"I nearly folded the company." 8 successful Aussie women on the worst mistake they've made.


No one who’s enjoyed success has done it without facing one or two (or 10) hurdles.

But when you’re in the trenches of a new business venture, starting out on the bottom rung of a career ladder, or wading your way into unchartered professional waters – it can be hard to poke your head up above the mess and remember that mistakes are all part of the package.

What’s that annoyingly accurate saying? Nothing worth having comes easily. *Sigh*

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But we can ramble on all we like about how failures lead to growth and mistakes lead to lightbulb moments, sometimes the only way to really truly believe that is to soak up the mistakes of women who’ve been there.

Without further ado, here are the business mistakes of some of our most successful Aussie women.

Roxy Jacenko

Founder and Director of Sweaty Betty PR, and author.

Invoicing in WORD. Invest in a good quality and easy to use accounting software like Xero or MYOB.


If you don’t, before you know it you will have people owing you money for services rendered and no idea on how to reconcile or keep up to date.

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Roxy Jacenko, founder of Sweaty Betty. Image: Supplied.

Jessica Sepel

Nutritionist and founder of JSHealth.

In hindsight, working from home may have been a big mistake, although it was also an incredible journey.

We built the JSHealth brand from our home office over the last five years. It was an unbelievable uphill challenge and journey, however, I think it may have come at the cost of my mental health.


We have been in our new JSHealth office for nearly a month now and I can definitely feel the difference in my mental health.

Having the separation between my home life, personal life and my workspace has helped me to feel clearer and more energetic.

Looking back, I don't think I had that clear separation beforehand, which meant that my work stayed with me at night. I think working from home might be the reason I developed my insomnia and anxiety.

Now, I think it's really important for us to learn to disconnect from the busyness of our workloads to refresh and reset our minds and bodies for a successful and productive workday/week.

Jessica Sepel
Jessica Sepel, founder of JSHealth. Image: Instagram.

Laura Henshaw

Co-founder of Keep It Cleaner.

I used to dwell on my mistakes but the truth is we make so many and I have so many more to make, so I try to focus on the positives and how much I will learn from them.

If it isn’t going to matter in 5 years, it shouldn’t be the end of the world now and (touch wood) but I haven’t yet come across a problem that I couldn't get through by myself or with our awesome team.

I believe to push ourselves and grow we have to do things we have never done before, which we of course won’t be perfect at. It's so important to remember that trying and failing is so much better than never trying at all. I just try not to make the same mistake twice.

P.S. I did once die my hair half pink… that was a bad one!


Cathy O'Connor

CEO, Nova Entertainment.

In 2005, we launched two FM radio stations called Vega 95.3fm in Sydney and Vega 91.5fm in Melbourne.

The stations tried to mix old and new music plus talk and interviews in an eclectic mix. We lost ratings and a lot of money.

The lesson I learned was to be clear in what your product offers its customers – if you’re confused, they’ll be too!

But the good news is that it all eventually helped us to launch smoothfm, an easy listening feel good station, which has been the No 1 station in both Sydney and Melbourne for the majority of the past year.

Cathy O'Connor, CEO of Nova Entertainment. Image: LinkedIn.

Zoe Marshall

Media personality and podcaster.

Going back to work four weeks after a baby.

Professionally I don't think it impacted but personally it impacted. I was still recovering from birth so that was a momentous mistake and three to four months later I was diagnosed with postnatal depletion.

If I had my time again I would at least wait three to six months.

Zoe Marshall, media personality and podcaster. Image: supplied.

Samantha Wills

Designer and entrepreneur

While in New York, in the middle of a stellar moment for our brand - we couldn't keep product on the shelves, retailers were doubling their orders season on season - and in a hot second I made the decision that I wanted the SW brand to sit a tier, to a tier-and-a-half higher in the market than where we were sitting.

So, I instantly changed the design language. Not over a few seasons, or subtly to progress it... no. I made the decision that the next collection was going to be minimal. Then I thought starting on a market table is not very glamorous?! Nor is working from your dining room table - I am going to remove these elements from our story.


Not so shockingly, it didn't sell. Our consumer was now unengaged with the brand. In one season I nearly folded the company. I had lost the trust of retailers, our consumer and the worst of all, my team.

All because I was trying to make the brand something it wasn't. It all stemmed from losing sight of my why.


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I sat here today and wrote the very last official public @SamanthaWillsOfficial document; our closing letter. I will be posting it on our final day of trade of the #SamanthaWills Jewellery business, we will be turning off our site at 5pm AEDST, Friday January 11th, 2019. ⠀ ⠀ It is a unique feeling to close out a 15 year chapter and I am so proud of the way we have done so, and it has only been made possible by the incredible team at SWHQ and our amazing warehouse crew. There’s not a lot of stock left at – but if you do want anything before we say goodbye, be sure to visit in the next 18 days. Any stock remaining after January 11th, 2019 with move to a third party site where we will be donating 100% of the proceeds to charity (more details to follow on this in the new year). ⠀ ⠀ I wanted to take this opportunity to thank the incomparable SW Team, warehouse and management who have worked tirelessy over the last 6 months (and 15 years!) and who have supported my decision to close the business, and done so with such support, grace and integrity. Thank you to each and every one of YOU who have supported us over the past 15 years, the past 6 months, and all that was in between. It has been hard to find words to put to such a journey. ⠀ ⠀ Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas, I hope you are spending it giving love and being loved, and that it it is filled with a feeling of calmness and happiness. ⠀ ⠀ See you back here on the 11th January for our final farewell. ???? ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ With love and gratitude, Samantha x

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Rebecca Sparrow 

Writer and author

When I was 21, I was working in PR and I had to write a media release about an event featuring a young Irish singer.

In my release I said “XXX is like the Irish version of Van Morrison.”

The media release was faxed (yes, faxed) to hundreds of people. Dozens of the recipients were quick to point out to me that, um, Van Morrison is Irish.

I was teased about it for six months!

rebecca sparrow
Bec Sparrow, author. Image: Supplied.

Holly Wainwright

Head of Content at Mamamia and author. 

I turned down my dream job (at the time) because I was pregnant. In fact, I turned down two jobs because I was pregnant, in different pregnancies.

At the time I was so daunted by what I imagined first-time parenthood would be like, I thought I couldn't possibly take on another big 'thing' at the same time. What I learned was that yes, first time parenthood turns your world upside down, but as long as I could have negotiated the same leave (for me, that was six months off), which job I was going back to was NOT the issue. And I found that actually, leaving your gorgeous baby at home to go to work is a bit easier if you're truly passionate about what you do.

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Although my career has recovered from those decisions - and arguably went in a more interesting direction because of them - I think women discounting themselves from 'big' jobs because of babies, or the possibility of babies, is a mistake if you're ambitious and in your professional prime, which many women are when they start breeding.

I think we need to work towards changing what those top jobs look like and what they demand of us, not decide to bow out of even going for them because we're afraid we can't 'do it all'.

holly wainwright
Holly Wainwright, author and Head of Content at Mamamia.

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