22 May 2024

Has local wonder woman Karlie Zec found extra hours in the day?

| Dione David
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Karlie Zec of Tiny Tins holds up nominations for City of Wollongong Awards 2024

Has Tiny Tins co-owner Karlie Zec found extra hours in the day? Photo: Tiny Tins.

At the Illawarra Women In Business awards, when ANZ’s Adele Fiene invited Tiny Tins co-owner Karlie Zec up on stage, she listed the achievements that had earned her the Outstanding Commitment to the Community award as she warned, “Don’t rush because this is going take a while.”

As Adele rattled off a seemingly endless list of achievements, she joked that the patiently waiting award recipient must have discovered those elusive extra few hours in the day.

Almost with an audible shrug, Karlie, who went on to be named Business Woman of the Year 2024, chalks it down to some simple measures.

“We’re a family of workers and we work together and that’s how we spend our time,” she says.

“The kids help me sometimes, and they actually enjoy it. Our daughter loves doing a bit of admin work, and our son sometimes goes to work with his dad.

“I get up early, stay up late and take advantage of those few hours of the day when nobody is awake.”

READ ALSO Tears, cheers and a whole lot of inspiration at the Illawarra Women in Business Awards 2024

The tireless work ethic is not all that surprising when you know where Karlie came from.

Daughter to working-class parents, she was raised to know the value of hard work.

“I started working when I was 14 to help provide for my family,” she says. “I’ve always been happy to roll up my sleeves, and just do what needs doing. You can achieve a lot with hard work.”

She’s not wrong. When Karlie’s partner Adrian took a “massive risk” and bought the business from his stepdad nine years ago, Tiny Tins had two trucks and 100 bins. Today the company has a fleet of seven trucks and 500 bins.

Billed as Illawarra’s highest-rated and affordable skip bin hire company, Tiny Tins’ fleet includes smaller trucks, which Karlie says give the business an edge.

“The Illawarra is growing, and with all these new developments and high rises, we can get into small spaces with tight access,” she says.

“We also offer concrete crushing onsite and recycle our own concrete and sell it as aggregate. We’re big on reduce, reuse and recycle, and we go into schools to help educate students on how they can implement these principles in their lives.”

But it’s not just the niche offering or the sustainability badge that has made Tiny Tins an Illawarra success story – it’s the various initiatives that have demonstrated a profound commitment to its local community, which Karlie has been instrumental to.

READ ALSO Meet the 2024 Stars of Wollongong

In 2023 she oversaw efforts to raise $261,000 for the Illawarra Community Foundation, which runs the Illawarra Convoy. This included $104,000 from the Battle of the Business boxing fundraiser held in collaboration with Grechys Boxing and Wollongong Crane Trucks.

Tiny Tins’ 2024 Illawarra Convoy fundraising efforts are already well underway, with $135,000 raised from its Battle of the Business boxing fundraiser (again in collaboration with Grechys Boxing and Wollongong Crane Trucks) and almost $12,000 in a joint effort with Wollongong Crane Trucks to hold a Wollongong Women Who Wine fundraiser.

The goal will be to raise half a million dollars in 2024. It’s lofty, but – if Karlie has anything to do with it – achievable.

“Being in the trucking industry, we do the Illawarra Convoy every year. We go up that mountain and come back down and I have to tell you, seeing those families, and the faces of those sick kids, I cry every time. Having kids ourselves, it really hits home,” she says.

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