In the lead up to the Telstra Business Women’s Awards finals, Karen Owens catches up with Marcia Griffin, the first-ever Telstra Victorian Business Woman of the Year who is still reaping the rewards 21 years later.

In 1995 at a time where few women achieved senior positions and their success was not widely recognised, we launched the inaugural Telstra Business Women’s Awards to recognise brilliant business women around Australia.

Marcia Griffin became the first-ever Telstra Victorian Business Woman of the Year for her work as CEO of Japanese skincare brand Pola Cosmetics for Australia & New Zealand.

“It was such a positive win; I was in every newspaper the next day. I must have received more than 200 congratulation faxes and my office looked like a florist shop!”

Marcia says winning changed her life forever. Immediately after, she was invited to speak at multiple events.

“I must have done more than 100 talks that year; I was on the road two to three days a week. It was intense, but so worth it.”

The recognition she gained meant that she was also invited on several organisations’ boards to share her knowledge.

“The Telstra Business Women’s Awards are a great thing to have happened to Australian women in business. Back in the 90s, there weren’t that many examples of successful business women. They were just not around; it was an unusual thing.

“The recognition that the Awards affords the winners is incredibly useful. Telstra has been a very close participant in women’s expansion in business over the last 20 years,” Marcia says.

This year, Marcia published “Finding New Meaning in Life”. Written in conjunction with psychologist Paul McQuillan, the book explores how to keep a positive outlook on life and which says is a tool for mental fitness.

“It’s all about having a purpose and taking responsibility for your own happiness,” she says.

Starting her career as a secondary school teacher, fresh out of university, before moving on to become a corporate economist for the Australian Wool Corporation. She soon discovered the role wasn’t for her, and she was keen to try something new.

It was then she came across the entrepreneur who had the franchise for Pola Cosmetics, a direct selling Japanese company which Marcia was able to negotiate a percentage of – a move she remembers as “Terrifying, exhilarating and challenging.”

“It was a big step going from economist to selling cosmetics. I didn’t know anything about selling at the time. I took a big leap of faith.”

Through hard work over 16 years, Marcia grew her small operation from selling at friends’ houses to a multi-million dollar business covering Australia and New-Zealand with more than 4,700 consultants. Marcia then went on to take more senior roles within the Japanese corporation, eventually becoming CEO for Australia & New Zealand by the time she won the Award.

In 1998, she published her first book, “High Heeled Success” to inspire other women to achieve success. In the book, she shared that determination, vision and absolute commitment are three ingredients to get to the top, no matter your industry. The advice in the book still resonates strongly today.

Marcia sold her shares back to Pola Cosmetics around the same time as publishing her book and set up Griffin & Row, a range of natural skincare products, which she just sold this year.

Life however is still as busy as ever with Marcia juggling duties as Chair at the CEO Institute and her board positions on several organisations, including Care Connect and the Australian Physiotherapy Council. She is also a mentor to a number of CEOs and has been a Telstra Business Women’s Awards judge every year since 2004.

“I think that what Telstra has done for women in business is extraordinary. No other organisation has done as much for women in this country.”

Marcia’s top tips for business success:

  • Have a quality product that you are passionate about and believe in
  • Have a real purpose for doing what you do. Whether it is to fulfil your passion, feed your family or become rich, having a purpose will help you become more successful
  • Have a vision for your business, and work hard every day to achieve it
  • Give it your all; you must be absolutely committed to your business. Hard work is critical to getting where you want to be

Nominations are open year-round. Do you know a brilliant woman who deserves recognition? Maybe yourself? Nominate here now.