Muse Series: Celebrating International Women’s Day

Every year on International Women’s Day, around the globe we celebrate the achievements of all women and girls, unite to raise awareness of gender bias, stereotypes and discrimination, and advocate for gender equity. 

Today, on IWD, we’re sharing a special edition of Muse Encounters, with Steph Prem, Founder of Studio PP, Olympian, Speaker, Podcaster, Coach, and Health and Wellness Expert, Amy Zapantis, Founder of Amatus Skin, Ruby, Lucy and Nicky Brownless, Co-Founders of BLESS and Anna Weatherlake and Kate MacDonald, Co-Founders of Vahy.

We discuss their journeys as female founders, get their take on #inspireinclusion and (of course) find out which scent they find most empowering to wear.

What are some key values you embody as a female founder?

Amy: I like to work with an honest philosophy and to lead with integrity. This has been a key value when building the Amatus brand and team. Courage and collaboration are also key values I emboy and has been a crucial element of being a founder. Building networks, establishing relationships with mentors, advisors, and other founders has taken a lot of courage and I’m incredibly grateful for the support. It’s helped me navigate entrepreneurship with advice, and different perspectives, as well as, feeling part of a wider community. 

Kate: In everything you do, your character is the sum of all the little decisions you make. So each little decision you make throughout your day, try to make sure you make the ones that are best for the environment, for your health and happiness, for the community and the people around you. We’re really conscious at Vahy to ensure each decision made supports our values – whether it is supporting other female based businesses, providing our community with transparency on what’s in our products and not including harmful chemicals in our products or even just designing new products in a sustainable way.

Anna: Balance: whether it is balancing competing passions, work/life and self care. Another key value is kindness, for me it is ensuring everything I consume and use is vegan and cruelty free. I care deeply for animals (and some humans) and have fostered 117 dogs over my time.

Steph: As a female founder in the health, wellness and coaching space, I deeply value acts of service, integrity, and the spirit of well-being. For me, it's essential to lead with a genuine commitment to serving others, maintaining unwavering integrity in all my interactions and decisions, and prioritizing the holistic well-being of individuals, both personally and professionally.

Ruby, Lucy, Nicky: Always go with your gut feeling and trust your intuition. Don’t wait for everything to be perfect, sometimes you just have to start and figure it out as you go along - we’ve found this is the best way to grow and learn.

Image left to right: Nicky, Ruby and Lucy of BLESS.

Why is being inclusive important to you and your brand?

Steph: Being inclusive is paramount to me and my brand because I believe that everyone deserves access to support, guidance and resources for their health and well-being journey. I strive to create a safe and supportive environment where individuals feel valued, respected and empowered.

Ruby, Lucy, Nicky: We want everyone to feel inclusive and represented, Bless is about empowerment with a focus on intention and self-love.

Kate and Anna: Being inclusive is not just important, it's foundational and a non-negotiable part of our business. Our scents are for everyone who cares about natural low-tox products, they’re not bound by gender or any other metric.

Amy: Inclusivity is at the core of my brand’s values and mission, as I strongly believe that every individual deserves to feel seen, heard and represented. International Women’s Day is a moment to shed light to gender equality, of which I’m particularly passionate about as a female leader. Every woman deserves the right to be empowered and to have a space where they feel valued and respected, regardless of their background, ethnicity, or beliefs. 

Image: Amy of Amatus Skin.

What do you believe is the main challenge women face in leadership?

Amy: One of the most common challenges that women in leadership face is gender bias and the obstacles that come with it. I believe that as a society we are much more aware of this nowadays, however, there’s still work to be done as women continue to encounter barriers and underlying challenges. Women have adapted to be incredibly resilient as we work harder to prove ourselves and our capabilities. We must keep breaking through those barriers to create a more equitable leadership environment. 

Ruby, Lucy, Nicky: We put ourselves under a lot of pressure to try to juggle many things and many roles, e.g. being a mum, juggling kids, partner etc. Our message is to tend to yourself and your needs first. Look after yourself because you can’t give from an empty cup.  

Steph: One of the primary challenges women encounter in leadership is the expectation (mainly on ourselves) to 'have it all.' This encompasses the struggle to fully back ourselves while navigating obstacles like the gender pay gap and balancing family responsibilities with work commitments. However, as entrepreneurs, women navigate a landscape where traditional ceilings no longer apply. This environment presents an exciting opportunity for us/women to redefine leadership paradigms and carve out paths (and earnings) that honor multifaceted skills and aspirations.

Kate: Equality. The statistics show females on average are able to raise less capital and take up fewer board seats in listed organisations. This isn’t due to lack of skill as females are graduating degrees in higher volumes and scores than men, it’s because of lack of opportunity and biases.

Anna: Mine also relates to equality. Some cultures and individuals don’t treat female founders the same way they treat male founders. We’ve been in meetings before where the line of questioning was constantly around whether our partners or fathers or any other males funded our business. When we said this wasn’t the case the business is self-funded and run, they simply couldn’t get past this point. We can’t imagine a male founder getting this line of questioning and it felt like such an outdated perspective. This is just one more direct example of the types of situations female founders are put in.

Image left to right: Kate, Anna of Vahy.

Who is a female that inspires you, and why? 

Amy: I have always been inspired by Natasha Oakley. She has an entrepreneurial appetite and is an Australian female founder of amazingly successful businesses. Natasha speaks about her passion and drive in business, and how this has shaped building her brand over time. She’s also able to keep the essence and DNA of the brand and herself uncompromised throughout the journey. She’s always empowering women, I’ve read many interviews where she talks about this, and fosters a women-led team. It’s inspiring to say the least! 

Kate: Ruth Bader Ginsberg. She fought for female equality her entire life and paved the way for generations that followed. I just love her famous quote ‘and when I’m sometimes asked when will there be enough [women on the Supreme Court]? And I say when there are nine, people are shocked. But there’s been nine men and nobody’s ever raised a question about that’. I think about this quote a lot and our unconscious biases.

Anna: Kate (joke!!). Jane Goodall.

Ruby, Lucy, Nicky: Our grandmother, Mazzie. She has a lot of wisdom and has walked the road before us so she always has great advice that's filled with love.  We get lots of inspiration from many different women, someone we are loving at the moment is Lacy from To Be Magnetic.

Steph: Jane Fonda has always inspired me for her unwavering dedication to fitness and wellness, integrity and the spirit of resilience. Brene Brown's ground-breaking ted talk and research on vulnerability in both life and leadership resonates deeply with me. Additionally, Elizabeth Gilbert's work served as early inspiration in my journey of truth, spirituality, self-discovery and self-worth.

What is one piece of advice you would give to your younger self? 

Amy: Believe in yourself! At a younger age, I would second guess everything, as I was scared of what other people may think. I’ve had to really overcome this in business and to not let fear rule my decisions. It’s easy to fall into the trap of worrying about whether or not I’m too young, or if I have enough experience as others. And yet, Amatus has proved to me that I’m fully capable. Learn to trust yourself and believe in what you have set out to do.

Ruby, Lucy, Nicky: Believe in yourself, have strong boundaries and trust the timing of your life. Just start and see where it takes you, the fun is in the journey, not necessarily the destination.  Always work on yourself because it's what's on the inside that counts and happiness is an inside job.

Kate: It will all be okay, don’t sweat the small stuff and things you can’t control as much. The most important things in your life are your family, friends, happiness, health and the environment. The rest will be.

Anna: Mine is like Kate’s – don’t major in the minors. And, always stand up for what you feel is right, what you're passionate about. Above all though, always be kind.

Steph: If I could offer one piece of advice to my younger self, it would be to recognize that we are capable of achieving far more than we often believe. Embrace your potential, trust your instincts, and never underestimate the power of your dreams and aspirations (and hard work).

Image: Steph Prem of Studio PP.

What scent type is most empowering for you to wear?

Ruby, Lucy, Nicky: We tend to wear perfumes that are soft and subtle. My personal fave (Ruby) is Ember Haze, I've loved this one from the beginning. The warm, smoky scent brings back so many memories of travel and happy times. I (Lucy) love to be by the ocean, spending most of my time in Sydney/Byron therefore love the scent of Isle of Blanc. And I (Nicky) love the sweet spices of Tarkine, reminding me of many European summers spent aboard.

Kate: For me it’s woods based fragrance, I love wearing scents that are typically associated with the masculine when I want to put the finishing touches to a power outfit. Tarkine for me is that got to, its got the smooth velvety finish but is also striking and conversation starting.

Anna: Bold and spicey scents like Midnight Ruze. Head turning, exotic and unique. It’s sure to leave an impression.

Steph: The most empowering scent for me to wear is anything woody. I love Desert Nomad by Vahy, as a personal scent and room spray. I also enjoy layering desert nomad with essential oils (woody oils) and Biblioteque by Byredo creating a sexy, empowering and grounding scent.

Amy: Definitely Citrus! This is my main squeeze when it comes to scent as I always feel energised and focused when wearing a fragrance that incorporates citrus notes. It’s light and refreshing, perfect for everyday wear and gives me a revitalising and mood-boosting effect, helping me tackle my days.

To find out more about International Women’s Day, and how you can #inspireinclusion, visit

Learn more about Amatus Skin here or on Instagram @amatus_skin

Learn more about BLESS here or on Instagram

Learn more about Steph Prem here or on Instagram @stephieprem