Sharna Collard: Indigenous Business Woman of the Year 2019

Sharna Collard is a proud Balladong-Wilmen woman of the Noongar Nation, leads three businesses, is a passionate advocate for supporting Aboriginal-owned businesses and projects, and working to bring Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities together. She also holds some pretty prestigious awards. What’s the secret to her success? Passion. Having a passion for what you do is vital, Sharna says. It’s what sustains her in her work. “I truly believe that having your own business gives you the freedom and autonomy to create your own independence. That’s what gets me out of bed every single day. A strong focus on business and entrepreneurship and bringing the community along on my business journey.”

Sharna is CEO of Kooya Australia Fleet Solutions (an Aboriginal owned fleet and finance company), General Manager of Kooya Consultancy and Board Member of Kulbardi Pty Ltd. She’s received recognition for her hard work, tenacity and passion including this year’s Supplier Diversity Awards Indigenous Businesswoman of the Year and Young Indigenous Entrepreneur of the Year for 2018. But the awards are not her main driver.

Sharna admits she’s not one for the spotlight. She is grateful and recognises their significance, but says shining the light on her own achievements and success helps pave the way for others. The accolades have another added bonus. Having worked for 10 years with her father Kim Collard, CEO of Kulbardi Pty Ltd and Kooya Consultancy, Sharna acknowledges that achieving recognition in her own right has been important for her confidence and identity. She now feels, “firmly rooted in my own roots, in my own story and in what I can bring to the table.”

Kim Collard (Sharna’s Dad) & Sharna Collard

It also helped erase any feelings of self-doubt she may have been feeling when she was younger. Fifteen years ago, she says, “I didn’t believe in myself.” But that has changed, and she credits her growth to a focus on personal development, leveraging her passions and surrounding herself with powerful mentors and role models. A leader who values empathy above all, Sharna feels most purpose and pride around her involvement in the Bibbulmun Fund, which offers financial support to Aboriginal-owned and delivered projects. Part of the proceeds generated from all Kooya companies are channelled into this community investment arm. “I am a huge believer that businesses are a great way to set up society and create economic independence.”

Underlying the philosophy and ethics behind the businesses Sharna leads is the Third Space framework which she has helped shape and develop. Sharna explains, “The Third Space is a powerful tool and framework where the Aboriginal the non-Aboriginal worlds intersect.”

The intersection of the two worlds is familiar to Sharna, having grown up with an Aboriginal father and non-Aboriginal mother. “Growing up I didn’t know which world I belonged to, so this framework gave me the knowledge, the skills and the tools to operate effectively between my two worlds.

“The Third Space is about two cultures working together, having some form of common ground, but more importantly, understanding the rules of engagement and how to operate effectively.”

Fostering young indigenous talent is another passion of Sharna’s. She has taken Indyanna Narrier – who recently joined the Kooya Australia Fleet solutions – under her wing. Indyanna graduated from Clontarf Girl’s Academy in 2018 and is the first woman in her family to graduate from high school. Sharna feels it’s an honour to guide Indyanna, describing her as an “absolute superstar with natural leadership skills”.

As a business leader, mentor and advocate for The Third Space, there’s not much Sharna can’t do. While she continues to forge ahead and inspire, we can all watch this space.

By Barbara Harvey

Sharna Collard with mentee Indyanna Narrier