Joanne Pellew is an entrepreneur at heart. As a Noongar woman, she is driven to make a difference by championing Indigenous employment on a National level. For the last 7 years, Joanne has been continuously dedicated to closing the Indigenous unemployment gap by collaborating with Industries and the Indigenous workforce.
Joanne founded Ochre Workforce Solutions in 2010 as the first Indigenous labour hire company servicing the Mining Industry of WA. Since starting Ochre Workforce Solutions, Joanne has developed a unique insight into the Australian job market and extended her offerings to connect employers directly with Indigenous workers through the iWork Jobsite.
At the core of both Joanne’s personal and professional drive is a desire for positive, genuine change, and the will to make it happen. Through her initiatives, she has empowered companies to be both commercially viable and socially responsible, paving the way to provide employment for the people that really need it.
We were fortunate enough to interview this driven and empowering entrepreneur.
Was there a significant turning point when you decided to become an entrepreneur?
When I reflect back on this there is no specific turning point. I was born this way. By the time I was 17, I had moved away from family to study design as I had dreams to have a fashion label. I was always a big thinker, not ever thinking I couldn’t do anything. The drive was always there.
Was your entrepreneurial journey linked to your personal one?
Yes, my business life has paralleled my personal life at times. I have been in business since I was 21. I had a 2-week old baby when I started a business in Broome, which I kept small as I still had personal obligations to keep.
At time’s we get side swiped by events in life. I had a swimwear label that sent me on a path of devastating impact, but the positive part of going through that, was going down a path to impact other’s people lives.
My life experiences have shaped me to be the person I am now. Learning from real life experiences is something that can’t be taught.
Initially in business, what difficulties did you face?
The business world came so naturally to me. I did face it later in life after I took a public fall from grace and had to rebuild from there. I faced lots of judgement and discrimination but I have always risen above it. Resilience is your greatest gift and I see difficulties as challenges.
Do you think women feel intimidated in business?
Personally, I don’t, as I feel I do things better than most men. I love all business. I know that while I work, they play and this is ingrained in me to keep working.
Business can be harsh, but if you do feel intimidated it may not be right career path for you. You need to have thick skin to get through it.
What do you believe was the best decision you made in business?
I make lot of decisions every day. An important decision I made was to cut costs and scale back dramatically in order to survive the downturn in the mining industry. In doing this, where lots of other businesses didn’t listen to the market, I managed to survive.
What do you wish you knew before you started your first business?
Nothing. The best way to learn is through experience. My Dad once said, “If you keep making the same mistake in business then you shouldn’t be in it.” That has always stuck with me. You need to be able to make the mistake first to be able to not make it again.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurial women?
Just do what comes naturally. If you love what you do it will become easy. If you’re getting no joy think about other options. Business can be a hard game, but if you love the process of being in business, it’s great fun. Ask yourself, “What do you want to leave behind as a legacy?”
Who do you look up to in business?
On a personal level, no one as I am my own internal driver. From a business perspective, I like to read inspiring autobiographies, such as Lisa Messenger’s. She has a very similar story to mine, so much that my Dad rang me one Sunday and asked if I had heard of Lisa Messenger, as he said my story sounds similar. I looked her up, downloaded the book and read it in one whole day.
What do you think your key to success has been?
It’s naturally ingrained, I live and breathe business. It has given me a lot of knowledge, driven me to fix social problems.
How have you personally measured your success?
Through the impact I can have on other people’s live. The dollar factor is in creating over 1000 jobs for Indigenous people and what that has done for their families and what that has given back to the community. Taking someone from the welfare cycle to putting them into jobs, they become tax payers, turning the economy around.
When you think of your journey, what is the thing you are most proud of?
Overcoming the adversity that I have had to face. I put on the armor, you can throw whatever you want at me and I will keep going.
“If you’re not passionate about what you’re trying to achieve then it won’t be successful.” – Joanne Pellew