Fast Fire Questions: Colleen Callander

Colleen Callander is the Former Sportsgirl CEO, Founder of ‘Mentor Me Women’ and Author of ‘Leader by Design.’
Colleen has always had a strong work ethic, beginning her working life at just 8-years-of-age working in the canteen at the local Geelong pool. She began her beloved retail career on the humble shop floor at Just Jeans, unbeknownst to her at the time that she’d then go on to have a thriving and successful 30-year retail career. Colleen now wants to encourage women to have the confidence to believe in themselves and their abilities, share their voices and find their inner superpowers through her ‘Mentor Me’ platform.

You can listen to Colleen’s Tilly Money podcast here.

  1. Did you have a business mentor or someone that inspired your career path journey?

I am always inspired by women supporting women, and it is what I have always tried to do – not only as a CEO, but also in my everyday life.

I also strongly believe the next generation of young women must have strong role models and mentors to look up to: women who are supportive, nurturing, change-makers, and women who show us that it is possible to break through glass ceilings in our careers and everyday lives. Having positive, fierce, intelligent, kind women making change in the world sends a message of empowerment, paving the way for the next generation to believe their opportunities are limitless in both our careers and life.

A role model and career mentor can come from anywhere: it may be someone you work with, perhaps someone who is retired and has a wealth of knowledge or someone who has forged forward in her own career. She might be a teacher, a community leader, a coach, or maybe even your mum.  She could be world-famous, or someone who lives in your neighbourhood. She is a woman who you admire, someone you want to emulate and someone you believe makes a difference – whether that’s in the little things she does in her everyday life or on a larger public scale.

Growing up as a young girl in the ‘80s, my role models included Princess Diana, for her strength and kindness; Brooke Shields, for her grace and beauty; and Madonna, because she was bold and fearless.
At the time, I didn’t describe them as role models; in fact, I probably didn’t even know what role models were. I just knew I admired these women and was inspired by their actions, what they stood for and how they behaved.

Later in life I had career mentors, one of which were close to home: my parents. All my life, they have both been a constant source of inspiration, advice and guidance. They showed me that hard work is the key to success, that it is important to live according to your values and that anything was possible.

Throughout my entire career, I have tried to be a positive role model and career mentor for those around me – particularly women. When I left the Sussan Group in early 2020 I decided the next step in my career was to continue on this path of inspiring and empowering women, being a great role model and career mentor so that women can build real confidence, have a voice live with purpose and become the leaders in their own lives and their careers. Today I do this through many different platforms: through my ‘Mentor Me Women’ program, Business and Leadership coaching, podcasts, articles, speaking events and my book “Leader By Design”- Be empowered to lead with confidence in business and in life. I think it’s essential for the next generation of female leaders to have positive role models and career mentors because I’ve seen and experienced the impact it can have.


  1. What are some of the lessons in leadership that you’d encourage other young, aspiring businesswomen to remember and implement?

The first thing would be that kindness is courageous – kindness is not a weakness.

I believe that kindness is the new superpower for leaders and one that I want to encourage all young aspiring leader to embrace. In fact I believe kindness is a new form of currency, one you can trade for loyalty, trust, commitment and high performance.

When I talk about kindness I always like to clarify. Kindness doesn’t mean people can fly under the radar, it doesn’t mean that people are not accountable, or underperformance is acceptable or that there are no boundaries. Kindness is about setting clear expectations, giving honest feedback, encouraging growth and pushing people beyond their comfort zone. Kindness is about treating people like people and building real human connections.

Being a kind leader doesn’t mean being a weak leader. Kind leaders are very capable of making good and strong business decisions, even tough decisions with kindness.

The second one would be…. Go for it!

In life there are always going to be people who’ll tell you that you can’t accomplish your goals and dreams, whether that’s your employer, a teacher, a friend or a family member. People will try to tell you your goal is too big, too ambitious, that some ones already tried that or that you’re not ready or that you’re no capable.

Don’t listen to them! Go for it! Women are changing the world every day, despite everyone around them telling them it can’t be done.

My message to women is:

That promotion you have been waiting to apply for…

Go for it!

That online business you have been wanting to start…

Go for it!

That guy you have been wanting to ask on a date…

Go for it!


  1. What is your approach to money and personal finance, and do you have any money rituals or habits?

My father immigrated from Italy with his parents and brother when he was just 4 years of age, with a few suitcases, the clothes they wore and a small amount of savings in search of a better life.

They worked hard, my father left school at the age of 14 and had two jobs to bring money into the home and help support his family. Today my father is a business entrepreneur and property developer and his words to me from a very young age were: “money doesn’t come easily, you have to work hard for it, so be respectful of money” and that’s what I have always tried to do.


  1. What is your proudest career achievement?

I am proud to be a female leader who has always led with purpose, stayed true to my values, inspired and empowered others to believe in themselves and created cultures that allowed people to truly shine.

My focus has always been on creating environments where we lead with kindness, humility and self-awareness, and one where people are inspired and empowered to have the confidence to believe in themselves, their ability, and share their voice.

If I look back on my career, I am super proud of my achievement of becoming a CEO, but that is also a double-edged sword for me. Less than 20% of CEO roles in this country are held by women. So, as much I am proud to be a part of this 20% club, it also greatly saddens and concerns me and a number that I am committed to changing.


  1. What money/business/life advice would you give to your 21-year-old self (if she’d listen)?

Believe in yourself!

Self-belief is the beginning of your journey and will open up endless possibilities – but it starts with you. There are many factors in life that will contribute to your success, but the biggest will be your self-belief.

Believing in yourself means having faith in your own abilities, trusting that you can do anything you put your mind to. It means that when you face challenges, hit road bumps or fall over and have self-doubt, you will have the confidence to get back up and try again. It is not opportunities, intelligence or resources that allow you to chase your goals and dreams –it’s your belief in yourself that will give you the power to take that first step.

So, start believing. Apply for that promotion, write that song, sign up to that course, start that new business, write that book.

You are amazing, talented, beautiful and unique and there is only ever going to be one of you, so believe in yourself.

Start right now. Start believing in you!

It’s time to believe in yourself and your ability, embrace your superpower, share your voice, step up and take action. I want you to believe in the power of self and that it is possible to become the leader you always wanted to be, in business and in life.

Often the only thing that is holding us back is ourselves. So, follow your dreams, write your story, live with purpose and shine bright wherever this journey called life takes you.



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