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Helen Summers

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Northern Territory optometrist Helen Summers has received another major business accolade, being named in the Australian Businesswomen’s Network 2014 Hall of Fame.

Ms Summers was among 14 outstanding female business owners, including Maggie Beer and Liz Davenport, inducted in February.

She is the only optometrist among more than 150 female entrepreneurs inducted since the Hall of Fame began in 1998. ‘It is a great honour to be nominated,’ Ms Summers said.

‘The award is especially important for awareness for careers for females in optometry, as well as very importantly, awareness, wonderful satisfaction and success of optometry in regional and remote Australia.’

The businesswomen’s network is an online community of more than 34,000 members designed to teach women the skills to start, manage and grow a business.

CEO Suzi Dafnis said the hall honoured female business owners who had been exemplary in their industries, were trailblazers and demonstrated inspiring business journeys.

‘The women were chosen because of their remarkable success and because they are all excellent role models to other aspiring female business owners,’ she said.

Ms Summers is a member of the Optometrists Association Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Eye Health Working Group, and won the Business Owner Award at the 2013 Telstra Australian Business Women’s Awards. She was also the 2013 Telstra Northern Territory Business Woman of the Year and won the NT Business Owner Award and Business Innovation Award.

She owns Helen Summers Optometrist Eyecare Plus Darwin and opened the practice in 1998 without a bank loan, using only her savings and second-hand equipment.

Her work as a graduate optometrist in Kenya inspired her to establish outreach services to under-serviced regional and remote indigenous communities in Katherine, Nhulunbuy, Jabiru, Kakadu, Adelaide River, Batchelor and Arnhemland.

Ms Summers set up a scheme to donate frames and ready-made spectacles in remote indigenous homelands and to those suffering financial difficulty, including refugees.

A graduate member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, she is also a director of Guide Dogs SA/NT and chairwoman of the Australian Optometric Panel and Northern Territory Medicare Local’s Associate Member Committee.

She plans to open one of Australia’s first flagship concept stores with Nikon branding this year, using technology and innovations in vision care for consulting, dispensing, retailing and health education.

The inductees’ top five strategies for success are available at www.abn.org.au/halloffame.

Ms Summers’s strategies are to understand the market, celebrate achievements, acknowledge challenges, embrace mentoring for yourself and others, and be innovative.

‘Business survival and growth mean keeping in front of latest ideas in research, taking assessed risks to improve or change products and services, and being aware of what clients and market require,’ she said.

‘Allow flexibility to change your products and services to meet current and changing market needs. Set achievable goals for your team, guide and lead others to develop their personal and career goals and select trusted mentors for yourself to be sounding boards, and advisers for personal and career decisions.

‘Embrace technology and innovation, and dare to dream.’

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