The Business
Introducing Women In Business Mornington Peninsula
by Melissa Goffin + Birte Moliere

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Under the umbrella of COVID, a group of local businesswomen came together to share their experiences of business within this moment and beyond. What they found was that the issues they faced and the hopes they had, were wildly similar.  They realised the opportunity in collecting their voices to advocate for themselves and women like them, the power of extending their ethical impacts and the impact of sharing experience and insights between those who have travelled the road before you.  

Women in Business Mornington Peninsula (WiB MP) Association Founder and Chair, Melissa Goffin came to the idea of the Association along with fellow Board Member, Sophie O’Neil while the two were sharing ideas for how to navigate some of their more complex issues. “We shared how isolating business ownership was and how comforting and enlightening it was learning from one another. We immediately saw a need to extend this experience and bring more women in.”

The Association’s Secretary and Seed Sustainability Founder, Birte Moliere describes what makes them unique amongst the crowded field of female business groups. “It wasn’t about simply creating another networking group. It was about sharing opportunities, being advocates and giving back. Of course we want to learn from one another but we’re focused on advocating for women in business and breaking down barriers that limit their success and representation in our most senior positions. We’re also thinking of ways to take the already existing powerful work of our female business and community leaders and extend it to improve outcomes for our community.”

The group has key initiatives across Advocacy & Education, Business and Personal Development, Being a Force for Good, Business & Community Connection and Employment. Within these, you’ll find developing programs like their ‘Female Business Leader Mentoring’ initiative that both aligns emerging leaders with established female leaders within a range of fields and in an effort to support young female leaders – as well as a program that further develops and provides growth opportunities to their existing successful female leaders.   

The Association, though still in its infancy, has a committed group of local, passionate women working together through the Board and a growing membership. Amongst other things, WiB has been focused on the difficult task of supporting its struggling business community through COVID. 

“There is a real sense of connection and empathy across our members”, Moliere explains. At their most recent online forum attended by local politicians, dozens of women came together to share experiences, to learn from each other and to advocate for improvements. COVID has changed the landscape for many. “Sadly, there is more anger in the community now. We need to find common ground rather than divisiveness. Mental health is a real issue and it is more important than ever to collaborate during difficult times. 

“Over the past year we have seen our community rally around its local businesses. We are all feeling the love. And there is a recognition that our businesses are not just nameless, faceless corporations but they are built by and staffed by the families in our community. And more often than not, in service of our community in more ways than just selling products”, Goffin explains. 

“We feel really fortunate to live and work in such an amazing place and feel passionately about making it an inclusive, thriving and kind place for us all”. 

Connect with the Association’s Facebook page for details on how each of its member businesses are supporting the community and stay tuned for more community projects by the Association in the near future.  

Visit the Women in Business Mornington Peninsula website to see how you can be involved in one of its many projects. Learn about becoming a sponsor, joining as a member or partnering with the Association to create impact. 

meet the women on the business mornington peninsula board

melissa goffin


Melissa is Owner and MD of BCorp Certified Red Gum BBQ — a 3 times winner of the Australian Good Food Guide’s Readers Choice Award.   

Melissa previously held positions as President of the Victorian Teachers’ Association, on NAB’s Customer Advisory Board, and is the Founder of the Women’s March on Melbourne. She is regularly invited to speak about ethical business practices and growing a family business into a multi-million dollar brand. 

Melissa believes in the power of women to change the world and the need to create more inclusive social and political conditions. 

laura wattie


Laura Wattie is the Director and founder of Grendesign, a creative agency based in Mornington. Established in 2010 Laura’s passion for understanding her clients needs and helping them grow their business has seen Grendesign go from strength to strength. What began as a one woman show is now one of the largest agencies on the Peninsula. 

Her desire to see businesses grow was also the driving force behind the creation of Grenco. A co-working space in Mornington providing affordable office space and helping small businesses connect and be productive. 

melanie gard


Melanie is the Director of Peninsula School of Dance, a leading provider of dance, musical theatre and acrobatics. The School has been servicing the Peninsula for over 60 years —  offering a safe, friendly and nurturing environment for local children.

Melanie is a passionate dance educator and leads her team with passion and determination to ensure the school remains at the forefront of dance education. The School has been the training ground and springboard for many young people that have gone on to have successful careers in the dance and performing arts sector.

claire russo

Claire is the Owner and Director of Butterfly Red Hill. Over the past years, Claire’s family has passionately restored the gardens, grounds, Farm House and Gallery of the 4 acre property. Butterfly emerged symbolic of the ongoing transformation and growth through our life’s journeys and welcomes guests to share life’s celebratory and creative moments. 

Claire is passionate about bringing people together. Having studied and worked in creative arts, education, fitness and wellbeing, tourism, weddings and events, Claire brings her passion and creativity to Butterfly and collaborates across a range of industries.

sophie o’neil

Sophie O’Neil is co-owner and Director of Torello Farm. Before Torello, Sophie spent 20 years in the food industry, working in marketing and business development. She was a regular contributor to the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age and is on the Small-Scale Agriculture and Craft Industry Advisory Committee for the Minister for Agriculture.

Sophie has a deep passion for local food systems and relishes that Torello allows her
to connect community with local produce
and its growers. 

Sophie is a dedicated advocate for female voices and looks forward to more women being empowered and celebrated.

jackie prossor

Jackie is the Director at Prossor Town Planning (PTP), a professional planning consultancy. She ensures PTP is the market leader in service delivery, project outcomes, knowledge of legislation changes and planning development.

With extensive experience across a broad range of ventures and a sound understanding of local issues, particularly around Council, community and social objectives,  Jackie is PTPs key negotiator for client outcomes and strategy development.  Current active memberships include VPELA, Planning Institute of Australia and the Committee for Mornington Peninsula. Jackie is also a regular guest speaker at local business forums.

shannon smit

Shannon is the Founding Director of award-winning accounting and financial advisory firm, SMART Business Solutions. She has a strong network across both the Mornington Peninsula and Melbourne business community and has extensive global connections after spending several years working in a senior role for a Big 4 firm in Prague and New York. 

Growing up on the Peninsula, Shannon has a deep understanding of local issues. In her role as President for the Committee for Mornington Peninsula, alongside key roles in various business organisations, Shannon is a true advocate for a strong local community.

sarah race

Sarah serves as Deputy Mayor for the Mornington Peninsula Shire, leading an organisation committed to empowering our Community’s vision. After completing her Bachelor of Arts (Politics and History), Sarah spent 11 years overseas. Her professional experience includes e-commerce, tourism and community development, within the public and private sectors.

Sarah is an advocate for locally driven initiatives that deliver holistic community outcomes. Sarah has worked with many community groups and individuals that have shown enthusiasm and tireless dedication to this beautiful place we call home. She also represents our Council on the State Government’s Gender Equity Advisory Committee.

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