in the marketplace, and
  • revitalising places and spaces through innovative, fun community events.

You can read more about how they started their innovative social enterprise in our interview here.

Last year on IWD we also posted about some of our most interesting and inspiring female interviewees, including Melanie Perkins from Canva, Rosie Thomas, Jane Martino and more. Check out their great stories over on The Social Deck Blog.


Learn from over 200 Australians making ideas happen.

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