Wednesday 12 June, 12.15-2pm
Hosted by Grant Thornton

Changing the Face of Business:
A Conversation on Women and Entrepreneurship

Facilitated by: Holly Stiles
Guest Speakers:
Gwen Blake, Lynda Coker, Gen George & Lana Hopkins

With 1 in 4 start-ups led by women in Australia, it’s clear that women are embracing the opportunity to shape business and
society today and in the future, through their business ideas and ventures.

The skillsets, work and life experience female founders bring to the table are unquestioned, as is the social impact of having more female led businesses. However there are still barriers and hurdles to be navigated, including obtaining funding and investment for growth.

Most of us will never start a business, but we can all learn from (and support) the women who do.

In June, SmartWomen Connect is excited to introduce our members and guests to a group of women at the coal face of starting and growing businesses in Australia, and to have Holly Stiles, Partner of Grant Thornton facilitate a conversation on what their experience can teach all of us.

Join us for a light lunch, real conversation and meaningful connection where we’ll discuss:


the highs and the lows (and everything in between) of starting and growing a business


the lessons learnt, and how they apply to any woman working in the business world


how each of us can harness our own sense of entrepreneurship and use it to progress our careers

Holly Stiles: Facilitator

Holly is a Corporate Finance partner at Grant Thornton, specialising in M&A and capital markets.

Holly works with private businesses and their owners on their strategic plans; particularly undertaking acquisitions, raising capital including Private Equity, planning for a potential exit or succession event and undertaking a sale of the business.

Holly also has a capital markets specialism and, for over 15 years, has assisted Australian companies to achieve an IPO or dual listing on the AIM Market of the London Stock Exchange.

Gwen Blake, Managing Director, Boxer & Co

With a brand development and marketing career spanning over 20 years, Gwen has managed packaging and identity design projects for some of Australia’s best-known supermarket brands, such as Woolworths, Nestle and Sunrice.

She has also helped many entrepreneurs establish credible brands and launch new products in Australia. Gwen and her business partner employ a team of 12 in their award winning Newtown-based design agency ‘Boxer & Co.’.

In 2018, Gwen’s meme of a canvas bag emblazoned with the words ‘Ban The Single Use Prime Minister’ went viral on social media. Never one to let an opportunity pass her by, she set-up a new business, created a logo, launched a Facebook page and Etsy store and launched a new canvas bag business, ‘Sans Sheriff’ literally overnight. She went on to sell thousands of bags, make a nice profit and gaining hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of media coverage.

As well as parenting two young children…on her downtime, Gwen also helps Annabel Crabb and Leigh Sales with branding and merchandise for their hugely successful podcast, ‘Chat 10 Looks 3’.

Lynda Coker, The Studio

Lynda is an experienced Financial Services professional with corporate finance and strategy experience in both the UK/Europe and Australia. Her experience includes working with corporates and PE across a wide range of regulated and non-regulated assets in the sector – specifically retail banking / consumer finance and wealth management.

Lynda has significant exposure in working with Government and regulators, including a 12 month secondment to the 2014 Financial Services Inquiry for Commonwealth Treasury, Australia. During the financial crisis, she also worked with UK Tripartite authorities to determine good bank/bad bank splits and critique assets eligible for the UK Asset Protection Scheme.

Lynda is an advisor and mentor to FinTech startups on product/market fit, business model, regulation, go-to-market strategy, valuation and capital raising. A member of several FinTech company Advisory Boards and an ongoing judge for Quesnay Female Founders in Tech and the FinTech Australia awards, with a number of speaker / moderator and judging roles for events including Money2020, Seamless, SaaStock, FinTech Sydney, RFI Business Banking Summit, girledworld and others.

Gen George, Skilld, tamme

Gen George is the CEO and co-founder of tamme, which helps hyperlocal marketplaces scale by automating their advertising to balance supply and demand, and increase marketplace liquidity, in every location they work in around the world.

She is also the Managing Director of Skilld, a platform that connects small business with skills-based talent.

And amongst other things she is the Co-founder of the wildly successful Like Minded Bitches Drinking Wine (LMBDW), a networking group started with Jane Lu (Showpo) with close to 40,000 members that catchup once a month to learn, collaborate and make new friends.

Lana Hopkins, Mon Purse Founder, Antler Advisor

Lana is an Entrepreneur and C-level executive passionate about building innovative consumer brands with purpose. A strategic leader with a solid vision; who is also a hands-on operator able to execute quickly on limited resources.

Founder of Mon Purse; the first direct to consumer on-demand handbag and accessories brand to scale mass customization. Award-winning Mon Purse was one of the most profiled and promising direct to consumer brands with strategic presence in key locations such as Selfridges in London and Bloomingdales in New York. Establishing a household name in Australia in just three years.

Additionally, an Advisor to Antler an early stage venture capital firm in Sydney; as well as ComCap a boutique investment bank in San Francisco and a Public Speaker.



As a member based community we are all about creating strong connections. As a member you’ll be entitled to come along to our Smart Breakfast and other key events for free.

As a non-member you are welcome to attend two paid events, after which we can discuss whether you want to become part of the SmartWomen Clan. If you’ve already been to two events and want to talk with us about membership email and we will call you.

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