There was a common theme among the top three awardees at this year's Illawarra Women In Business (IWIB) awards; they all go out of their way to support other local businesses.
The IWIB awards honour the achievements of women in the local business community and recognise successful women in business. The awards have been running for 12 years.
Sarah Nolen of interior design company Birdblack was handed the top honour of Businesswoman of the Year on Wednesday afternoon in Wollongong, a mission she has been striving to achieve for some years.
"I feel pretty satisfied now, this is the big one, it's the one I've always wanted," she told the Mercury.
Ms Nolan moved to Wollongong from Canberra in 2014 with her husband and founded her own interior design studio, specialising in residential design here and overseas. She also caters to commercial premises like hospitality venues, beauty salons and retail spaces.
It isn't the first award for the designer either, having won and been a finalist at the IWIB awards since 2016 as well as several Kitchen and Bathroom Design Institute awards.
"We keep putting ourselves out there, we're always on the lookout to develop our skill set to improve our services and processes for our clients," she said.
"When we first moved to Wollongong we realised that a lot of [design businesses] were looking elsewhere - they were going to Sydney or Melbourne for design work - but we have a plethora of incredible trade suppliers that are right here.
"First and foremost we use local suppliers and make sure that income we're generating is getting put back into the community."
Jessica Turney, co-owner of Balgownie florist Brilliant Blooms, was named Young Business Woman of the Year and believes it was her commitment to local charities and sourcing from other small Australian businesses that tipped her over the line with the judges.
"I have a massive sense of community," she said. "When Mum (my business partner) and I started the business we always wanted to give back as much as we could in any way that we could, and using our business as a platform. It was just a perfect opportunity to give back."
Ms Turney has also previously received accolades including Professional Florist Association NSW Award for Professional Excellence in Floral Design and Aptitude, an Industry Achievement Award for Supply Chain and E-commerce and the Total Horticultural Society of NSW Encouragement Award in Certificate 3 Floristry.
The Illawarra Hotel was awarded Business of the Year, with their sustainability practices and support for other local businesses key ingredients for the win.
"The main reason for even entering this award is to set an example," said Nikki Aitchison, who runs the venue with her husband Ryan. "Hospitality, and pubs even, are massive businesses in the Illawarra and to be able to say 'hey guys, look on your doorstep' or take a little step to recycle - it makes a big difference."
See our IWIB social photos HERE
HERE'S THE FULL LIST OF WINNERS:
IWIB Champion Networker
- Winner: Karen Walker - Salvation Army
IWIB Outstanding Executive PA, Secretary Support Staff
- Highly Commended: Abbey Clarke - Poseidon Equine
- Winner: Susan Wallis - Good360
IWIB Outstanding Commitment to the Community
- Highly Commended: Stephanie Rodden - Celebrate T21
- Highly Commended: Karen Walker - Salvation Army
- Winner: Tammy McKee Alison Ewington FCOTA
IWIB Customer Focus Award
- Highly Commended: C2C Logistics Pty Ltd
- Winner: Melinda Griffiths Lawyers
IWIB Innovative Business Woman
- Highly Commended: Jo Robertson - Barefootfivetribe
- Highly Commended: Stella Steed - Above and Beyond Early Childhood Consulting
- Winner: Linda Goldspink-Lord - Posidon Equine
IWIB Best New Business
- Highly Commended: g-co
- Winner: TK Business Support
IWIB Best Home Based Business
- Winner: The Champagne Crusade
IWIB Best Small Business
- Highly Commended: Birdblack Design
- Highly Commended: Movementum
- Winner: Melinda Griffiths Lawyers
IWIB Best Business
- Highly Commended: Home Instead Wollongong
- Winner: The Illawarra Hotel
IWIB Commitment to the Business Community
- Terry Widdicombe from IMB Bank
IWIB Young Business Woman of the Year
- Highly Commended: Sophie McIlquam - The Consortium Lounge
- Winner: Jessica Turney - Brilliant blooms
IWIB Business Woman of the Year
- Highly Commended: Alison Covington - Good360 (thats one word)
- Winner: Sarah Nolen - Birdblack Design