5 May 2024

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

| Dione David
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two women hold their awards up

Solve Care managing director and clinical nurse consultant Ellen Noye claimed IWIB Young Business Woman of the Year 2024 while Karlie Zec of Tiny Tins claimed multiple awards including the top gong: IWIB Business Woman of the Year 2024. Photo: Region.

As The Illawarra Hotel publican Nikki Aitchison stood in front of the audience at the Illawarra Women in Business (IWIB) Awards 2024 and delivered a tear-jerking acceptance speech for the “Best Business” award, she was taking the mission of the ceremony a step further – honouring the woman behind the woman behind the business.

“This woman has been through it all. Many years ago, before mental illness was spoken about, her husband, my father, fell terribly ill with an invisible disease – bipolar,” she said.

“Back then, mental illness was almost unheard of, especially in men. My father couldn’t function like he used to. I watched my mother’s world crumble down around her and my family lost everything. During that time, I watched my mother go from a homemaker who relied heavily on her husband to support her and her three children to a woman who became strong and resilient. She has never given up and to this day she’s the hardest-working person I know.

“So Mum, when you say to me, ‘I don’t know where you get it from’, in front of all these people: I get it from you.”

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Ms Aitchison went on to accept the “Highly Commended” award for Business Woman of the Year, where she was in top-notch company alongside winner Karlie Zec of Tiny Tins.

Ms Zec cleaned up at the event, also claiming Highly Commended in the Innovative Business Woman category and winning the Outstanding Commitment to the Community award in recognition of her profound commitment and exemplary leadership in fostering positive change within the Illawarra community.

State general manager SME NSW/ACT for category sponsor ANZ Business Banking Adele Fiene was floored as she rattled off the impressive list of community, charitable, voluntary, education and sustainability efforts that won Ms Zec the award, including an impressive total of $261,000 for the i98FM Illawarra Convoy and the Illawarra Community Foundation.

“I swear she’s found those extra few hours in the day because I don’t know how she does it,” she said.

“Karlie’s multi-faceted contributions reflect a holistic commitment to growth, innovation and sustainability driven by a genuine passion for making a positive difference in the lives of those in the Illawarra community. Presented with the utmost admiration and sheer amazement,” she said.

mother and daughter at Women in Business Awards night

The Illawarra Hotel publican Nikki Aitchison took the opportunity during an acceptance speech at the IWIB Awards 2024 to thank her mum. Photo: Region.

Joining them was Young Business Woman of the Year Ellen Noye, managing director and clinical nurse consultant at Solve Care.

The Gen Z company’s mission is to provide quality care for people in the Illawarra with disability, ensuring they receive the highest level of support possible.

“Winning this award is a humbling honour and a privilege that motivates me to continue pushing boundaries, breaking stereotypes and empowering others along the way,” Ms Nove said.

“Being a young woman in my 20s, dreaming a dream of running my own company so that I could see change in the NDIS industry was very daunting. I was often not taken seriously, was often told it would be too much trouble.

“Now that we have built Solve Care and it’s helping so many people in need, it often feels surreal.

”The challenge that helped me overcome the fear of breaking norms and challenging preconceptions; I want this to be an example for all young women. Why dream it when you can do it?”

READ ALSO Illawarra’s generosity ‘never ceases to amaze’ as Convoy announces record-breaking result

The IWIB Awards have gone from two categories since their inception in 2009, to 13 categories today, recognising incredible women in business who demonstrate exceptional skills, expertise, leadership, mentorship and commitment to community in their business. This year’s winners were:

  • Champion Networker
    • Winner: Mandy Drain, Tailor Made Outcomes
  • Outstanding Commitment to the Community
    • Highly Commended: Paige Pollard, Good Energy Run Club
    • Winner: Karlie Zec, Tiny Tins
  • Outstanding Employee
    • Winner: Vanessa Borg, Novotel Wollongong Northbeach
  • Outstanding Executive Employee
    • Winner: Tracy Preston, MMJ Wollongong
  • Outstanding Customer Focus
    • Highly Commended: Soul Fit Co
    • Highly Commended: Driving Miss Daisy Wollongong Central
    • Winner: Scribbly Gum Photography
  • Innovative Business Woman
    • Highly Commended: Karlie Zec, Tiny Tins
    • Winner: Mandy Drain, Taylor Made Outcomes
  • Outstanding Not-For-Profit/Charity
    • Winner: Dress for Success Illawarra Branch
  • Best New Business
    • Highly Commended: Bambolinis Soft Play
    • Winner: FLW Connect
  • Best Home Based Business
    • Highly Commended: Focus Tutoring
    • Winner: The Business Edit
  • Best Small Business
    • Highly Commended: Solve Care
    • Winner: Pilates Haus
  • Best Business
    • Highly Commended: Coutts Lawyers & Conveyancers
    • Winner: The Illawarra Hotel
  • Young Business Woman of the Year
    • Winner: Ellen Noye, Solve Care
  • Business Woman of the Year
    • Highly Commended: Nikki Aitchison, The Illawarra Hotel
    • Winner: Karlie Zec, Tiny Tins.

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