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australian small business champions

A pioneer of Australia's construction industry has taken the top gong at the 2023 Australian Women’s Small Business Champion Awards.

Mel Gholami, the founder and CEO of Planix Projects, was announced winner of the programme’s most highly-anticipated award – Australian Women’s Small Business Champion ICON – at the Awards’ glittering National Presentation Evening Gala Event held at the newly-built Western Sydney Conference Centre.

The epitome of a groundbreaking go-getter, Mel is a pioneer of Australia’s construction industry as one of the first (and still few) female founders of a project management small business.

An absolute trailblazer whose entrepreneurial journey started at age 13 when she taught English to adults of non-English speaking backgrounds, Mel’s tenacity and strong work ethic since the very start of her career has earned her an enviable reputation as a current powerhouse of project management.

Being a woman in a highly male-dominated industry who is relatively young and from a non-Australian background, Mel proudly labels herself as a “trifecta of anomalies” within her field, and this practicing icon shows no signs of slowing down.

“This recognition is truly an incredible honour. I believe that the work that I do in the construction industry is helping to set the pace for young women looking to enter a male-dominated industry,” Mel said.

“Programmes such as the Australian Women’s Small Business Champion Awards help to shatter glass ceilings and pave the way for future generations of women in business. They offer a source of inspiration and empowerment and demonstrate that success knows no boundaries.

“It’s so important for females in construction to be encouraged and this accolade will hopefully help to achieve that, while highlighting the successes women can achieve simultaneously whilst having a family.”

Leading Sydney-based Planix Projects since she founded the firm in 2009, Mel has steered Planix to notable success; with a multi-award-winning service model spurring a repeat business rate of 80 per cent, a remarkably high staff retention rate of 90 per cent, and a consistently high-quality delivery of professional services to Planix’s clients – even in the face of exceptionally challenging conditions such as the GFC and Covid-19 pandemic.

 Mel Gholami
Mel Gholami

In addition to her many mentorship roles – including working with students at Western Sydney University, mentoring young women for the National Association of Women in Construction, and her involvement with the Girls in Property Council of Australia – Mel’s significant contribution to charitable initiatives heavily impacted on the judging panel’s ultimate decision to crown Mel the prestigious title of 2023 ICON.

Under Mel’s leadership style that sincerely sets sustainability and social consciousness at the core of her business’s values, Planix is rightly renowned for its very active contribution to charitable causes and not-for-profit initiatives that give back to the communities in which Planix operates.

From its partnership with not-for-profit organisation Housing Trust, facilitating a mixed tenure social, affordable and market housing project in Wollongong, to creating the ‘Rebuild 2020’ charity which saw Planix deliver supplies to aged care, mental health and residential facilities impacted by Covid-19, Planix is also committed to a variety of volunteering programmes, sponsorships and donations to numerous worthwhile causes on an annual basis.

“I am so proud that my long-held dream of running a business that gives back to the community has been realised. I take great pride in the fact that both Planix and I, as an individual, are making positive impacts on our community; and for me, this sense of fulfillment even exceeds the pride I feel in terms of Planix’s business success,” Mel said.

According to Australian Government data: of the 3.3 million small businesses operating in Australia today, more than one-third are run by women and by all accounts, that figure is soaring. Data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics during 2022 shows a 46 per cent jump in women business owners during the past two decades.

“It’s high-time we better recognise the massive economic, social and cultural contributions of Australia’s female small business trailblazers,” said Steve Loe, Awards Founder and Managing Director of Precedent Productions, which coordinates the Australian Women’s Small Business Champion Awards.

“Just as the Matildas shone during this year’s World Cup, attracting the nation’s admiration and highlighting the positive contribution of women in sport, this comprehensive awards programme celebrates the outstanding calibre of our country’s female entrepreneurs and those who are inspiring future generations of leaders,’ Mr Loe said.

Entries for the 2024 programme will open before mid-next year.

For more information – including a full list of 2023 winners – visit:



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