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Inspiring Rare Birds partners with the Office for Women to help 90 female business owners jump-start their businesses during, after COVID-19

Australian aboriginal woman picking up an idea note fro the board on searching the new project ideas.

In a fully-funded program announced in June by the Federal Government, Inspiring Rare Birds has awarded scholarships to 90 female business owners from marginalised or disadvantaged backgrounds, who will receive a formal, structured mentoring program that will equip them to grow their businesses and be successful.

The initiative is funded by the Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet Office for Women under its Women’s Leadership and Development Program.

The scholarships are specially designed and funded to support Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander women, women with disabilities, women who are migrants or refugees, or from low socioeconomic backgrounds, including in rural, regional and remote communities, with an established business. Their success will come from tapping into the deep experience and skills of some of Australia’s most-successful and best-known business leaders.

According to Jo Burston, CEO and Founder of Inspiring Rare Birds, the timing of this program has never been more-important: “We know we are creating a high-impact outcome when 92% of women selected for the scholarship have been affected by COVID-19.

Jo Burton
Jo Burton

“Now more than ever, the difference between ‘make or break’ can be a mentor with wisdom, experience and know-how to help these women navigate an uncertain business landscape. This could be the difference between not just surviving, but thriving professionally and personally.

Jo Burston, CEO of Inspiring Rare Birds

“COVID-19 has also overshadowed an alarming statistic: the ECG chart for Australian small businesses shows a decline in the health of Australia’s small business sector.

“ASIC figures show that the number of new business registrations peaked as long ago as February-March 2018, and have been in a slow decline ever since –  even before the economic knock-on effects of COVID-19.

“Concerns are growing that many small businesses may fold once stimulus packages change or end later this year: this program will help 90 female business owners power ahead.”

The value of the program comes from the quality of senior business leaders who will be its mentors. They include Jackie Watts, City of Melbourne Councillor, Corrina Bertram, Partner and Board Member KPMG, and Penny Burtt, CEO Asialink.

“Supporting women SME owners, entrepreneurs and startups around Australia is the right thing to do and vital for our economic recovery.

Penny Burtt, CEO AsiaLink

“Women are more vulnerable than men, with women’s jobs twice as likely to be under threat due to the pandemic.

Inspiring Rare Birds partners with the Office for Women to help 90 female business owners jump-start their businesses during, after COVID-19

“Having the opportunity to help give women business owners the confidence and skills to drive their businesses, including through tough times, matters to me. Their success can make a huge difference to their lives and our community as a whole.”

“I am very excited to have the opportunity to mentor and also learn from inspiring women from a range of backgrounds as they progress their careers and businesses.

Corrina Bertram, Partner and Board member of KPMG Australia.

“Coming from a regional background myself, I am passionate about creating a level playing field of opportunity for women – regardless of where they come from.  I am looking forward to the chance to work with Inspiring Rare Birds, support women in their development and pay back some of the wonderful mentorship I have had over my career to date.” .

Quotes from women on the Inspiring Rare Birds program


Hannah Sutton, Logan, Victoria (https://hannahsutton.art/): “Having run a creative business in Melbourne for 10 years, and now set to graduate from a three-year intensive course at the Florence Academy of Art in Italy, I have certainly experienced some challenges in 2020 with the tidal wave effect of COVID-19. I’ve endured an 11 week total lockdown in Italy, the delay of my education, and now the uncertainties of the pandemic now hitting home in Melbourne! So this Inspiring Rare Birds scholarship will help me map a pathway forward for my fine art career, an invaluable resource to me as a sole-trader and emerging artist who is taking the business side of art seriously.”


Kara Cooper, Mount Victoria, NSW (www.mountvicandme.com): “In 2013 Mount Vic and Me was born featuring my own unique Australiana designs, textiles and wallpapers. We manufacture as much as possible in Australia, and our cool, 100 year old listed café in Mount Victoria, in the Blue Mountains, is a fab studio and retail space.

Kara Cooper
Kara Cooper

“My business was going gangbusters until November 2019 when it felt like the world ended. Bushfires raged across the landscape to the north and south of us, then the floods came and wreaked havoc, taking out the train line. But all of that was nothing compared to when the coronavirus hit us all. The anxiety, exhaustion and stress have been huge.

“This scholarship means a huge shift and refocus for me in my business and my mindset for the future. Instead of feeling bewildered, I am so excited to be amongst incredible business women and mentors to move our businesses forward across Australia.”


Millie Mae, Mooloolaba, Sunshine Coast, Queensland (www.mooloo.com.au): “This scholarship brings so much optimism during the uncertain and difficult times of the COVID-19 pandemic, where a lot of start-up businesses are struggling. For me, this scholarship means more education, growth, support, confidence, opportunities and a better chance to achieve my business goals. Ultimately it’s supporting me to become the business leader I want to be.”

Catie Fry, Allenstown, Queensland (https://saleyardsdistillery.com/clovendoe/): “I am the founder and master distiller and driver of a product line of low alcoholic and non-alcoholic vodkas called Clovendoe. I market the Clovendoe products towards women who wish to drink conscientiously, or who have chosen not to drink alcohol, and can partake in a sophisticated drink unashamedly and without ‘FOMO’

“A mentor will help guide and support me in fleshing out a new and improved and more specific business plan and help me navigate some of the re-branding aspects and marketing.”

Jedess Hudson, Cairns, Queensland (http://www.jedesshudson.com.au). Jedess is a descendant of the Ewamian and Western Yalanji people of North Queensland. “A mentor will provide an external source of support to identify gaps in my business and where improvements need to be made in order to be successful long-term, and to identify opportunities nationally or internationally to expand and grow.”