Meet the amazing leaders from Geelong community; small  business, corporates and government

Theresa Best

 is Group Marketing Manager for the Southern Star Group of Companies, responsible for the development and implementation of its national marketing, brand and communication strategies.

The fastest growing window and door manufacturer in Australia.

Theresa is also Principal of Best Solutions and Best Ever Events; consultancies offering Event Management, Marketing, Capital Fundraising, Sponsorship and Strategic Communication services, primarily to not for profit organisations.


Theresa sits on the Board of Cricket Victoria having been appointed as a Director in March 2018. 

She is also a Director of the Geelong T20 Board (a consortium of Geelong businesspeople working to achieve a Geelong based team in Cricket Australia’s T20 ‘Big Bash’ competition).

Other roles including the Salvation Army’s Geelong Advisory Board, and the Salvation Army Victorian Corporate and Philanthropic Committee, and she is a member of The Rotary Club of Geelong West.

Christine Couzens

has a lifetime of active commitment to social justice issues in Geelong.

She has worked with homeless young people, assisted in the public housing sector and represented people on consumer law issues.

She has a proud record of fighting for workers’ rights through the union movement.

She served multiple terms as President of Geelong Trades Hall and established a working womens network which has been running for over ten years.

Prior to being elected to Parliament herself, Christine worked for former member for Geelong Ian Trezise since he won the seat in 1999. These experiences gave her an unrivalled knowledge of the needs of the community where she was born and bred.

Christine currently serves as the Victoria’s Ambassador for Closing The Gap where she advocates for equality for indigenous Victorians through delivering better health, education and employment outcomes.

Lisa Sweeney

is CEO of Business in Heels, daily she works to fast-track women on their journey. She has 4 1/2 years of small business experience and well understands the transition from corporate to business owner.

Her expertise includes strategic planning, marketing, expansion through digital marketing, she is a strategic connector.

Her background is 25 years of corporate buying experience with expertise in strategic planning, sourcing, online retail,  negotiation and she well understands the hurley burley of a corporate career.

She is passionate about making a difference for women & on a daily basis works to find solutions to levelling up the playing field. This year having launched mentoring, access to new women’s professional indemnity & superannuation solutions.


Krystine Canny-Smith

 is a Director (CPA) in the Canny Group; a holistic accounting, legal & financial practice focussed on supporting women to achieve their financial goals.


Krys has a keen interest in small to medium businesses and enjoys working with them  to maximise cash flow, manage the compliance burden and complete tax planning.

She also has significant experience with the Not-for-Profit sector, GST and management accounting.

Krys has a personal affinity for Geelong’s northern suburbs and the Not-for-Profit sector.

This is evident in her community contribution as Treasurer on the Board of the Norlane Community Centre, which she has been involved with since 2013. 

In 2016, Krys received a Commonwealth Bank Non-for-Profit Treasurers’ Award which recognised her valued contributions and highlighted the appreciation of the entire Norlane Community Centre Board.

Additionally, Krys has been on the Board of Bethany since 2014 and was also asked to join the ATO Lodgement Advisory Committee in 2016.

In her down time, Krys enjoys hanging out with her husband and three children, going to the movies, keeping fit at the gym and dining out at a great restaurant.

Amanda Wilkens

is co-Director(CPA)  in the Canny Group. Amanda has a keen interest in helping women in business. 

Whether this is starting, growing or exiting the business, she has helped many small to medium business owners with cash flow management, employment issues, financing growth, taxation, business planning and succession planning over the years.

Amanda is an Alumni of the Leaders for Geelong program and is also on the board of Encompass Community Services which started out as one of the only nine funded Disability Employment services in Australia in 1985 and are proud to be customer service leaders in delivering NDIS supports.  

 She is also on the board of Elf Squad a Geelong based charity.

She holds a Bachelor of Commerce from Deakin and is a qualified CPA and has a CPA public practising certificate.

When she’s away from the office, Amanda loves spending time in the garden at home.  She is often socialising with family and friends and playing ‘Ninny’ to her two young grandson’s.

Jo Plummer

with a portfolio of roles, Jo is an experienced Board Chair.

She is a Fellow and Faculty member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, a highly experienced business strategist and has worked across large commercial corporate, SME, government and NFP environments.


Her passion is all things Board evaluation and performance. She also enjoys professional mentoring, is an engaging master of ceremonies and expertly facilitates strategies that enable alignment between commercial, social and environmental outcomes.

Jo holds a Master of Business Administration, a Graduate Diploma in Retail Management and is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. 

Jo’s current board portfolio includes:

Board Chair – Barwon Water  

Committee Chair – South Melbourne Market;

Board Chair – Barwon Asset Solutions;

Board Chair – Deakin MBA Advisory; and

Board Chair – VicWater.

Nicola Wojcik

hails from England and enjoyed living in Hong Kong, Singapore and Indonesia before settling in Australia where she spent the majority of her childhood in Perth.

It was here she completed a degree in Asian Studies, with a double major in marketing and Japanese and has also completed a Bachelor of Education.

She recently completed the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) course.

Nicola Wojcik is the Director, Research at WorkSafe Victoria.  


Nicola is a multidisciplinary communications, stakeholder engagement and research professional with over 20 years’ experience at the top levels of these areas.

Nicola started with WorkSafe Victoria in 2016 and has had a number of different roles in that time.

She commenced managing the communications for the relocation of WorkSafe’s head office from Melbourne to Geelong and spear headed the Geelong Integration Program.

She has had roles in managing marketing, WorkWell program and stakeholder engagement & communications for the Legislation and Policy division before heading up the silica project health assessment team in October 2019.

As Director Research she plays a key role in setting the research strategy and ensures the research projects generate evidence and insights to inform policy, program and operational decisions.

Nicola is committed to outcome, solution-focused research, created through partnerships and collaboration.  Her approach ensures research relevance and utility for decision makers in an increasingly complex environment.

She has spent much of her career in private industry working in the energy, water and mining sectors and in trade & investment with those roles seeing her work in Perth, London, Port Hedland, Melbourne and Geelong.

She loves to be active and takes her love of sport to the Boardroom where she has been a commissioner for AFLBarwon for 5 years and has recently joined the board of Read the Play. 

She has been involved in the judging for the Give Where You Live grants, Pako Festa multicultural festival and the Geelong Business Excellence Awards for a number of years.


Outside of working life, Nicola enjoys spending time with her family, reading and travelling.


Fiona Cromarty

Senior Manager Strategy, Risk & Performance TAC 

Fiona has had a long career leading a range of strategic programs primarily focussed on improving the outcomes of people who have sustained long term disabilities due to motor vehicle accidents.

In her current role, Fiona works to deliver a high quality research program that provides both insights and value to her organisation but also delivers improved outcomes for those living with the effects of road trauma.

She is motivated by developing connections and finding opportunities for collaboration in order to develop new evidence and insights in the area of road trauma.

Underpinning her strategic management skills is extensive experience in leadership and operational management, and Fiona has a passion for developing and supporting those around her. 


is the Founder/CEO of the Justine Martin Corporation (JMC), incorporating four businesses: Juzt art, Resilience Mindset, Van-Go Decals and Morpheus Publishing.

Justine is an accomplished & award-winning artist; keynote speaker; resilience coach; author; and podcast host.

She started Juzt art 10 years ago, and has grown to four businesses during that time.

Her personal medical battles inspired the launch of her second business; Resilience Mindset, where she coaches, runs a resilience podcast series, is a published author and a keynote speaker on resilience.

Early 2022 saw the launch ‘Team Finger Print’ a new corporate program combining a morning of resilience team building and afternoon of bringing the team’s vision to life through painting.

Her love of art and design inspired her third business; Van-Go Decals, colourful and funky decals to brighten up wheelchairs, caravans, campervans, trailers, Kombi vans to stand out on the footpaths, roads and caravan parks! Justine is redesigning the way art is utilised, displayed and shared.

During 2022 Justine is launching her fourth business; Morpheus Publishing.

Justine’s passion for writing resilience/self-help books and the addition of writing her first kids book; Same Same But Different, will see the launch of a publishing arm.

Throughout 2021 Justine was awarded seven national awards!

Her dedication and passion for helping & coaching others was recognised when she won Gold at the 2021 prestigious national AusMumpreneur Awards for ‘Coach of the Year’ and her outstanding creative ability continues to shine, winning GOLD in the 2021 Roar Awards for Creative ‘Artist of the Year’

Suzie Veitch

 With over 25 years business experience, Suzie possess of wealth of knowledge in marketing, advertising, business partnerships and events.


Suzie worked at media giants News Corp Australia and Australian Consolidated Press (ACP) in Melbourne for 17 years, on iconic Australian brands; 

delicious magazine, Notebook, Woolworths Fresh, Good Health, Super Food Ideas, Women’s Weekly and Woman’s Day.

She worked with SME and large corporations on developing new business opportunities, marketing collaboration, activating brand 

 launches, managing marketing campaigns and organising launch events.

She has worked with major corporate clients including L’Oreal, Bunnings,Target and Tourism Victoria.

Moving to Geelong, Suzie founded Styled. HQ – Marketing & Events Consulting working with prominent businesses; Committee for Geelong, Kardinia Park Trust, Geelong Small Business Awards, Wine Geelong and Event Kit.

From preparing/implementing marketing strategies, heading up corporate partnership management and planning/managing events, Suzie has secured a strong business network within the Geelong region.

More recently Suzie was the Director of Marketing and Events at Runway HQ Federal Mills and has also been working in the education sector heading up the marketing, communication and events for alumni at Sacred Heart College.

She is a highly motivated and passionate professional, driven by thinking outside the square and strategically one step ahead!

With a solid business background and experience to reflect, she is confident in her ability to source, nurture and develop businesses.

She has a natural ability to network, engage with stakeholders and a passion for business collaboration.

Determination and achieving personal goals, has given her the honour of working on some of the most influential Australian brands.

Renée Jovic B Com Dip FP CPA

has been in the accounting industry for over 23 years and was the Director and Managing Accountant of her own practice, Jovic Accounting for 16 years.

Renée recently sold her practice and has started a new boutique Business Advisory business – Zenith Business Advisory. 

This is an internal financial and business advisory business for Medium-sized businesses, who require the skills of a CFO/CEO without the wages of a full-time employee.  

Renée believes in becoming integral part of a client’s business, property and personal strategies.   She is passionate about making business financially successful.

Renée also has board experience, having helped establish and sit on the board of two successful charities.

As a businesswoman and married mother of two children, Renée understands the challenges to obtain the work/life balance. 

In her spare time Renée loves to spend time with her family (usually in a basketball stadium), stay fit, travel, cook, and indulge in good food and wine.

Natasha Williams

is an Executive General Manager at GenU. She oversees the Ability and Aged areas and has been employed with GenU since 2013.

Prior to this she enjoyed a career with the State Government for more than 20 years.

Natasha is an experienced leader and manager in the disability sector and demonstrated her strengths during the trial period of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) in the Barwon region.

Natasha has achieved much in her career considering the struggles of secondary school and studying all those years ago.

Natasha is highly qualified and is an influential leader at GenU in the Ability and Aged programs and a well-respected as a manager.

She feels enthusiastic and passionate about ensuring employees receive and are able to give genuine feedback.

Natasha has become known for her “honest conversations” and coaches by sharing practical tips and analogies.

Natasha has become known for her “honest conversations” and coaches by sharing practical tips and analogies.

Amanda Bennetts

Director at The CEO Institute Geelong, she strategically invites elite business people who are in growth businesses to join.

No stranger to developing & growing businesses across the globe. As Chairman & CEO of a world-leading fashion brand of boots, Director of a sourcing company based in China, developer of Café/Play centres, glossy magazines, 

events, business development companies, charities, Sydney Olympics, Insurance agencies, Real Estate, published author, franchises… she is ambitious, experienced and open to a challenge.

Nominated Telstra Business woman of the year 2014 and runner up in Chamber of Commerce & Industry awards as she has a passion for exceeding expectations.

I’m her early 40’s & already has a world of practical experience, which probably shouldn’t be a surprise given at 15 years old she was the youngest drama teacher in Australia running my own school, and hasn’t stopped since. Some say she has ‘ants in her pants’, but it’s this energy and drive that gets her the results.

In my spare time I negotiate how much chocolate is appropriate after dinner is OK before bed, with my 9-year old daughter and change the dirty nappies of my 3 year old.

Learn the HARD way or the FAST way, it’s up to YOU. Experience & setbacks is hard, the FAST way is learning from others who have done it before, & fast track your success. The right education has the power to change your whole life & the lives others.


“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

Julie Hope

 is Deakin University’s Geelong broker of business and community partnerships, leading collaborative teams to enhance community engagement in Geelong and surrounds.

Julie has connected & managed Deakin’s patronage of many key partnerships including the Geelong Cats,Deakin Cats Community Centre,Geelong Arts Centre – Deakin University Theatre Season,the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race & the Deakin University Geelong Business Excellence Awards.

Julie proactively seeks ways to unite all aspects of Deakin’s business and with the community, civic and business spheres by connecting Deakin’s research, student interns, graduate employment and teaching and learning opportunities.

She endeavours to facilitate Deakin’s support of many other organisations including smaller not-for-profit organisations and local iconic festivals like Pako Festa and Gala Day.

A passionate advocate for Geelong, Julie has been a Director of the Geelong Chamber of Commerce (2 tenures) and is currently engaged as a Director of Geelong Connected Communities, 

 Community Advisory Sub-Committee of Barwon Health and Sport in the North Advisory Committee.

She has been an Ambassador for Project Love acknowledging her time as a patient in the Andrew Love cancer centre in 2011 and she is a Tourism Geelong and the Bellarine ‘MEET Geelong’ Ambassador.

Deb Fribbins

entrepreneur, author, speaker, strategist, mentor, business coach, and community volunteer supporter.

Deb is passionately committed to supporting small businesses to grow and prosper today and into the future, using her unique, simple 5 step process to break down all the barriers, both imaginary and real, preventing them from achieving their goals. With over 30 years successful experience predominantly in the retail sector.

Deb has been both a category buyer and planning manager for major retailers – Myer, David Jones, Target and Harris Scarfe – nationally across Australia, as well as an office manager for small businesses in a jewellery and a staff recruitment firm.

Her community work crosses a variety of charitable organisations as a founding board member for both Geelong Regional Cancerians and Elf Squad. She is a Paul Harris Fellow and Past President of Kardinia Rotary, working on the board for over twelve years.

As the manager of two Branches of Business In Heels for almost three years, she developed her skills at networking.

She was awarded the Outstanding Professional of the year by Cambridge Top Private Consultant of the Year by the International Association of Top Professionals. In 2019 she was nominated as Top Female Executive of the Year.

Time management, organisation and planning have been her way of life to achieve her goals.
Supporting the 17 Sustainable Development Goals to transform our world as set by the United Nations is a further passion she is able to support while supporting her clients through contributions to B.1. G.1 .”

Kylie Paatsch

has spent over 20 years in business, leadership and people development exploring what success looks like at an individual level, at a company level and in leadership. She has held a variety of positions as a Senior Executive and has good insight into what leaders and organisations need.

As a champion of conscious and courageous leadership, gender equality and progressive workplaces her workshops are well known to be inspiring. From keynotes to individual coaching all those that work with her walk away with practical and simple tools to fulfil their potential, step into their authentic power.

Enabling them to create a better now and brighter future for themselves. Kylie is incredibly passionate about raising the standards of leadership, expanding opportunities for women and integrating mindfulness, courage and compassion into workplaces, boardrooms, communities and beyond!

The Fearless Way

Kate Martin

 is a Personal Trainer Business Coach. She teaches small business owners, predominantly personal trainers, how to build thriving businesses.

Kate’s approach is to tailor her training shaped by the lifestyle her clients wish to lead. Most of her clients are mothers and being a solo mother, Kate understands all too well the challenges juggling parenting and the pursuit of business success can bring.

Kate draws on her own experience of 21 years as a personal trainer and the past 10 years of coaching other coaches – even way back before social media was a ‘thing’. She has an in depth knowledge of sales, publicity, marketing, business structure, public speaking, networking and time management and uses these tools to help her clients.

Since then, she has established businesses in multiple health disciplines, across the country. From Personal training the public to creating courses for other personal trainers to opening Massage clinics and launching corporate health programs, to various online programs within the health and wellness space. Managing up to 100 clients within these programs, at once. 

Olga Hogan

Originally from Estonia, Olga has lived, studied, and worked in Finland, England, Kazakhstan and now in Australia. After completing a PhD in Chemistry at Oxford, Olga decided to focus on a combination of finance and innovation.

One of her mentors suggested that joining a graduate program at a Big4 accountancy firm and working as an auditor was the “world’s best MBA”. From there Olga has held a range of roles, from startup founder in the energy trading sector to 2ic of investor relations at a FSTE 100 mining company as well as an investment manager at a private equity firm. 

Recently, Olga has been working with university researchers to facilitate research investment opportunities, advising investors on mergers and acquisitions as well as mentoring and coaching start-up founders at SPARK Deakin and State Library Victoria’s StartSpace.

Developing your own business, changing careers, industries and countries is not always straightforward, so Olga knows the first-hand how even one mentoring conversation can really help.

Anne O’Loughlin

Anne has practised exclusively in family law since 2005 and has been recognised as a Leading Family & Divorce Lawyer in Regional Victoria in the 2022 Doyle’s Guide, as well as a finalist in the Partner of the Year Awards 2020.

She works within our experienced Family & Relationship Law team in both the Geelong and Melbourne offices, steadfastly committed to achieving the best outcomes for every client. Anne and the family law team’s hallmark is creative, collaborative and practical solutions that help clients focus on the future. Anne has significant experience in resolving matters by negotiation through alternative dispute resolution and mediation.

Anne and her team consistently resolve complex divorce, property and parenting matters without the need to resort to costly and lengthy litigation. Where settlement can’t be reached pre-litigation, Anne’s family law expertise delivers strong, client-centric representation in court.

As an Independent Children’s Lawyer appointed by Victoria Legal Aid, Anne uses her experience, expertise and empathy to represent and promote the interests of children in family law proceedings. These cases often involve difficult issues such as high levels of conflict and allegations of abuse, neglect or family violence.

Beyond the practice, Anne is a member of the Quality and Research Committee at MacKillop Family Services and on the Board of Lazarus Community Centre. She is also a member of the Strategy and Policy Committee and on the Board for Committee for Geelong as well as a mentor for Women in Heels and a member of the CEO Institute.

Jo Clancy

Jo is an experienced facilitator of futures, strategy and service design in partnership with leaders and their teams seeking to generate and embed new strategy and organizational capabilities. Jo is the founder of The Adaptability Factor who works with others to create adaptive strategy and organisations that are future proof for a new age of constant change.

Jo has a wealth of experience in strategy, customer experience and innovation roles for large organisations alongside stepping up as a convenor, facilitator, panel member and speaker at multiple events across the private and public sectors.

Jo is a passionate learner with unique experiences – developing strategic foresight and futures thinking with Melbourne Business School and the US Futures School, studying Human Centred Design at IDEO U and spending time in Silicon Valley with global innovators like Google, Airbnb & Tesla.

Jo made it through a double degree Masters in Health Management and Business Administration (MBA) and is an accredited practitioner in Human Centred Design, Agile, Executive Coaching, PRINCE II program and portfolio management, and PROSCI change management.

Liz Price - GM Great Ocean Road Tourism.

Liz is a strong leader and strategic thinker and has driven the growth and profitability of both start up and established businesses.

Liz is a strong collaborator proficient in building mutually beneficial partnerships , driving change and embedding a culture of innovation and capacity building that engages both internal and external stakeholders.

Liz is the Inaugural General Manager of Great Ocean Road Regional Tourism, an organisation established in 2013 by the Six Local Governments across the region to deliver a collaborative, regional approach to building a sustainable visitor economy for the Great Ocean Road region.


Liz has worked in tourism, hospitality & publishing for over thirty years including as General Manager-Australia for Club Tourism Publishing, Inaugural Chief Executive of Destination Melbourne and Executive Director of Tourism for the Melbourne Convention and Visitors Bureau.


A destination management specialist with a passion  for strategy and a love of marketing, Liz has worked extensively with not for profits and membership based organisations.

Liz is passionate about thinking differently and challenging the status quo and enjoys continuously learning.


Helen Gane

Helen is an energetic, innovative, and results-driven professional with a demonstrated history of sales management and business development having a diverse range of work experience and qualifications that have bridged over two and a half decades.  Her experience spans from the fashion and fitness industries with a shift into employment services, currently working in business development for Gforce in the Apprentice Services Team.

Stakeholder engagement have always been key to Helen’s success & she prides herself on building strong, integral and long-lasting relationships. She is well enmeshed in the Geelong Region community through extensive engagement with various industry bodies, the education sector and a broad range of local community organisations.

With a Diploma of Leadership/Management and Diploma of Business, Helen has successfully managed a large Fernwood Franchise, with more than 25 employees and over 1100 Club Members.

This dynamic and diversified role saw her responsible for the day-to-day operations of the club to ensure targets were met in areas of sales growth, profit margin, customer service, member retention and new member acquisition.

Helens major strength is the ability to think outside the square to identify & maximise opportunities that may not always be evident to others.

Fleur Batties

Fleur Batties is a well experienced finance professional, currently working with Infrastructure Products Australia as Director of Finance, was previously CFO of IXL Group and has held executive positions with  Chemring Australia, Alcoa of Australia and IBM Global Services.  

 With an inquisitive mind and large breadth of experience Fleur brings a valuable perspective to all that she is involved in and is always looking to help others be their best.  Having spent much of her career in large multinationals Fleur understands the importance of networking, managing up and building a professional profile.  As a leader in smaller private organisations Fleur gained a deep understanding of the nuances of family companies.

Throughout her career Fleur has held executive responsibility for strategy, digital transformation projects, Finance, IT, HR and OH&S mainly in heavy industry covering manufacture, import / export, FMCG and large-scale industrial projects. 

Fleurs experiences are backed up by professional qualifications including Bachelor of Business in Economics, CPA, MBA and AICD.  She is also passionate about the future of the Geelong region and the future of professional women, she is hopeful the road to professional success will be somewhat easier for her two daughters when they make their mark on the world.

Kate Kerr

Kate is an experienced Director and Executive Manager across the Health, Disability and Insurance  fields and has been honoured to have the privilege of supporting and developing the careers of  others over this time, especially women.

Kate commenced her career in neurological rehabilitation in Australia, New Zealand and the UK as a  Speech Pathologist. Kate also has extensive experience as a Senior Manager within claims  operations and project delivery at the Transport Accident Commission (TAC) and provided subject matter expertise to the NDIS in the design of the national rollout of the scheme. Kate has a Master  of Business from Deakin University and spent a number of years as a Non-Executive Board Director  for the Spinal Research Institute. 

More recently, Kate jointly established, grew and sold an innovative and highly successful Allied  Health Practice of over 60 staff, delivering services to Participants of the NDIS.  

Currently Kate is enjoying the opportunity to give back time and expertise in leadership, business  development & management to purpose driven organisations in the leadership, care and  environmental sectors.

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