Canberra Rare Birds Launch

Thank you very much Jo and it’s an absolute pleasure to be here tonight with you all to celebrate the Canberra launch of Inspiring Rare Birds.

I certainly thank my friend and colleague Julie Bishop for her inspiring words – she is a strong advocate for all women in this building.

It’s also great to see Stef Lovett here, the Managing Director at Capital Hill Advisory and former Chief of Staff to the former Small Business Minister Bruce Billson.

We know in Australia and indeed in the world, women are under-represented as entrepreneurs, in start-ups and tech fields and in the investment sector.

Australia is ranked highly for having an enabling environment which supports female entrepreneurship.

Australia is ranked 2nd on the 2015 Female Entrepreneurship Index and the 2015 Global Women Entrepreneurs Leaders scoreboard.

The number of Australian women operating their own businesses has steadily increased over the past 20 years, but in line with other OECD countries, they remain under-represented as entrepreneurs.

Governments, business leaders and the community have an important role to play to encourage and nurture entrepreneurial talent to support a more innovative, inclusive and prosperous economy.

When the talents and aspirations of all Australians are harnessed in enterprise and in the workforce – be they male or female; city, suburban or country; be they a lifetime resident or one of our newest citizens – we can unlock the bright future with more jobs, higher wages and better opportunities for all Australians.

This is a task to which we all must rise.

Research paper after research paper shows what you all know to be true – that success in the business sector is better when the talents of many groups are realised.

Data from the La Trobe Business School – released as part of International Women’s Day last year – found Australia’s top companies which employ more women make more profit.1 Similar research overseas says better diversity in leadership and entrepreneurship can improve profitability and the pipeline of female leaders to follow.2

The Rare Birds’ vision to see a global community of 1 million women entrepreneurs by 2020 is admirable.

You are living the next generation of that research and I am sure you will have similar success.


It’s inspiring to see both male and female leaders within the Rare Birds’ network building momentum and encouraging women to pursue their business and innovative ideas.

That could be a conversation, an interaction – with someone local or someone on the other side of the country – which can chart a Rare Birds’ course for success.

It’s this kind of vision which will make a difference and have far and wide-reaching benefits.

In July last year I was fortunate to be invited as the new Minister for Small Business to the 2016 AusMumpreneur Awards.

It was inspiring to see and hear from so many talented women who talk so passionately about their businesses and share their stories of how they all began.

The AusMumpreneur network continues to grow rapidly thanks to the determination and drive of two women – Peace Mitchell and Katy Garner.

With more than 300,000 Aussie mums involved, each year there are new and exciting business ideas recognised which have evolved from women balancing the development of their entrepreneurial concepts with the competing demands of family life.

I would encourage you all here tonight to reach out and engage with the AusMumpreneur Network – they, like you, are a team of remarkable women.

Having owned and operated my own small business for more than eight years – as a stay at home dad, with two little boys and a girl, from our family home – I can appreciate the modern demands on families coupled with owning and running a small business.



I know the relentless hours and the challenges of juggling everything from stocktake to school pick-up to soccer training. I know there are far too many hours after dark when the ‘business’ of the day has finished only to start on the paperwork.

But those are the stories and the experience which shapes the best of our emerging business scene. Those are the days in which that spark of our idea – that dream and aspiration we once had – is slowly but surely realised.

And it’s a time when stresses can rise. Where it can be come all-consuming, where it can become overwhelming.

But in those moments, remember this – we have all been there.

That’s where networks such as Rare Birds become so beneficial. It’s not a stuffy room of self-promotion, but an honest and meaningful assortment of those who have made it though, of those Rare Birds who can spread their wings and fly!

Everyone here has started small. Everyone here has scrimped and saved and sought a brighter future for them and their families. And everyone here has a story. A unique story.

Monique Filer and Dannielle Michaels started their company, B.Box for Kids, from the kitchen table in 2007. • Together from home, they worked hard at capturing their ideas and developing their concepts into products on shelves. • Sound familiar? • Monique and Danielle are driven daily by the belief their innovative concepts will make parents’ lives easier; always on-the-hunt for the next inventive solution.

Today their range of unique and practical drinking and feeding products for children is sold in 800 Australian stores and in 22 countries globally.

They are the 2016 AusMumpreneur Award of the Year winners.

As a country MP I know this story of success doesn’t stop in the suburbs.

Simone Eyles of Wagga Wagga in my own electorate - who is also here in the crowd tonight – lives each day the success she sought in the beginning.

Simone has set her sights high with the target of establishing 100 Wagga Wagga start-ups by 2020 and like so many Rare Birds I know she has the dedication and determination to deliver it. Hers is an inspiring story and she is someone with whom you should connect. I know Simone will be a strong leader and mentor for Canberra Rare Birds.

The Prime Minister has recognised Simone’s 365 Cups coffee app and the recently-launched WorkingSpacesHQ project as key examples of innovation and entrepreneurial spirit from this region. High praise and it is well deserved.

And as I travel across the country meeting with many small business owners, I am constantly amazed by the passion and dedication demonstrated by people such as Simone.

The entrepreneurial types, who with a mere spark of an idea back themselves and run with it.

We want all Australians right around the country – every business large and small, the men and women, young and old – to play a role in building a dynamic entrepreneurial culture.

Not just in Silicon Valley, or Sydney but right here in the Canberra and Southern New South Wales region too. • This is what inspires me to keep working on behalf of small business in the Federal Government each and every day.

Recently the Federal Government has launched various initiatives to support female entrepreneurship and tech/Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (or STEM) participation.

The Women in STEM and entrepreneurship initiative aims to increase awareness and participation of girls and women in STEM education and careers. It also seeks to support women across the innovation ecosystem including innovative businesses, start-ups, entrepreneurial activities and careers.

It aims to increase the number of women in senior leadership and decision making positions in government, research organisations, industry and businesses.

The first round of funding was announced in December 2016 under the new Women in STEM and Entrepreneurship competitive grants programme – an initiative of the National Innovation and Science Agenda. This involved $3.9 million for 24 projects around the country.

We want more women to become involved in international trade and investment and create opportunities from the trade agreements the Federal Government has delivered with China, Japan and South Korea.

In conjunction with State and Territory Governments, the Federal Government has developed the Women in Global Business - a national program to enable more women-led businesses to succeed in acquiring debt and equity funding for international business growth.

These are just a couple of initiatives the Federal Government has delivered to support female entrepreneurs and small business owners.

But we cannot do this alone.

The story of success in Australia – the country with more jobs, higher wages and with better opportunities for our daughters and granddaughters, as well as all Australians, needs the collective will of all of us.

Currently, women make up more than a third of business operators in Australia.

There is huge opportunity to develop and inspire more women to pursue their business ideas and promote female entrepreneurial culture.

And it is people – leaders – just like every one of you in this room who can make this happen. You are the innovators and the creators, the employers and the encouragers. You are the people who can see STEM and small business hand-in-hand and networks.

And you have already made some amazing leaps and bounds.

I share your passion and vision and I am determined to do what I can to be a strong advocate for networks such as Rare Birds.

I want to work with you all to make a difference to ensure that figure of a third of business owners being female continues to grow for the wider benefit of the small business sector and for our economy.

Australian Women are making their mark – just look at the inaugural Australian Football League Women’s Competition and the Australian Women Rugby 7’s side – so too can women in innovation and business.

Thanks for having me - I wish you all the very best working towards your goals and it’s been a delight to have been a part of the launch of Canberra Rare Birds tonight.

Cristy Houghton