What do you envisage when you hear the names Plummer and Sweeney?
As The Brew podcast host Angela Vithoulkas puts it, “If you thought it was a TV police series in England, you’re wrong!”
Jo Plummer and Lisa Sweeney, co-directors and owners of Business in Heels, stopped by to chat with Angela Vithoulkas on The Brew recently. The pair detailed their extraordinary journeys from country girls to business pioneers and everything in between, as well as the influential role women play in the workforce.
Both women grew up with a passion for the outdoors and nature, holding ambitions to work as veterinarians post high school. As it turned out, they went down completely different paths: Lisa went to university to become an agricultural scientist, while Jo went straight into the workforce via a bank.
Lisa soon moved onto the corporate buying world, a journey that led her to studying the latest trends in man-kinis and working on movie sets with Disney. Jo also took to retail as a trainee buyer at Target before completing her NBA in business strategy.
Later, after having a child and then returning to the workforce, Jo encountered what would be the basis point for Business in Heels: she was unfairly demoted after her maternity leave.
“My workplace did it thinking they were doing me a favour. They had the unconscious bias that they were being helpful by easing me into the workplace by offering me a lower position,” she said.
“It really made me realise at that point in time that we need to do something different.”
Lisa echoed her co-director’s sentiments.
“It’s still an issue in corporate today. If you say the word ‘mum’ in a sentence, people automatically have connotations about you and your commitment to the job.” she explained, pointing out that on the contrary, research shows that new mothers are actually more productive at work due to their effective time management skills.
Facing these inequalities, the women decided to band together and take the leap out of corporate, gaining full control over their own careers by starting Business in Heels. With the fastest growing sector of the economy being women starting their own business, they found a place in the market by supporting and catering to these women.
“We’ve built this amazing business into what it is today, which is really about helping women scale their business through marketing, through education, through making relationships, and really through the hard times that we all face,” said Jo.
Despite being relatively in its infancy, Business in Heels has over 40 branches – described by Lisa as “geographic territories where we work to connect women into collaborative communities” – and more than 100,000 members.
They have set up branches in the UAE, Nepal, Bangkok, Singapore, Auckland and Canada, and soon hope to establish one in the Philippines.
Next on Business in Heels’ list of goals is reaching 100 branches across Australia and the globe, as well as cracking the 200,000 member mark. With the grit and determination Jo and Lisa show, you’d think it’s a safe bet that they’ll achieve these landmarks sooner rather than later.
You can listen to Jo and Lisa’s full podcast interview here.