Violet Roumeliotis has been recognised as the 2017 Telstra Australian Business Woman of the Year.
As the CEO of SSI, Ms Roumeliotis has overseen innovative diversification leading to more than 1,100 per cent revenue growth to $113 million over five years.
At an awards ceremony in Melbourne on November 22, she won firstly in the ‘For Purpose and Social Enterprise’ category before being named the 2017 Telstra Australian Business Woman of the Year.
Ms Roumeliotis took the opportunity to implore corporate Australia to tap into the out-of-the-box thinking and start-up mentality in the not-for-profit sector in order to solve pressing business challenges such as workforce shortages.
“Now begins the time when corporate Australia needs us in the not-for-profit sector to access the entrepreneurial spirit and innovative thinking needed to advance our country — the exact things we’ve built our sector on for so many years,” she said.
“Many would be surprised to know just how effective community organisations are at developing world-class initiatives that address key social challenges and provide a win-win for business and community.”
At SSI, this is exemplified by a range of self-funded social enterprises that, in addition to providing services, give job seekers work experience opportunities in a real workplace environment.
“Our low cost supermarket, The Staples Bag, actively reduces Australia’s food wastage problem and addresses the growing issue of food insecurity. We have distributed over 500 tonnes of food in the last 12 months alone. At the same time, it provides work experience to help people break the cycle of unemployment,” she said.
This innovation is similarly present in SSI’s partnerships with businesses ranging from Google to Woolworths to Allianz Australia.
“Eighteen refugees and migrants with existing skills and qualifications who were matched to Allianz’s business needs embarked on a 12-month program that includes two job rotations in areas such as marketing, claims, finance and IT,” Ms Roumeliotis said.
“The mutual success of the Settlement Services International-Allianz partnership has been recognised by Australian Human Rights Commission as a finalist in the Human Rights Awards 2017.”
Ms Roumeliotis called on other business leaders to consider the innovation and commercial impact to be gained from partnership with the not-for-profit sector.
“Let’s work together to solve commercial and social challenges,” she said.