LINDA Bryant and Donna Carrier are the darlings of the local business community, taking out a number of major awards at the Manning Great Lakes Business Awards on Friday.
It was a huge night for both women with Photography by Linda recognised as the best business leader, for excellence in professional services and receiving the people’s choice award and business of the year title, while Donna, from Bent on Food and Bent on Life in Wingham, was inducted into the hall of fame and named the recipient of the Bruce Cowan memorial award.
Both have demonstrated the strength women can bring to the success of a business but neither had expected the recognition that came from the independent panel of judges.
“I’m stoked, I can’t believe it,” said Linda.
Donna said she was in shock when she was presented the Bruce Cowan memorial award, following her induction into the hall of fame which she said “totally came from left of field.”
The honour of receiving the Bruce Cowan award is particularly special her.
“My mum used to work for Bruce many years ago in Nabiac.”
Linda gives credit to the success of her business to her team of Rod Trenchard (photographer), Christie Delaney (photography and administration) and Arlene Blencowe (administration and personal assistant).
“They’re fantastic. The business has certainly outgrown the name, in particular with Rod who puts in so much behind the scenes.”
She said there are always highs and lows but the biggest thing for her, when it comes to business success, is her mindset.
“As the person driving the business, if it’s not right it has a downwards effect. Things work when I’m really focused.
“I tell myself that every problem is an opportunity and by having that mindset it has been by far our biggest year yet.”
And while she said there are some people who say the photography industry is struggling, she finds it isn’t the case in her instance.
“I think there is a culture of holding back and we’ve bucked the trend. We’re a bit the opposite.”
Donna Carrier is driven by her passion for food and the community of Wingham.
“I have been so well accepted by the community,” she said.
“People might not realise but I’m a bit benevolent. I’m not really into business to make money. I am always doing and creating things that help others.”
Linda said there is certainly a difference in the way men and women do business.
“It’s something I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about, especially in the past 12 months.
“Women are more emotional and we tend to combine a lot of things, where men can say this is what I’m going right now and are better at separating things.
Locally she said there is a strong women’s business network, which meets regularly, and everyone is bonding together and a real loyalty has begun to champion each other instead of being competitive.
Linda started her photography business in earnest nine years ago, which was initially home-based while she was home raising her young children.
She branched out and established a retail shop front studio five years ago, first in Pulteney Arcade and now in Albert Street.
She said social media has played a massive role in the success of her business.
“I used social media to ask clients to vote for me (for the people’s choice award). I think so many businesses could’ve been doing the same thing and it should be embraced. It’s a huge thing for us.”
Donna, who was born in Sydney and moved to the Manning Valley when she was eight, started Bent on Food after a successful career in the wine industry. She credits her old boss, Manuel Damian of then Forster based restaurant Little Snail, with her interest in wines.
“My heart was always in the Manning Valley so in 2002 after a year and a half travelling I returned home bringing many ideas learnt from my time away from the area.”
Bent on Food was born from a love of great food and a strong desire to bring the region’s producers together in an outlet dedicated to specialty regional produce.
Both Photography by Linda and Bent on Food have been leaders in their field and have received a range of awards during their time in their chosen industry.
The next year will bring some new challenges for Linda.
For the past 12months she has been studying life coaching and attributes her business success this year with the fundamental things she learned through that.
She indicated that now her studio is more of a team effort, she will build on the coaching side, with her main focus on women in business.
“It’s not just about positive thinking, but taking responsibility.
“It’s my way of giving back to women in business, even in just a small way.”
As well as her businesses, Donna is kept busy with her commitment as president of the Wingham Chamber of Commerce. She is an industry advisor for the North Coast Tourism Board and on the board of Manning Valley Tourism. She has also just returned to teaching barista and hospitality at TAFE.
Donna’s goals now include winning the NSW business leader award, “I’d love to win it,” she said of the much coveted award.
She has secret desires for a chocolate shop and to create a more dairy focused Bent on Food, with milk bar, ice-cream and other milk inspired products.
“That would be so good for the town,” she said.