IWD: “I was told my business idea would never work, but it did!”

- March 8, 2023 3 MIN READ


Ten years ago, when I decided to start my pet pellet business, many people – including many men in and around the industry – advised me against it, warning me of the challenges I could face as a female in a male-dominated waste business industry that was traditionally managed by men, writes Carolyn Probert, founder of Proviro Group.

Despite the warnings, I had a fundamental understanding of the waste management landscape through my family business, and I believed I had the skills, vision and determination.

Prior to starting the business, I had gained experience in various fields, including real estate, project management and fundraising, but I’d held positions in sales and marketing most extensively, including at one time with a major fashion label. I had an understanding of many aspects of business, and I had the confidence and desire to create something I cared about – a product that would align with my values and have a positive impact on the environment.

Equipped with my passion for animals and our pets, an understanding of customer needs and desires to be kind to the planet and our furry friends, I believed I was able to turn my idea into a product opportunity that people would love.

Challenges for female founders

As a female entrepreneur in a mostly male-dominated industry, I did face several challenges, including the social stigma of being a female stepping into the waste sector. While I received incredible support, advice and mentoring from some male peers and personal connections, others presented me with many roadblocks, so I learnt to be assertive and competitive.

Access to finance and startup capital was a significant hurdle, as venture capital funding for women is statistically lower than men. However, every time a door closed it only made me more determined to continue the journey, and prove people wrong.

One of the more significant setbacks I grappled with was when my initial product was not accepted in the marketplace. However, this forced me to pivot, investigate my options and other solutions, to create new products.

The encouragement of my family and friends, who supported my vision, and cut through the negative feedback and appraisals, was critical while pushing through the hurdles.

Carolyn Probert, Founder and Director of Proviro Group

Carolyn Probert, Founder and Director of Proviro Group.

Adapting to challenges with innovation

I knew managing the entire process, from manufacturing and processing to distribution, would be challenging, but was something I wanted to do, despite being advised by many to focus on only one aspect of the process. I wanted to have control of every aspect of my business; I believed I could do this, but realised I was wrong.

We then made the decision to become solely distributors and this was the biggest game-changer within the business. With the help of some industry peers and valuable mentors, we then adapted the business by transitioning from manufacturing and supplying all customers to supplying wholesalers only.

Innovation has been critical to the success of my small company in the environmentally-friendly space for pets and animals. The focus of the business means I’m involved in an industry that supports my values and ethics. As we continue to grow and develop, we can stay ahead of the curve, and introduce new complementary products that align with that ethos. The space is evolving, and I’m committed to producing and sharing quality products to stay competitive and remain sustainable.

Customer service is also a key element of our success. I’ve built reliable, trustworthy and ethical connections through our social platforms, and our business relationships. Through prioritising customer satisfaction – we really do want our clients and customers to love our products as much as we do – we’ve created a loyal network of customers and advocates.

Supporting women in business

Of course, I couldn’t have done it all alone. Building a talented and trustworthy team has been one of my biggest achievements, and I know that the business would be in great hands if I had to step away. Whether that has anything to do with the fact that my 2IC is female, as is 60 per cent of our team, I’ll let you make that call.

Being a successful business owner and mother of teenage twins hasn’t been easy, but it’s incredibly rewarding. I believe women have an innate ability to problem-solve, find balance and prioritise effectively – skills that perhaps are a little underestimated by our male counterparts. My determination and resilience have enabled me to overcome negative push back and succeed.

With the right mindset and support, women can succeed in any industry. I’m proud to be part of that movement. I hope my story inspires other women to conquer their fear of failure, to reframe it and use it as a stepping stone to success.

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