Women in online businesses and their ANZIA potential

Posted by Jo Lim, auDA COPO on 21 May 2014

Last year, market research commissioned by auDA and AusRegistry showed that women are under-represented in domain name ownership – just 16% of female respondents owned a domain name, compared with 32% of male respondents. It was suggested that one reason for this disparity may be the higher proportion of male small business owners, which is a key driver of domain name sales.

And yet, other research conducted by the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry shows that the number of women starting their own business doubled between 2007 and 2012, with many of these businesses being online-only enterprises.

So what’s the story here?

It’s not surprising that an increasing number of women seem to be moving into the online business world. The advantages of a purely online business are well- known – low capital outlay and overheads, flexible hours and the ability to work from home. It’s clear why starting up an online business would be an attractive option for women who may have taken a break from the workplace to have children and whose priorities in life have changed.

Witness the founders of online business “hard to find” (www.hardtofind.com.au), Eri Beaumont and Trudi Jenkins, who say on their website that “as working mothers with little time for shopping beyond the basics, we realised that there was a gap in the online market for a quality website where you could rely on finding only the best available”. Their business idea was to source a range of quality items from individual designers, promote them under an umbrella brand, and provide a single check-out service. Not only does the Internet-based business suit the working needs of the female founders, it has helped to boost the businesses of the individual designers, many of whom are also women.

According to their website, the business concept behind online shoe retailer “Shoes of Prey” (www.shoesofprey.com.au) was inspired by the personal experiences of co-founder Jodie Fox, who wanted to be able to commission her own custom-made shoes. Jodie and her business partners used the Internet to allow women to do something that was not previously easy or widely available, and the results speak for themselves – from three people working out of their lounge room, to 50 staff in four offices globally. They have now opened a physical concept boutique in David Jones in Sydney – going from purely online to bricks’n’mortar, an interesting reversal of the usual pattern.

Retail is not the only model for women who are looking to start an online business. Mia Freedman had already enjoyed success in the publishing world, being the youngest-ever editor of Cosmopolitan magazine at age 24. She now runs Mamamia (www.mamamia.com.au), which started as a personal blog site and has since grown into Australia’s leading women’s website covering a whole range of issues from current affairs and politics to health and relationships. According to the website, more than 1.7 million Australian women (and some men) visit Mamamia and sister site www.iVillage.com.au every month.

Shoes of Prey was a popular finalist in last year’s ANZIAs (Australia and New Zealand Internet Awards), in the “Innovation” category. The ANZIAs are all about celebrating the achievements of individuals and organisations that are making significant contributions to Internet use in Australia and New Zealand. We would love to recognise more women who are doing interesting things on the Internet – whether it’s an innovative and creative business idea like hardtofind or Shoes of Prey, or a community-building and thought-provoking online space like Mamamia.

To end this piece where I began, with last year’s market research showing that women are under-represented in domain name ownership. auDA and AusRegistry have conducted a follow-up survey this year, and I am pleased to say that our initial analysis indicates a notable increase in female domain name ownership from last year (we’ll be publishing the full results mid-2014).

Let’s hope this trend continues into the future, and that initiatives like the ANZIAs can help to highlight the achievements of women who are already enjoying online business success, and encourage more women to follow in their footsteps.


About the ANZIA - www.internetawards.org.au

The Australia and New Zealand Internet Awards (ANZIAs) are a collaboration between auDA and InternetNZ. The awards are an annual event celebrating the achievements of organisations, businesses and individuals that have made significant contributions to the development and use of the Internet in Australia and New Zealand. Entries are welcome from organisations that have developed online resources, websites and real-world projects and products. Winners in each category receive a $2500AUD prize.