Laura Aldington, Simone Gupta and Virginia Hyland on the return of Havas Hustle

Havas Village Australia is bringing back Havas Hustle for its second year, but this year the focus has shifted to on levelling playing field, helping women entrepreneurs and founders.

Led by Havas’ three female CEOs, Virginia Hyland at Havas Media Australia, Laura Aldington at Host/Havas and Simone Gupta at Havas PR (One Green Bean and Red Havas), the team will be providing access to free advice and support through meetings with one of 40 different specialists across the group.

“Last year the Havas Hustle helped over 200 side hustle businesses from within our industry with a wide range of business consulting from our talented team of over 40 specialists,” said Gupta. “This year, the aim is to level the gender playing field by helping women entrepreneurs and founders across any industry. We have also expanded the offering, based on our learnings from last year, with longer video calls for participants, a speaker series and an incubator program for four selected businesses.”

Hyland, who founded her own business, Hyland Agency in her 20s, and ran  it for 2 decades before it was acquired by Havas Media Group last year, said that she understands the challenges and barriers in place keeping women founders and entrepreneurs from getting their business ideas off the ground.

“An Australian Government Department of Industry report found that women entrepreneurs face hurdles including difficulty accessing supportive networks and information, and lack confidence in either themselves or their business ideas,” said Hyland. “We believe we can help with that. That’s what we’re doing with Havas Hustle this year.  We are aiming to address this important issue through a structured initiative that will make a difference to many women.”

Havas Village’s specialists for Havas Hustle 2021

“Helping level the playing field for women to participate equally in the startup and business ecosystem is a no brainer. Being a woman shouldn’t be a barrier to entry. It’s clearly an issue, and when you recognise an issue, you need to do more than just be aware of it – you need to do something about it. If you’re not prepared to be part of the solution, you’re accepting the status quo and reinforcing the problem.

We’re very keen to change the stats that’s seen the number of women-led businesses in Australia increase by just 3%  in the past 20 years, with women running less than one in three businesses in Australia,” said Gupta. “The first Havas Hustle was such a great success last year; we wanted to give more people the opportunity to benefit from some extra support this year too.”

“It’s still such a difficult time for everyone, a year on seemed like a good time to bring Hustle back,” Gupta continued. “We’re hoping to make it an annual initiative.”

Simone Gupta, Havas PR CEO

“Since the pandemic began it has only worsened, with women-led businesses accounting for just 22% of all registered start-ups in 2020. Despite data showing that startups run by women tend to perform better than average, they are under-represented in this vital sector, which is why we want to focus our efforts in this area,” said Aldington.

One of the best things about Hustle was seeing all of the brilliant, clever, inventive and passionate people that came through the virtual doors. Through the process, we were all reminded of just how special the people out there in our industry actually are,” continued Aldington. 

Speaking about how last year’s initiative turned out, which focused more directly on side hustles, Aldington said that lockdown has give the one in three people already with one a greater impetus to chase it, “because there was more time or need or both”.  

Havas Media Group CEO, Virginia Hyland

“For some people, focusing more on their side hustle was a necessity because they lost their job or were working reduced hours. For others, the extra time we all had being in lockdown at home meant they had the opportunity to spend on their hustle.”

Off the back of last year’s initiative, one of the side hustles in focus, The Good Bits, has continued to grow, going from strength to strength and growing its platform across the past year.

Co-founders Siobhan Fitzgerald and Carol Battle said: “The support from Havas Hustle has been really important to us because of the inherent limitations in marketing channels when dealing with sex-related content. We chose specialist Havas PR support, as it is so important for awareness building, particularly as social media is a constrained marketing channel for our content.”

“We particularly leaned on the Havas team when we went to market with The Good Bits podcast and in evaluating marketing and promotional options, such as The Good Sex Awards. We are a small team, and being able to bring in such industry smarts, has enabled us to stay focused and highly effective. As a result of the support from Havas Hustle, we have also been able to secure coverage in the likes of Vogue magazine, which was exciting.”

CEO of Host Havas, Laura Aldington

Outside of this initiative, anyone in the industry can provide support that makes a difference.

“It doesn’t need a formal framework and program; it needs the will and a change in attitude and mindset,” said Hyland. 

As part of this year’s Havas Hustle, the Village will be hosting an “online speaker series” for all applicants to the program, focused on the most requested topics, including various contributions from Aldington, Gupta and Hyland, as well as four women women entrepreneurs with businesses at a “market-ready stage” selected to receive additional support, joining the new incubator initiative.

Havas Village stated: “This will provide further specialist resources over a three-month period, including six mentoring sessions with the CEOs as well as incremental resources to further support their businesses.” 

The team of specialists that will be made available have expertise in the areas including strategy, creative, media, design, PR, social, influencer, experiential, innovation, UX, CX, tech consulting, experience design, production, digital, SEOe-commerce, retail/shopper, sponsorship, brand partnerships, data and analytics, management, commercial and contractual matters, finance, HR, and more. 

Aldington, Gupta and Hyland spoke at length about some of the challenges present for women in the advertising industry, amongst furthering other existing gaps, on the Mumbrellacast last month. 



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