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When bona fide career and city woman, Elizabeth Lewis-Gray, found herself living in small town Avoca with baby on hip, it was soon clear she would need a way to combine the joy of motherhood with her active business mind. While others may have turned their hand to an online business, baking for a local cafe, or the occasional freelance consulting gig, Elizabeth struck upon another idea altogether: gold.

Using one of her husband Sandy’s inventions, and her background as a research analyst for the mining industry, Elizabeth co-founded Gekko Systems in 1995. The business, which today boasts 120 employees and international offices, would specialise in developing innovative equipment and systems to extract gold from ore.

In those early days, Elizabeth explains, when the industry predominantly comprised white male engineers, it was a tough market to break into. But Elizabeth’s persistence paid off – and the industry sat up and took notice – when Gekko made a significant difference to a Malaysian mine’s bottom line.

With the mine’s gold recovery dropping from 85 per cent to just 10, due to a change in the ore body, Gekko designed a new plant ‘circuit’ – the process rock goes through to extract metal – and added equipment that pushed the recovery level back up to 75 per cent. Put simply, Gekko’s actions saved the mine.

Not surprisingly, interest grew rapidly in Elizabeth and her company, and what they both had to offer the global mining industry. Today, the multi-award winning company is headquartered in Ballarat and is a world leader in gold processing technology. Elizabeth’s goal? To be the best not the biggest.

You can eliminate a lot of time wasting ‘tyre kickers’ if you qualify your target customer as being the people who need a solution most and know it.

Who’s your business inspiration?

RedBalloon

I am inspired by an eclectic mix: Ann Sherry, the former Bank of Melbourne CEO; Hillary Clinton, a fascinating woman; and Gail Kelly, are all quite remarkable. Then there is Cynthia Carroll, CEO of the Anglo American mining company; Germaine Greer; and all of the others who have pushed the boundaries.

What is your marketing strategy?

I do a lot of competitive and market analysis. And two out of every three or four sales have come through networking at conferences. Our strategy revolves around educating the market on the benefits of working with Gekko and selling the Gekko brand as trustworthy and successful. There was a study on how to introduce new technology into the industry. Number one; does the customer have a problem to rectify? Number two; do they acknowledge that they have a problem… and therefore are looking for a solution? Three; will they get a high economic return? You can eliminate a lot of time wasting ‘tyre kickers’ if you qualify your target customer as being the people who need a solution most and know it.Elizabeth Lewis-Gray - Mining MachineryAre you a mentor?

Yes, I mentor young people as much as I can. There are quite a few young leaders in our workplace so I help them with their behavioural style and how they manage people. At Gekko, everyone has a DISC behavioural profile, which brings self-awareness and helps them understand why people behave the way they do and how they might respond.

I love my business because…

It is rewarding working with passionate people and making a difference.

We have an inbuilt ‘bullshit meter’ here in Australia. People will pick up in two seconds if you are trying to create something that is not meaningful or worthwhile.

What is the best business advice you can share with our readers?

Be self aware and be genuine. We have an inbuilt ‘bullshit meter’ here in Australia. People will pick up in two seconds if you are trying to create something that is not meaningful or worthwhile. They will not follow you if you are not sincere in making a difference.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I would recommend more women look at a career in the mining industry. We need more women and they will make a positive difference.

Visit Gekko Systems

First published July 2012.

Jennifer Kiely

Jennifer Kiely is Editor and Co-Founder of Samara Magazine. A professional writer, editor and proofreader since 2000, Jen's first paid writing job was at age 19 for fashion retailer, Jeans West.

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