Can a conference REALLY change your life?

Can a conference REALLY change your life HERO

Conferences are funny things. You get 200 or so people stuck in a room, often with no windows; and they’re all watching a bunch of other people on stage talk about their areas of expertise. These conferences can be life changing, inspirational events – or they can be the most boring two days of your life.

The trouble is that when you sign up, you’re never quite sure which one you’re going to get.

Last week I attended the Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network Conference in Istanbul, Turkey. And I’ll admit, the event itself was overwhelming. It was full of successful female entrepreneurs from around the world, the agenda was laden with interesting sessions; and it was peppered with impressive experiences such as cocktails and dinner in the Esma Sultan Mansion on the banks of the beautiful Bosphorus.

A conference like this has a jam-packed schedule. There were workshops, networking opportunities and the organisers even scheduled early morning Pilates sessions in case you were inclined to give your abs a workout before getting into the conference for the day (I didn’t feel the need to disturb my abs for this purpose).… Read more ...

My life in a minute: Istanbul, amazing women, and la dolce vita in Rome

MLIAM 14 JUne 2013 HERO

I’ll admit, it’s been an extraordinary couple of weeks. My life is not usually like this. If it was, I think I’d have cardiac arrest from sensory overload.

I was fortunate enough to attend the Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network Conference in Istanbul, Turkey. Amazing. More on that in a future post!

It was wonderful to connect with female entrepreneurs from around the globe – including our wonderful homegrown ones as well. Here I am with Cathie Reid (APHS Packaging), Tina Tower (Begin Bright) and Catriona Pollard (CP Communications and also presenter of the seminar “PR and Media Releases that Get Results” at the Australian Writers’ Centre.)

L-R: Valerie Khoo, Cathie Reid, Tina Tower, Catriona Pollard at cocktails at the Esma Sultan Mansion

I had never been to Istanbul before so it was wonderful to discover a new city.

An oasis in the middle of the Bosphorus, Istanbul

A visit to Turkey is not complete with some whirling dervishes

I discovered these gorgeous kittens in a fishing village and had to resist the temptation to bring then home!

Baby kittens in a fishing village near Istanbul

Then a few days in Rome with my fabulous friend Nicole, where we visited what seemed to be every ancient monument in existence, ate ridiculous amount of pasta and then shopped, shopped and shopped.… Read more ...

Australia named second best country in the world to be a female entrepreneur

Female Entrepreneurs in Australia HERO

It seems that female entrepreneurs living in Australia are in a pretty good position. Last week, Australia was named the second best country in the world to be a female entrepreneur, according to the new Gender-GEDI Index launched by the Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network at its annual conference in Istanbul, Turkey.

This result even surprised the researchers.

Australia has been named the second best country in the world to be a female entrepreneur, according to a new global index.

The Gender-GEDI Index compares key metrics from 17 countries, measuring everything from business environment and ecosystems to the attitudes and social norms likely to impact entrepreneurship. It has a particular focus on “high potential women” who are “innovative, market expanding and export-oriented”.

The study by the US-based Global Entrepreneurship and Development Institute, was launched Tuesday by the Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network (DWEN) at its annual conference in Istanbul, Turkey.

Ruta Aidis, the institute’s project director, said she was “surprised that Australia did so well, coming ahead of countries like France and Germany.”

You can read more of this article in… Read more ...

Tear gas, riot police – and my attempt at channelling Liam Neeson

A much more peaceful shot of Istanbul at sunset

A much more peaceful shot of Istanbul at sunset

When you’re planning your first day in a foreign country, here are some tips:
1. Avoid mass protests where the crowd is peppered with tear gas.
2. Don’t go anywhere near riot police.
3. When you hear loud noises that sound like explosions, don’t just walk, run.

Yesterday, I managed to fail on all three counts on my first day in Istanbul and found myself stuck in what has been described as “the worst protest in years”. According to news reports that have since emerged, “an estimated 10,000 demonstrators again streamed into the area waving flags and calling on the government to resign.”

Now, I’m not the kind of girl that goes looking for trouble. I’m more of a “book a massage in the day spa, sip Bloody Marys in a groovy bar, then go shopping at Saks Fifth Avenue” sort of traveller.

So I didn’t quite believe it when I found myself in this street:

Yes, I was in this very street.

Crowd control using tear gas.

Riot police here in Istanbul.

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The one where I got stuck with a hen’s party on a flight to Istanbul

The One Where I Got Stuck FEATURE

What’s worse than having a drunk, a smelly football team, or a flu-ridden passenger next to you on a flight? … A hen’s party!

Yes, it happened to me on my recent flight from Dubai to Istanbul.

Now I have to say … I didn’t mind them so much because it was actually like watching the cast of Footballers’ Wives act out an episode.

The entire hen’s party were from Manchester in England and they were heading to Istanbul to party hard with the bride-to-be before her big day.

If you’re not familiar with the masterpiece that is Footballers’ Wives, it was an over-the-top dramatisation soap opera about an English soccer team and their WAGs. It was so popular it even spun off the television series Footballers’ Wives: Extra Time, and featured bogan characters like Chardonnay, Mel, Tanya, Lucy and Bruno.

After boarding the plane, the hen and her party then tried to rearrange everyone in the cabin so they could all sit together. I prayed to the Upgrade Gods that the flight attendants would take pity on me, and offer me a seat in first class so that the hen and her hennettes could party on in Rows 9 to 11.… Read more ...

Would you like to work with me?

The view from the Australian Writers' Centre

The view from the Australian Writers’ Centre

Administration coordinator at the Australian Writers’ Centre

·           Part-time, leading to a full-time position
·           Milsons Point (North Sydney) close to train station
·           Winner in the Telstra Business Awards

Hi, my name is Valerie Khoo and I’m looking for a very special administration coordinator to help us with our constantly expanding writers’ centre.

Before you go further, please visit our current website:

There is a lot going on here. We’ve recently expanded to Melbourne and other states will follow. We are Australia’s fastest growing writers’ centre.

What does the role involve?
This is a part-time role in Sydney at the equivalent of around 3 days per week, with room to grow to 4 to 5 days.

You’ll be part of a team that has been a winner in the Telstra Business Awards and that has become the “go to” centre for writing courses – both in the classroom and online.

This role is for someone who is super organised, totally anal, and has the utmost attention to detail.… Read more ...

Working with bloggers to promote your business

Enterprise 23 May Sarah Hamilton HERO

Sarah Hamilton, bellabox

I’m a big believer in the power of bloggers. I know that, in some cases, I will trust the advice of a credible blogger and rely on their recommendations. And smart business owners are understanding that they can tap into this influential medium in order to reach new customers. This inspired this week’s Enterprise post.

When it comes to promoting your business, an increasing number of entrepreneurs are reaching out to bloggers to write about their products and services. In the past, there were few options available to business owners. You could pay for advertising, or hope that you would be given coverage in mainstream media. These opportunities were limited, often confined by the number of pages in a publication. However, the world of blogging has opened up new channels for business owners to reach their target audience.

Tram Tran started her online shopping site Koogal in February 2013. She focuses on selling fashion to 16 to 26 year old women. “When I was at university I started selling my old clothes on eBay,” says Tran. “It was a hobby but then I noticed that there was demand for certain types of tops and dresses, so I began sourcing them and selling on eBay.”

Tran says she realised that she could make a bigger margin if she opened an online store.

Read more ...

Going global: how one Melbourne start-up did it

Patrick Llewellyn

Patrick Llewellyn, 99Designs

Packing up your life, selling your house and moving your whole family to another hemisphere is a bold move. But that’s exactly what Patrick Llewellyn did when he was given the task of turning 99designs into a global business. He inspired this week’s Enterprise post.

Patrick Llewellyn was on a plane back to Australia from the US when a fellow passenger had a heart attack mid-flight. The plane was forced to turn back and stop in Hawaii so the passenger could get medical attention and Llewellyn found himself in a hotel room on an unexpected and extended stopover. “I was sitting there answering emails when I realised that I’d never been to Hawaii before,” says Llewellyn, who is the CEO of 99designs, a crowd-sourced marketplace for graphic design.

Llewellyn, 40, decided to make the most of it, venturing on to Waikiki Beach where he took his very first surfing lesson. “As soon as I stood up, I was hooked,” says Llewellyn. It’s was a rare moment of relaxation for the CEO of a fast growing company that now experiences $1.8 million in transactions each month and has over 200,000 registered designers.

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My life in a minute: Shucking oysters, quad-biking and 3D printing

Wineglass Bay, Freycinet Peninsula, Tasmania

Wineglass Bay, Freycinet Peninsula, Tasmania

Loving: This week I was in Tasmania. I’ve had a soft spot for Tassie ever since I went there for my version of Schoolies at the end of Year 12 … decades ago! This trip, I visited Freycinet and it was stunning. Apart from sampling some amazing Tasmanian produce, here’s what else happened:

I did my best Stig impression when I went quad-biking.

David the activities coordinator showed us how to shuck oysters straight from the marine farm, then brought out some bubbles to go with them.

My favourite bridge in the world, Spiky Bridge, on the way to Freycinet. I go there every time I'm in Tassie because it's just so weird looking.

I'm wearing fly-fishing gear but I can't focus because I'm annoyed at the missing apostrophe (there should be one after the n).

Meeting: Wonderful writers in the Australian Writers’ Centre community in Brisbane and Perth. My travels have enabled me to connect with our students and they never cease to inspire me with what they achieve!

With Cassy Small in Brisbane

Marvelling at: 3D printing
I can’t wait to get my hands on one of these.… Read more ...

Masterminding a winning startup strategy

Masterminding a winning startup strategy HERO


I’m always interested when I hear stories of entrepreneurs who want to take over the world. This is often because I’m in awe of their sheer audacity and boldness to dream big. But I’m even more interested in the steps they plan to take to get there. When I heard serial entrepreneur Nick Cloete’s plan for his start-up Kounta, it inspired this week’s Enterprise post.

Building a successful business is like mastering a game of chess. As an entrepreneur, you not only need a strategy to win, your moves need to be timed perfectly to make the most of opportunities. Like chess, you need vision, persistence and the skill to coordinate all the players in your team to work together towards your goal.

That’s what serial entrepreneur Nick Cloete has done all his life. Apart from a one-year stint training to be a chef when he was 18, Cloete has always run his own businesses.

Masterminding a winning strategy
Cloete, now 30, is currently founder and CEO of Kounta, a point-of-sale software platform for the retail industry. The cloud-based platform is aimed at small to medium sized businesses and costs $50 per month per “cash register”.

Read more ...

A Very Famous Hollywood Actor – and me! (sort of)

One of the funky bars at The Abbotsford Convent where I might see the Very Famous Hollywood Actor

One of the funky bars at The Abbotsford Convent where I might see the Very Famous Hollywood Actor

This week, a Very Famous Hollywood Actor is filming for 10 days around the Australian Writers’ Centre in Melbourne. I’m pretty excited because I used to have a huge crush on this man. I’ve seen the production schedule – complete with details of all the buildings, steps and facades where he’ll be acting – and I’ll admit that I’ve been tempted to bring a foldable chair and set up camp next to the film crew just to watch.

I’ll call it research. Who knows? I might even blend in. Perhaps I can offer some suggestions on how they can improve the script!

Fortunately, I’ve managed to quell this kind of stalker fan-girl behaviour when I’ve interviewed celebrities as a journalist. Many people ask me who has been my most enjoyable person to interview.

To be honest, I actually find many entrepreneurs far more interesting to chat to than celebs. This is largely because when you interview a celebrity, they are usually on a gruelling schedule, have just finished a major project and have done nothing else but live and breathe that film, album or world tour for the past six months.… Read more ...

The E-Myth’s Michael Gerber, Lululemon’s Chip Wilson and me

Michael Gerber

Michael Gerber

What do Michael Gerber (The E Myth), Michael Port (Book Yourself Solid), Chip Wilson (founder of Lululemon) and I have in common? We’re all speaking at the Wellness Business Owners World Summit this year.

I’m thrilled to be speaking alongside some thought leaders that have had a big impact on my life.

When I first read The E-Myth by Michael Gerber years ago, it transformed the way I thought about business. Michael Port’s Book Yourself Solid was one of the first books I turned to when I first started my business eight years ago. And as for Chip Wilson … well take a look at my wardrobe – ALL my workout gear is Lululemon.

Chip Wilson

Now, we’re all speaking at the Wellness Business Owners World Summit in June.

Not only am I thrilled to be speaking alongside people I respect and admire, I love the wellness industry. A few years ago, I found that most of the people who came to me for business mentoring were personal trainers, nutritionists, and health practitioners. I’ll admit that, at first, I couldn’t understand why I was attracting people from this industry since I’m not a wellness practitioner myself.… Read more ...

Facebook can build your business

Enterprise 2 May 2013 Dean Ramler


It honestly still surprises me when business owners pooh pooh social media as a valid tool for marketing. Granted, not every business is going to thrive on social media. However, I believe that if you’re not even open to the possibilities it can bring, you’re shooting yourself in the foot. And you’ll be left behind if your competitors embrace it before you do. This attitude inspired this week’s enterprise post.

Last week I met a business owner who insists Facebook is a waste of time. Let’s call him Greg. He was chatting to a group of people at a party, some of whom tried to convince him to give it a go. Greg was adamant and insisted any time spent on Facebook – or on any other social media platform – should be spent having a conversation with a prospect or customer in person or on the phone.

While face-to-face interaction is vital in the world of business, the reality is Facebook – and other social platforms like Instagram, Pinterest or Twitter – allows you to reach a much bigger audience much more efficiently.

Read more ...

The Changing Face of PR: The Rise and Rise of Blogger Relations

The Changing Face of PR The Rise and Rise of Blogger Relations HERO

L–R: Networx Brisbane MC Cat Matson; and my fellow panellists Natalie Birt, yours truly and my co-founder in Michelle Palmer (© James Sybille, Photography

Last week, I was on a panel at a Networx Brisbane on “The Changing Face of PR: The Rise and Rise of Blogger Relations”. I’ve been heavily immersed in the blogosphere for years now and it’s been fascinating seeing this industry evolve, particularly over the past couple of years.

The reality is that it’s evolving very quickly and some bloggers are becoming powerful media channels in their own right. Some are only at the start of this journey, while others have created businesses for themselves out of their blog. So it wasn’t surprising that the organiser of the event, Iceberg Events, had to turn people away as the function booked out!

I could talk about blogging all day!

We also filmed this video on the tips you should consider when working with bloggers:


The video was prepared by Ride Free Media

 … Read more ...

The business of bespoke design

Enterprise 25 April The business of bespoke design

Andrew Ganesan,

I love the idea of bespoke accessories and fashion. And now there is an increasing number of businesses that let you design your own bag/shoes/clothes online. I’ve often wondered how in the world these businesses are able to create effective systems to ensure that customers get the product they are expecting. With this interest piqued, I interviewed two entrepreneurs who have created online stores supplying custom-made bags and suits in this week’s Enterprise post.

In the past, it would cost a small fortune to design your very own unique handbag, or get suits tailor-made to your measurements. Even you if managed to find a cheap tailor while on holidays in Thailand, you could only buy your custom-made goodies on your annual beach vacation.

However, smart entrepreneurs are cashing in on the fact that some people are keen to sport bespoke garments and accessories. Andrew Ganesan, 27, is banking on this trend and is taking bespoke design to the masses.

His family has run a leather bag manufacturing company for 25 years and his mother used to save leather offcuts and turn them into her own handbag creations.

Read more ...

DOs and DON’Ts of going on the telly

DOs and DONTs of going on the telly Valerie Khoo

Last week, I was on Sky Business to talk about personal branding alongside Trevor Young, author of microDOMINATION: How to leverage social media and content marketing to build a mini-business empire around your personal brand.

We were interviewed by Nigel Freitas on the “Technology Behind Business” show. I’ve already written a lot about personal branding so I won’t repeat that here.

In case you get the opportunity to be interviewed on the telly, here are my DOs and DON’Ts.

DON’T assume they will do your hair and makeup. Some shows, like Sunrise, will give you the whole works so that you look like a Glamazon. Not all shows have the budget to do this so make sure you’ve done your makeup before you get there.

My tips for television: Mascara is your best friend. It gives your eyes definition and helps them to stand out. Concealer is your second best friend, don’t leave home without it. And powder is also vital because you can get pretty shiny under those studio lights.

On air with host Nigel Freitas and Trevor Young

DO turn up early.… Read more ...

The pros and cons of entering business awards

The pros and cons of entering business awards HERO

Last week, I was interviewed by the wonderful Robert Gerrish on The Coaching Couch radio show. Robert is the brains behind the dynamic Flying Solo community of small business owners.

We chatted about the pros and cons of entering business awards. My businesses have been fortunate enough to win multiple awards. There are many benefits (some of them very unexpected) but, for some awards, you do have to invest a great deal of time in the submissions process. Is it worth it? We find out. I hope you enjoy the interview.

Robert Gerrish

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

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Promoting yourself in the digital age

Enterprise post 19 April 2013 Trevor Young


I’m a big believer in the power of building your personal brand. And Trevor Young’s new book microDOMINATION is all about just that. His book inspired this week’s Enterprise post.

The owner of one of my favourite cafes recently started using Twitter and Facebook. However, when you interact with her business online, you get very little sense of the woman behind it. Her online footprint is polite but, frankly, it lacks personality. In reality, she is a larger than life character who epitomises her brand. She lives and breathes her cafe — and is well known (in real life) for her food, unique decor and events.

She told me: “I just don’t want to be in the spotlight. I want people to interact with my business, not with me. I don’t want to be the centre of attention.”

Fair enough. However, in a world where consumers are bombarded with marketing and advertising messages, some experts believe we are living in an age where personal branding is vital for success. And that means NOT shying away from the spotlight.

That doesn’t mean you need to sign up for a reality show or bare all the skeletons in your closet.

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3 business books that changed my life: Eddie Machaalani, co-founder and co-CEO Bigcommerce

Eddie Machaalani 3 Business Books


Eddie Machaalani is the co-founder and co-CEO of Bigcommerce, the leading e-commerce platform for small businesses looking to grow their revenues faster. Starting with $20,000 in credit card debt from a rented office above a friend’s shop in Sydney, Australia, the company has grown over 100% year-over-year, has raised $35M in capital and processed over $1 billion in transactions.

Eddie holds a BS in Computer Science from the University of Technology, Sydney and is an active angel investor and speaker.

A prodigious reader, he has found business books to be an invaluable resource as he’s built his business along with partner Mitch Harper, and we’re delighted to have him share his choices in this latest instalment of the continuing series, “3 business books that changed my life” …

Extreme Revenue Growth: Startup Secrets to Growing Your Sales from $1 Million to $25 Million in Any Industry by Victor Cheng
An incredible, “best kept secret” book for startups that touches on every part of the business and really drives home the strategies of all great businesses and how to fuel revenue growth.… Read more ...

Sh*t Social Media Chicks say

Sht Social Media Chicks say


And now for something completely different …
This is what happens when my social media buddies Allison Tait, Kerri Sackville and I get together.

Both Allison and Kerri are presenters at the Australian Writers’ Centre. And we’re all slightly obsessed with social media. To celebrate our podcast SMaC Talk (Social Media Chicks), we filmed a video. And may well live to regret it.


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