Inspiring entrepreneur and researcher is empowering women in business

30 March 2023

As a business owner for almost 30 years, Nicole Griffiths is drawing on her experience as an entrepreneur to support other women in the industry.

The Busselton resident is currently completing her Master of Business at CQUniversity, with a research focus on female entrepreneurs in Western Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It has always been my dream to complete a PhD, but I was always too busy running my own business to pursue it.

“My businesses have spanned a variety of industries, including IT, graphic design, consulting, fitness and retail. Typically, I find niche markets, often with the intention to sell after some time, however, research has challenged me more than any business I have ever started. It has pushed me so far outside my comfort zone,” Mrs Griffiths said.

“I originally applied to CQU for a PhD but didn't qualify. I was offered a Research Higher Degree instead and have found the experience extremely beneficial.

“It has given me a good insight into what a PhD would be like. That is my next goal.”

She explained that her research aims to investigate the motivation of female entrepreneurs in regional Western Australia (WA) during the COVID-19 pandemic and to explore how the crisis affected their motivation for their business.

“While Western Australia was not hit as hard by the pandemic as the Eastern States, WA businesses were still adversely affected and continue to be impacted.

“For myself, as a result of the pandemic, my workload increased exponentially, and I struggled to keep up with my studies. It was probably one of the most challenging times of my life to balance work and study," Ms Griffiths said.

“I was able to apply an autoethnographic approach whereby I, as the researcher, added my entrepreneurial knowledge and experience to the findings, therefore, contributing insights to the study.

“My research will contribute to new knowledge about female entrepreneurs and their motivation to innovate, hibernate or liquidate their business, and the outcomes of any changes they may have made to their business because of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

While Mrs Griffiths said her study journey has been incredibly rewarding, she admitted it has not been without its challenges.

“A year or so into my studies, my husband was diagnosed with a brain tumour. The thought of postponing my studies did cross my mind, but something just wouldn't let me do it.

“My most important learning on this journey has been how resilient I am. I feel proud that I will be submitting my thesis for examination this year,” Mrs Griffiths said.

“My supervisors, especially my principal - Dr Stephanie Macht - provided tremendous support. I also received excellent support from CQU.

“I took advantage of the University’s free counselling service and optional three-month COVID leave. This was great as it allowed me to maintain work and care for my husband.”

When not busy as a devoted wife and student, Mrs Griffiths also dedicates her time to supporting others as a business advisor where she mentors small businesses and other business owners.

This commitment to supporting local business and the community resulted in Mrs Griffith receiving a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) at the recent 2023 Australia Day ceremony.

“My experience as a female entrepreneur and mentor over the past 25 years makes me a huge advocate for women in business,” she said.

“Imposter syndrome seeps in often, but I try not to dwell on that too much. It keeps me motivated and I love learning new things.”