2018 Territory success stories

Karen Sheldon

Karen Sheldon and her staffKaren Sheldon embodies the pioneering spirit and resilience of Australia’s most successful entrepreneurs.

She is kind, patient and exceptionally humble but her determination to succeed and improve the lives of Aboriginal people is gritty and resolute. Her single-mindedness to close the gap, while building a thriving business empire, has elevated Karen to local royalty status.

“The drive behind all my business ventures, from catering, to training, to employment services, starts with giving back to the people who first welcomed me to their country,” she reflects.

“Being able to use my career and life experiences to provide practical solutions to help people is what is most important to me”.

“I have always loved October Business Month. The Karen Sheldon Group is involved in many ways, from catering to the huge range of events hosted every year, to hosting our own business development workshops. October Business Month is so important to the Territory as it gives professionals the opportunity to share in the vast knowledge of our business community and reignite passion for professional development.”

Karen Hawkes

Karen HawkesDigital entrepreneur, Karen Hawkes, loves technology and gadgets as much as anyone but as an anthropology graduate, she devotes herself to the human side of this often faceless world.

As co-owner of digital marketing agency Captovate, Karen and husband Michael, continue to lead digital business in the Territory, carving a niche by helping locals get the best from technology.

“The modern world of the internet provides so many opportunities for businesses to streamline their processes, provide a better customer service and attract new business”

October Business Month (OBM) is a highlight for Karen and her team, offering the opportunity to build and share knowledge and skills with the business community.

“We have run workshops during OBM for the last eight years. We are also a provider for the Northern Territory Government’s Upskills program, running workshops on creating websites and managing social media across the Territory. Plus, there is also the highly successful ‘Tip a day’ series over the month of October on Facebook.

John Mackenzie

John MackenzieLively entrepreneur John Mackenzie brings infectious energy and zeal to whatever business or industry he lends his hand to.

Juggling so many ideas and priorities can be difficult but John finds balance by surrounding himself with good people and simply loving what he does.

“You have to love what you do and be passionate about it. I have some really good people around me and we have been very fortunate.”

John believes an eagerness to continually learn, together with a willingness to fail are key drivers for success.

John credits the Territory’s tight-knit business environment for his success in establishing a number of innovative start-up companies, believing the Northern Territory is the best place in Australia to do so.

“The thing I love about the Territory is its proximity to decision makers such as parliament members and business owners,” John said. “I would never have come up with these ideas if it wasn’t for the market place here, the region and the location.”

Jamie Kokles-Ridgway

Jamie Kokles-RidgwayEver since she can remember, the ocean has been Jamie Ridgway’s happy place, so it was no surprise when this natural affinity with the water gave life to a career in water safety.

“I’ve always had a love, passion and appreciation for the ocean and the pool recreates that feeling for me,” Jamie said.

Driven by a longing to teach young children to swim and prevent childhood drownings, Jamie started Travelling Tadpole Swim School in 2015 and began providing mobile water safety instruction to remote communities.

“When I first started Travelling Tadpole, October Business Month was an incredible resource and learning tool. Everything about running a business was completely new to me. I learnt about finances, tax, setting up business structures, advertising etc.”

“Small businesses are hard to get off the ground, and even harder to keep in the air. This access to professionals was a big advantage for my business in getting through those early tough periods.”

Kym and Shaun Cairns

Kym and Shaun CairnsKym and Shaun Cairns credit strong relationships for underpinning the success of their remote building and civil construction business. 

“People are the heart of our business and we have always put loyalty and relationships first,” Kym says. “Our networks are what have got us through the good times and also guided us through our biggest challenges.”

Cairns Industries was recently nominated for a federal entrepreneurial business grant to help Kym and Shaun achieve their goal of elevating the company up a tier status, opening up a new world of opportunities.

The pair say the key to their growth and future success is the same as what makes the business tick today. 

Kym considers October Business Month an invaluable source of networking and professional learning. “Attending these events over the years has helped nurture our business relationships and connect with the right people. It’s great to hear stories of how people have overcome adversities and been able to recover from tough times”.