September 22, 2023
Why adaptability is a business superpower
Successful female entrepreneurs discuss job transitions, rewriting career playbooks and chasing their dreams
Yesterday (Thursday 21 September), the University of Wollongong’s (UOW) business accelerator and incubator program iAccelerate hosted a popular breakfast discussion on career pivots. Entrepreneurial Women’s Breakfast brought together a powerhouse of inspiring female entrepreneurs and community leaders – eco-warrior Yael Stone, Savvy Fitness founder Angela Saville and Ellie Lezcano from Binary Tech Global – who shared their stories of resilience, adaptability and the pursuit of purpose-driven careers.
Entrepreneurial Women’s Breakfast's discussion panelists: (left) Dr Tamantha Stutchbury, Yael Stone, Ellie Lezcano and Angela Saville.
According to Dr Tamantha Stutchbury, Director of iAccelerate, an average person will have between three to seven careers in their lifetime while working in 17 different jobs.
“As women, our careers are also influenced by what’s available to us, many decisions we make and roles we have to play, such as caretakers and mothers. At iAccelerate, our mission is to foster an ecosystem where budding entrepreneurs can flourish, offering them the essential resources, expertise and guidance to succeed.”
Yael Stone is most known for her role as Lorna Morello in the award-winning Netflix series ‘Orange Is the New Black’. But in 2019, right in the middle of Australia’s tragic Black Summer, she publicly announced she would abandon her American Green Card and return home to Australia to combat climate change. Citing her grandfather Tom Sommerville, a proud Illawarra steel worker, as an inspiration for her career change, Yael founded Hi Neighbour, an Illawarra-based organisation that uses solar projects to fund scholarships for former coal workers retraining for low-carbon jobs.
“The decision to leave America has had a powerful impact on the course of my life, and Hi Neighbour is the brainchild of this resolve,” said Yael, who’s also doing a degree in sustainable communities at UOW.
“We are the first generation to really feel the effects of climate change, and we are the last generation that can really do something about it. My thinking is that the only thing you need to make change is to just do it.”
Ellie Lezcano, another Illawarra local, has played a pivotal role in driving the growth of one of iAccelerate’s resident companies, Binary Tech Global, which builds secure and intelligent Massive Internet of Things (MIoT) applications. During the discussion, she shared how much resilience and flexibility she needed on her journey from diverse corporate pursuits and family commitments to business innovation.
Ellie started with a degree in physics and mechanical engineering at UOW, thinking she would go on to build things for Space. But when she realised there were not many jobs in that industry in Australia, she transferred to commerce and completed an accounting and marketing degree while starting a business in the financial education sector with her dad. After quickly growing and scaling the company, Ellie realised it had become too much for everyone in her life. Later, she became a stay-at-home mum, which she had loved until she craved to start working again. When joining forces with her brother, Michael, to grow Binary Tech Global, she realised she was finally on the right path.
“What gave me the courage to pivot was knowing why I was doing it and having a plan. I always mapped out the risks and benefits of changing versus not changing anything. Once it was clear that change was the right choice, it became my focus.”
Ellie Lezcano from Binary Tech Global (left) and Angela Saville from Savvy Fitness discuss unexpected pivots in their businesses.
Angela Saville’s career journey is the essence of a perfect pivot. With a background in teaching spanning seven years, she courageously left behind the stability of the classroom to pursue her passion for fitness, opening Savvy Fitness. As the company quickly rose to become one of Australia’s leading outdoor fitness companies, Angela’s entrepreneurial path was not without its trials. The sudden impact of the pandemic brought her business to a halt almost overnight, and it took lots of adaptability and resilience to drive Savvy forward during this challenging period. Most recently, Savvy joined forces with Amplified Health, a provider of allied health and clinical therapies. Angela, passionate about outdoor community and group fitness, now leads a team of 50 professionals, serving over 1,000 people in the Illawarra. In her own words, “Do what you love. Work is such a significant part of your day, and it’s important to wake up in the morning and look forward to the day ahead.”
The Entrepreneurial Women’s Breakfast series was first launched in 2014 to share the insights and stories of successful entrepreneurial women. After pausing during the COVID-19 pandemic, the conversation series made a comeback earlier this year, exploring diverse topics and providing a platform for women to connect, share experiences and embark on their entrepreneurial journeys with more confidence and determination.