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Meet our owner Helen this International Womens Day

Meet our owner Helen this International Womens Day

Join us to celebrate International Women's Day as we speak to some of the inspiring female founders of your favourite local businesses at Westfield Kotara.  We are lucky to have some incredible women running businesses in centre and we hope you enjoy hearing their stories and advice.

Meet Helen of Carla Swimwear

What inspired you to start your own business?
Sitting on a perfect beach on an incredible Greek island 20 years ago, I knew I wanted to have my own businesses. I had dreamed about it since I was a little girl and subconsciously worked my way toward it, making and selling fashion accessories and jewellery as a pre-teen, taking coastal landscape photos, and selling the framed prints as a teenager.
I had been around Carla Swimwear and my mother’s other fashion stores since I can remember and worked in them as soon as I was old enough until I found my career in accounting and then corporate sales. But that particular year in Greece, I was looking for change and a move back to Newcastle from a stint working in Sydney and Carla Swimwear was to be my new project. I threw everything I had into Carla's - my money, my time, my energy, my everything. Every waking moment was either serving customers on the shop floor, seeing swimwear brands, and buying stock, merchandising the store, or making the business more efficient. More than anything I'm sure I longed for creativity and freedom in what I was doing and being an independently owned business, I have had the freedom to move it in any direction that I wanted.
Over the years my customers have grown with me and come along on my journey, with the product offering changing and evolving and staying exciting. My creative journey has continued through Carla Swimwear to now include my jewellery and accessories line called Aegeanblue, a uniquely styled sterling silver collection made in Europe and inspired by where it all began, the Greek Islands.

What has been the highlight of your career?
This year is my 20th year in business and I'm a focused and highly motivated person, so I've kicked lots of business goals over the years all while raising three incredible young children. I've absolutely loved holding fashion events in Newcastle; bringing designers and international models here to meet and chat with my customers and weathered the storm of Covid over the last few years. It's always a highlight for me being asked to consult with the designers on their upcoming swim fashion ranges and seeing the growth of my own brand of jewellery.
It’s incredible to me that after all these years that there’s still so much more room for Carla's to continue to evolve and grow and help more and more women.

What advice would you give women who aspire to be their own boss and run their own business?
Follow your gut instincts, block out unwanted noise around you as others will change your course if you let them. Set unrealistic goals and strive to get to them. Don’t beat yourself up if you fall short - keep striving. Surround yourself with incredible and trustworthy people with their own talents who have got your back. Fully expect to put in the hard work and hours, your business deserves the best attention you can afford it. Remember it is your baby, the more you put in, the more your business will thrive. Keep fluid, change with the trends and technology but don’t forget who are your most important customers and service them well. Back yourself 100%.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?
I LOVE celebrating women and their wins. From the bottom of my heart, I think that women of all walks of life deserve appreciation and praise for who they truly are and what they do. I see women every day in the dressing room second guessing themselves in front of the mirror, wishing they were different or feeling vulnerable in some way. Feeling upset that they are no longer the size, shape, or age that they remember themselves as and they need reminding that they are wonderful the way they are. I wish women could look in the mirror and, in their reflection, see their generosity, their kindness, love and strength, and the way they are loved by others. The best part of my job is helping women every day to see how incredible they can feel and get a smile on their face. We should be championing all women - the corporate game changes and health workers, volunteers, home makers and everyone who plays a role in between. Every woman that is doing her best to make the lives of those around her better. Women who show love without expectation and are bold and brave enough to shake up industries. Strong enough to raise good children and stand beside their life partners or friends. International Women’s Day is an opportunity for voices to be heard, status quo to be questioned, for men and women to stand together and get behind charities that help others and shine a light on parts of society that are usually uncomfortable and in need of open discussion.

Find Carla Swimwear on Level 2 near JB HiFi. See more here >

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