Lisa Sweeney, Executive Director and Co-Owner of Business in Heels, purchased the women’s networking business in 2014 with long time friend Jo Plummer (pictured on left above) and they have since grown it to over 100,000 members across 40 locations. Not content with that achievement, their goal is to grow to over 100 branches. Lisa and Jo have a vision to create a global marketplace where business women and entrepreneurs can succeed with equality.
Lisa’s decision to purchase Business in Heels arose during a year spent travelling, enjoying family time, riding her horse and establishing new gardens, after she left a successful 25 year career in retail leadership with companies including Target, Spotlight and Best and Less. Feeling that her need for ongoing personal development wasn’t being satisfied in corporate, she took time out to reflect on her next move. Initially she became one of Business in Heel’s franchisees. Then, seeing potential to grow the business further, as well as the sense of fulfilment she derived from helping other women succeed in business, Lisa was inspired to buy the company. So she did.
Business in Heels is currently in 40 locations with 8 overseas branches. What successful strategies have you implemented to develop a global footprint?
A big part of our success has been expanding our branches. Once women experience the fun and authenticity of our events, we find they want to be a part of the collaborative community. They then tell their friends and through the power of networking we have expanded our footprint and our connections.
What was the catalyst to purchase Business in Heels?
We loved the name Business in Heels, and loved what we thought it could do for women being in a collaborative community, supporting one another. We felt BIH had the potential to be an awesome force for good globally.
As someone who influences a community of over 100,000 women globally. Why are women leaving corporate careers? How will this impact the future of work?
Many women are frustrated with their ability to make a difference, or to be part of a values driven organisation. As a result we are seeing many choosing to set up business in their 30s as they have a family, with the intention that they will get a better work life balance.
Again we see them setting up a business in their late 40s and early 50s when they are totally frustrated or retrenched. Australia has become very ageist. The impacts of this are that the pool of talented women is not growing and corporations are losing valuable experience. In society the major impact is that many women are not succeeding, and this is sending them into retirement in poverty due to lack of superannuation savings.
How does Business in Heels facilitate connections for women across the globe?
We do this in a couple of ways. We have a website that’s like a LinkedIn for women. It’s free to join and immediately you can start making connections. Then you can join our online networking events and meet others face to face from across the globe, or you can make friends online and have virtual coffee dates.
What has been your greatest challenge?
Monetizing the business.
What are you most proud of?
Connecting with 100,000 women, which is a milestone we committed to initially and have achieved in two and half years.
What’s one piece of advice for future female leaders?
Give it a go and take a risk, and be prepared to learn on the job.
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