A pair of female entrepreneurs are wowing the USA with a string of Australian-based startups, despite recent indications that only 2% of VC funding globally is distributed to female founders—and Australian startups are shy about asking for the investment they need.
There’s no holding back for award-winning businesswomen Janine Zappini and Tamara Loehr, who have a track record of picking trends, backing their hunches and making an impressive amount of bank for two girls from down under.
Emboldened by their successes in previous ventures—including 5.4, Simply Raw and Hot Tresses Vegan Haircare—Zappini and Loehr hit LA this month to source high-profile US distributors for their latest brand: Gutsii, a revolutionary range of functional snack foods.
Their most recent US adventure coincides with the release of The Dell Women Entrepreneurs Network Cities Index on 16 July, which compares the capacity of different cities to attract and support female entrepreneurs. Los Angeles is 6th on the top 50 list, while Sydney and Melbourne appear at #11 and #17 respectively. Brisbane, where Gutsii originated, doesn’t rate a mention.
Zappini and Loehr see the challenges of gender and geography as opportunities, not barriers. And their regular ‘commute’ to the Northern hemisphere doesn’t phase them.
“I could sleep in my bed at home and knock on doors all day to get Australian stockists, or I could sleep on the plane and have the same conversations in LA for a much bigger result,” says Loehr, who is based in Brisbane with her husband and two daughters.
Loehr, now 41, launched her first business at the age of 19, after joining a marketing agency on the Gold Coast and quickly realising the male-heavy atmosphere wasn’t her scene.
“It was all egos and pool tables.”
“But I loved the work, so I decided to go out on my own and pick clients I believed in.”
She grew her own marketing agency to be one of the top agencies in Australia, then moved into investment with a focus on wellness brands. Her first venture, 5.4, rocketed into the top twenty on the BRW Fast Starters list 2016 for the fastest-growing startups in Australia. She helped grow its turnover to over $10 million within two years—an astonishing achievement for a first-time investment.
Now with several brands under her belt she met Zappini, 33, who was in the midst of a personal reinvention and in search of a project she could get passionate about.
A certified health coach and innovator who created Australia’s first 100% raw energy bar, Zappini had a fresh idea for putting supplements in snack food form.
“I had just walked away from a partnership and a business and I was ready for something new. I was confident in my skill set and I knew I had an idea that was on-trend.”
Investors also showed confidence in the dynamic duo, who secured 10% of Gutsii’s funding based on their personal track records alone.
Gutsii erupted on to the Australian scene with a pre-launch valuation of $4 million. Now it’s poised for rapid expansion across the USA.
Zappini and Loehr are on a mission to pioneer female-led, ethically produced Australian health and beauty brands to a global market.
We’re proof that seed investment in Australia isn’t just for tech businesses.”
What’s next for the purpose-driven pair? While Zappini will be making the move to LA full-time, Loehr is focused on building the brands globally from her Queensland base, as well as empowering more women to win at the game of business.
“We need to have the conversation around how to thrive as an entrepreneurial woman. We do business differently, and the world needs that.”