Illawarra women's awards beyond skin deep

The annual Illawarra Women in Business (IWIB) awards were not just about winning.

They were about making friends and celebrating each other's achievements.

Skin Correctives founder Karen Meiring de Gonzalez spoke of what it did for her at IWIB's monthly networking lunch last Friday.

Mrs de Gonzalez said the annual awards helped her make her business successful.

That was because there had been so many opportunities to become more confident in herself as a businesswoman.

"I arrived in Australia three and a half years ago and did not know one single person," she said.

"So it was important to get myself and my business out there. I then met my bookkeeper, Henny Williams, who introduced me to IWIB. I remember walking into a lunch and thinking 'oh, my gosh, look at all these businesswomen'. I did not consider myself a businesswoman at the time . . . more as a therapist trying to do business."

Mrs de Gonzalez was soon persuaded to enter IWIB's annual awards and first entered the best new business category.

IWIB director Glenda Papac also convinced her to enter the Businesswoman of the Year Award and she was surprised and delighted to win best new business.

"Even more exciting for me was just being a finalist for the businesswoman award," she said.

"That really empowered me. And from there I applied for many other awards. We have been fortunate to be a finalist in several awards both locally and nationally."

Last October, Skin Correctives won the Excellence in Retail and Personal Services category at the Illawarra Business Awards and it was recently named best salon or clinic in NSW by DMK Cosmetics.

Mrs De Gonzalez won a trip to North America with 10 other women from her industry and said spending time with those women reminded her how lucky she was to be part of IWIB.

"The bonds you build are so powerful," she said.

"It is not about winning awards. It is about the friendships that you make while you are here. And if your friends are successful and you jump on their bus you will be successful, too.

"It is almost like a stamp of approval. Especially when you don't know anybody. I believe that helped me to start my second business after only 18 months with the first one. It also helped give me the confidence to launch our Care & Share event. Basically, it allows women to come together who are not privileged enough to have time to have a business because they have children with autism."

Mrs Papac said award applications closed on April 2 at iwib.com.au and the first judges' meeting would be on April 3.

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