GALLERY: Winners show the way for women in Illawarra

A business that specialises in fitting bras and breast prosthesis to help restore self-esteem after breast surgery, and a young woman who set up a not-for-profit organisation to help others after enduring a double lung transplant, were among the winners at yesterday’s 2013  Illawarra Business Women’s Awards.

Maralyn Young, of Casa Mia, was named IWIB Illawarra Business Woman of the Year and Ashley Russell, of Slater & Gordon Lawyers, Young Business Woman of the Year.

The Best Business Award went to the Illawarra Disability Trust; Mayvin Training Institute’s Francine Bishop was presented with the Best Home-Based Business Award; and Sugar Cube Wollongong was named Best New Business.

The IWIB Champion Networker Award went to Julie Rollinson, of Drab2Fab Image Consulting, and former St Mary Star of the Sea student Jessica Sparks, of the University of Wollongong, was named Illawarra Businesswoman of the Future.

Mrs Young was described as an inspiration to many women over her 38-year career in the fashion industry.

After opening Casa Mia Fairy Meadow in 2007, she went on to open Casa Mia Thirroul, Casa Mia Warilla and the Casa Mia Pamper Centre.She described her career as like riding a roller-coaster and ‘‘one hell of a ride’’.

‘‘The last seven years ... have been my most rewarding,’’ she said.

‘‘The work we do at Casa Mia for women living with cancer has just been amazing. I have met so many inspirational women who have gone through the terrible experience of having cancer and having a breast removed.

 ‘‘It is our mission and our passion to help improve their body image and their long-term wellness. I hope this helps me and my team in the work we are doing.’’

Ms Russell was recognised as an accomplished lawyer who had achieved much professionally in the last year including setting up a satellite office in Campbelltown.

Business Woman of the Future Jessica Sparks, who underwent a life-saving double lung transplant, set up Sparking Life which is dedicated to organ and tissue donation advocacy, awareness, lobbying and support for those affected.

She recently founded the Illawarra Young Women’s Network and her volunteer, community and entrepreneurial efforts have led to recognition including Cunningham  Volunteer of the Year, 2013 Wollongong Young Citizen of the Year and one of the Foundation for Young Australians’ Young Social Pioneers for 2012-2013.The Illawarra Disability Trust was recognised for the way Margaret Bowen and her team provide the highest quality of care and advocacy to 3000 people with disabilities and their families.

Sugar Cube Wollongong impressed with a detailed business plan that saw its staff numbers grow to 19 within six months.

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