Product of the Year is the world’s largest consumer-voted award for product innovation and currently operates in over 40 countries with the same purpose: to guide consumers to the best products in their market and reward manufacturers for quality and innovation.
She Does This spoke to Sarah Connelly, Australian Director of Product of the Year (POY) on how she identified POY as a career opportunity and turned it into a huge success.
SDT: Can you tell us about life prior to launching Product of the Year in Australia?
SARAH: I landed in Australia from the UK in December 1999 and started out my Australian career as a Project Manager for a large finance institution. However, I was always interested in media and advertising and so made the leap from a very lucrative career into a small media house where I halved my salary, but found my passion!
A love for all things media led to an 8-year career in the major publishing houses and culminated in the role of National Advertising Manager on Good Taste magazine, working closely with retail giant Woolworths.
In 2006, I accepted the role of Sales Manager at media and production house Now Screen and, after maternity leave in 2008, found myself on the hunt for a new challenge. It was at this time that I came across the opportunity to launch Product of the Year Australia (POY), a globally recognised award that has now been running for 32 years, in over 35 countries.
In the first three years, I launched and ran the business myself and, in year one, managed to recruit Lisa Wilkinson, former TODAY show host, as the award ambassador. Due to delays in licensing issues I had just three months to market and launch the first Australian awards and, in its first year managed to build 17 categories.
Fast forward eleven years, the Awards boast an average of 46 winners in categories spanning food and beverage, household goods, health, beauty and baby care, and are ‘the awards to win’ for new product innovation in Australia.
I’m lucky enough to work with global brands such as Unilever and Colgate, large supermarkets including Aldi, IGA and Coles and boutique brands who are all looking to make their stamp on the market. I couldn’t be prouder of our what we have achieved!
SDT: What were the main reasons for you wanting a career/life change?
SARAH: First and foremost, I had always dreamed of having my own company. Secondly, I was motivated by the ‘failure is not an option’ element of being entirely responsible for the launch and finally, I was driven to create a lifestyle where I could work, earn a good living and still be around for school pick up.
SDT: What stood out to you about Product of the Year that made you think it was the right opportunity for you?
SARAH: My background, experience and contacts were the perfect fit. I also loved the idea of encouraging and rewarding innovation and I’m a self-confessed new product junkie!
SDT: What are some tips you have for women trying to identify the right career move for them?
SARAH: The most important thing for me was to be very clear on my priorities and what inspired
me. If these aren’t clear, then motivation can easily wane, and you can end up constantly searching for something which may not exist or which does not hold your attention.
I think trusting your gut/instinct is key. In my experience it’s never wrong. I believe we know intrinsically what’s right for us and if you’re smart, thoughtful and true to yourself then good decisions are made.
Finally; find your people. Work with people you respect, admire and who can keep you on track when things get tough (which they always do).
SDT: How can the fempreneurs of She Does This get involved with Product of the Year?!
SARAH: First and foremost, follow our Instagram and Facebook where we showcase winning and new products, recipes and tips for busy shoppers. We are also now partnering with New Idea and Pacific so keeping an eye on digital competitions (that will also be promoted on our socials) will give opportunity to get more involved as a judge for our 2020 awards. We are also always looking for great new innovations, so if you have an amazing product get in touch via our website, we’d love to hear from you!