Inspiring women win business awards

Inspiring women win business awards

A business owner who overcame a 43 percent drop in monthly turnover when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and the Chief Officer of Fun at Hummingbird House are the winners of the Hills and Districts Chamber of Commerce Women in Business Award.

Jessie Jeffrey, who won the Chamber Member category of the awards, joined husband Chris at Cyber Guru after an extensive career in medical research and having been a silent partner for many years in the business he founded at the age of 14.

Now working on business development, Jessie says the skills she learnt as a medical researcher, such as project management, big data, analytics and training, transferred seamlessly when she formally joined the company.

Finding solutions

Those skills were also useful when COVID-19 hit.

“In April 2020, when the lockdown began our clients simply packed up their devices and began working from home as they were already empowered to work remotely,” Jessie says.

“Our monthly turnover dropped 43 percent, hardware was almost impossible to source, and cyber attacks targeting small businesses became more frequent.”

Prior to the pandemic, Cyber Guru was exploring proactive management as a means of minimising downtime and increasing cybersecurity, Jessie says.

“We decided to change our business model and began offering ongoing proactive support and management.

“Our annual turnover has almost doubled since then and (April 2022) turnover is up 524 percent compared to April 2020.”

“I am proud of the way we changed and adjusted to the pandemic and in doing so assisted other businesses to thrive during this time.”

Passion for helping

Heather Rapkins, who won the Community Category of the awards, joined Hummingbird House after an unplanned career change and says despite struggling with a drop in position she values the difference she makes in the lives of seriously ill children and their families.

She spent the first 20 years of her career mainly in banking and finance before moving into the not-for-profit sector in 2007, working for three different NFPs in the past 15 years.

“During my primary school years my mum worked at Multicap at Eight Mile Plains and my brother and I would spend our school holidays with the children in care,” Heather says.

“I truly believe these years laid the foundations for my passion working and volunteering with sick children.”

In her new role, Heather is using her years of knowledge and experience to develop and implement a program to create positive memory making moments for children and their families and has developed a Bereaved Parent Support pilot program.”

See the gallery

Chamber Women in Business committee member Mandy Barker says awards organisers were delighted with the response to the inaugural awards.

“We had a really strong showing from non-chamber members – that was part of the aim of the awards, to expose the community to the chamber.

“It really does show the calibre of the people we have in the region,” she says.

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