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40 Under 40 Awards recognise innovation and entrepreneurs in Queensland

40 Under 40 Awards recognise innovation and entrepreneurs in Queensland

Queensland offers more than just sunny weather and laidback living, it has all of the essential ingredients to launch businesses that could change the world, says awards judge Sarah Smith.


Innovation is Sarah’s bread and butter, as the Director of Startups, Scaleups and The Precinct for the Queensland Government as part of Advance Queensland. Sarah will be chairing the judging panel for this year’s Queensland 40 Under 40 Awards

Launched in 2015, Advance Queensland is an initiative that aims to drive diversified economic growth in Queensland and create regional jobs by building an ‘innovation economy’.

“Our team exists to help Queensland’s best entrepreneurs and innovators turn their ideas into commercial success,” says Sarah. “Queensland has long been desired for our weather and lifestyle but it’s an equally amazing place to start, grow and scale a business. Queensland is home to an inclusive and thriving innovation ecosystem, world-class universities and access to talent – all essential ingredients for creating innovative businesses ready to compete on a global stage.”

Sarah has plenty of experience in the arena, having spent more than 22 years working as a leader, business owner and board director in both the private and public sectors. 

“I’ve run my own marketing, events and promotions agency and worked across various government portfolios from health to infrastructure and now innovation. I’ve also sat on several boards, committees and been an Entrepreneur in Residence.” 

One of the great strengths Sarah recognises in programs such as the 40 Under 40 Awards is their ability to connect individuals with similar purpose and passion to the net benefit of all. 

“When I embarked on my solo business journey in my early 20s, it was at a time when business ownership wasn’t a popular option, and startups weren’t really a big thing in Brisbane,” she says.

“I forged my way, inexperienced but enthusiastic. I craved support, advice and mentorship but I was flying blindly. I love that we live in a time when people are taking the plunge into startup land with programs, networks and support to help them succeed.” 

A highlight of Sarah’s career, she recalls, is being nominated for and winning Telstra Queensland Young Business Woman of the Year in 2003.

“I had massive imposter syndrome and didn’t feel worthy of the accolade,” she says. “The positive PR helped me gain additional clients and I met a phenomenal alumni of powerhouse women who had been past recipients. I wouldn’t have had access to that network without the award program.”

In terms of applications for this year’s 40 Under 40 Awards, Sarah is looking for “planning, passion, persistence and progress”.   

“I want to see a solid business model addressing a real problem, personal drive and resilience,” she says. 

Those feeling intimidated, however, shouldn’t hold back from putting themselves forward, she stresses.  

“In Australia we tend to have tall poppy syndrome and feel uncomfortable celebrating our successes. They say you can’t be what you can’t see. You don’t know who you are inspiring by participating. Make the time, do your application, be honest and acknowledge your journey, the good and the bad. The process of self-reflection is a powerful tool for progress.” 

Nominations are now open for the 40 Under 40 Awards presented by InQueensland and The Weekend Edition. We want to hear about the impact you have made on Queensland in your career or, if you know of an outstanding leader, trailblazer or innovator under the age of 40, please take a few moments to nominate them here.

The awards will acknowledge this year’s alumni of 40 of the state’s brightest, including the winners of the ten category awards.

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