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‘You’ll be bankrupt in three months’: How Sally Obermeder saved her business

·3-min read
Maha Corbett and Sally Obermeder pictured smiling at the Best of Business Awards launch.
Maha Corbett and Sally Obermeder are the cofounders of lifestyle and wellness brand SWIISH. (Image: Supplied).

Find out why Sally launched her business while recovering from breast cancer, and what the experience taught her.

“Listen guys, I’ve got good news and bad news… the bad news is you’ll be bankrupt in three months.”

Sally Obermeder was overseas with her sister and business partner Maha Corbett when she received that grim warning from her husband, Marcus.

She’d asked him to keep an eye on their wellness, fashion and lifestyle business SWIISH while she was away

Instead, he’d uncovered a gaping hole in the company’s finances.

Sam's story:

“We didn’t know which parts of the business were profitable and which ones weren’t, so we had this glorious melting pot,” Obermeder told Yahoo Finance.

“What we didn’t realise was that we had parts of the business that were profitable that were, in a way, compensating for the parts that weren’t, and technically you can’t really have that.”

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She said this was the biggest mistake they made in the early days of SWIISH - Stylish Women Inspiring Inner Strength, Health and Happiness.

It was, unfortunately, also a mistake that was easy to miss due to the hectic nature of business.

She and Corbett were generally too busy discussing sales and marketing, creating new products and responding to customer demand to pick up on the underperforming parts of the business.

Cathy's story:

“We drew a line in the sand. We had to make some hard cuts and just go, ‘This doesn’t work, what do we do here?’

“And that’s the thing about a business - the problems never stop, they just change. We call them speed humps now. Sometimes they get bigger, but essentially they’re always there. You’ve just got to keep working it out as you go,” she said.

“But that’s also what makes it so satisfying when you get through them.”

Obermeder, a former television presenter for Channel 7’s The Daily, has had her own fair share of speed humps.

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She was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2011, just one day before she gave birth to her daughter.

And in 2020, after 17 years in television, she joined millions of other Australians in being made redundant.

For Obermeder, while disappointing, the career change came with a huge silver lining: she could focus all of her energy on SWIISH.

Briony's story:

“I had been juggling my TV job and SWIISH business for eight years, and the upside of that was that I didn’t have to juggle anymore,” she said.

Sally Obermeder’s advice: Invest in tech, and just do it

Obermeder, who will this year act as National Judge for the Telstra Best of Business Awards, is passionate about encouraging women into business.

Her first tip is to think hard about your website and your business’ overall digital presence.

She said every business needs to now consider itself a digital business, and they need to have a good technology partner to survive.

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“That’s obviously, for me, why I wanted to work with Telstra on their Best of Business Awards. You’ve got to have a good technology partner, because every business is essentially an online business in some way, shape or form these days. It’s critical.”

Her second piece of advice is simple: don’t overthink it.

Jaz's story:

“I think most people, and women definitely, tend to second guess and doubt and think they need to have a whole plan, a five year plan and a 10 year plan,” she said.

“My advice would be to just start. Just start. You won’t have all the answers you need, but you’ll work it out as you go.”

The Telstra Best of Business Awards is a nationwide program, winners and finalists will be recognised for the positive impact they are having in addressing the economic, social and cultural issues of Australia. Nominate an exceptional business here, until Monday 12 July.

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