There’s no shortage of amazing Melbourne mums making their mark in the business world.
Meet some of the impressive finalists in this year’s AusMumpreneur Awards, which celebrate and acknowledge the outstanding achievements of Australian mums in small business.
The winners will be announced at the National AusMumpreneur Conference and Awards dinner on August 24 in Sydney.
Natasa Pitra-Grbic, Epping
An Epping mum-of-two is making waves in the fashion world, launching her own women’s fashion label featuring a range of
feminine, timeless pieces.Natasa Pitra-Grbic of fashion label PITRA has been named as a finalist in the AusMumpreneur Awards in the fashion category.
From making dresses for her girlfriends out of her garage, Natasa’s clothes are now being worn by women all over the world
through an international online stockist.
Natasa began working in the fashion industry 15 years ago across men’s tailoring and high end women’s wear for reputable
brands across Melbourne and Sydney, working at many events, meeting celebrities like Bella Hadid and travelling interstate
She initially started working as a fashion writer, but a visit to a book store in Sydney sparked a change in direction.
“When I walked in I saw beautiful patterns on the wall of Japanese-inspired patterned paper,” she said.
“For me it was a turning point, I realised I really liked the design side of things.”
Natasa returned home to Melbourne and got a job at a Brunswick factory as a production assistant, producing and
manufacturing clothing for many well-known Melbourne brands.
She was able to build her sewing and pattern-making skills on the factory floor before buying her own industrial sewing
machine and turning her garage into her own factory.
It marked the beginning of her own label, as Natasa started making dresses for her girlfriends.
In 2015 she presented her own collection at Raw Artists Showcase Melbourne.
“All the while I was working full-time in the industry for brands like Scanlan Theodore, and other women’s-wear high end
brands,” she said.
Before Covid hit Natasa also got into sportswear, working for FILA and designing gear for Aussie champ Ash Barty.
It has been an incredible 2023 so far for Natasa – she left her full time job to concentrate on her business, launched her online
store, showcased her clothes at Melbourne and Cairns Fashion Weeks, and scored local and international stockists, with her
clothes now sold at Essendon boutique Cam & Co and international online stockist Wolf&Badger.
“I feel like in the last six months I’ve achieved a lot for a small business,” she said.
“It’s led me to here and I’m excited.
“I love fashion because you can express who you are by the way you dress.
“I love creating garments and seeing them on people is even better.”
She described her clothing as timeless and feminine.
“I’m really strong on soft tailoring on dresses and shirts and using natural fibres like cotton, silk and linens.”
Ellie Hartley, Wantirna South
Ellie said a typical day for a virtual assistant could include anything from administration, customer service, social media,event management, website refresh and maintenance, or bookkeeping.
She said she loved helping people and seeing results.
“We have clients who sometimes don’t know where to start,” she said.
“And we take on some tasks and give them some time back and allow them to clear their schedule.
“I love what I do so much that it doesn’t even feel like work.”
Ellie said the virtual assistant industry was booming post-Covid.
“I feel like people didn’t realise we existed and also Covid made people realise that it is possible to work remotely,” she said.
“I think people realise now that they can have that work-life balance which is probably what made the industry boom.”
Simone Schenkel ,Bayswater North
Simone Schenkel, the founder of Gruen Eco Design and co-founder of Gruen Architecture, has been named as a finalist in this year’s AusMumpreneur Awards in the sustainability category.
A passionate advocate for sustainable living, the mum-of-two has brought her expertise in Passive House techniques from Germany to Australia.
Passive House is a design standard that delivers healthy, comfortable and efficient buildings. Simone’s focus is on creating environmentally conscious spaces that prioritise energy efficiency, functionality, and aesthetics.
She helps people make their homes more sustainable and environmentally friendly, through big and small projects.
Simone said she had always been a hippy at heart.
“I grew up in Germany watching nature documentaries with my mum and I could never understand how anyone could harm animals or the planet,” she said.
“Then I studied architecture and sustainable design was always my thing.
“When I came to Australia in 2007 people told me ‘You don’t need double glazing, you don’t need insulation and I think I believed it for a few weeks until I had my first cold night in the apartment and I thought what the heck is happening here.”
Simone said her first boss promoted the German way of building and designing better homes, and she then did a lot of study and dived right into the field.
She said a lot of her work was helping people make small changes to their homes.
“We do lots of really small projects to help people make their homes more energy efficient,” she said.
Simone said more and more people were wanting to make their homes more sustainable after discovering things that needed improving during Covid.
“I think people became aware of things they could upgrade,” she said.
“I’m a big believer that no matter how much money you have you can always make your home more energy efficient and beautiful.
“It may not be an award-winning design but it means you don’t freeze in your house and you don’t have to pay a fortune on bills.”
Simone said she loved helping people.
“My personal mission is to help others live a more sustainable life,” she said.
Her key advice to others thinking of starting their own business is – there is no failure, only feedback.
“There are always things that don’t work and you just have to work on them and make it better next time,” she said.
“And just because you’re good at what you’re doing doesn’t automatically mean you’re good at business.
“So you need to surround yourself with people who have done it before and get yourself a mentor or coach because running a
business is definitely different to being good at what you do.”
Simone has worked on a range of projects including energy-efficient homes, social housing, and certified Passive Houses.
Simone’s finalist status in the Sustainability category at the AusMumpreneur Awards highlights her leadership in sustainable design and architecture, serving as an inspiring example for aspiring entrepreneurs.
Jess Breakwell and Em Frost
This Bayside-mum duo created Virago Logistics in 2021, a female-owned Third Party Logistics (3PL) company based in
The company expertly packs, sorts and sends out online shopping orders from brands like Sommer Swim, The Nappy Society
and Peach Underwear.
Jess and Em have employed their own army of mums – creating flexible working arrangements around school hours – and ensuring every order is packed with care and love