Former Sportsgirl CEO, Founder of ‘Mentor Me Women’ and Author of Leader by Design

  • Published on:
    April 12, 2021
  • Reading time by:
    5 minutes
Former Sportsgirl CEO, Founder of ‘Mentor Me Women’ and Author of Leader by Design

Geelong born and raised, Colleen was brought up in a hard-working business-focused family where there was always a job to do. After working in family businesses from as young as she could remember, Colleen Callander had her first taste of retail at the age of 16. Unbeknown to her at the time, this summer job would be the start of a retail career spanning over 30 years with 13 of those years at the helm of two of Australia’s iconic fashion brands. 

Colleen is an award-winning CEO with a proven track record in building brands, creating winning cultures and building environments that allow people to be inspired and empowered. 

Colleen is an inspiration to women of all generations. She wants to encourage women to have the confidence to believe in themselves and their abilities, share their voices and find their inner superpowers. Colleen aims to inspire and empower women to lead in their own lives – whether that be in boardrooms, organisations, communities or even the home. She wants women to believe it is possible to become the leader they always wanted to be, in business and in life. Together, women can create a new era of leadership – one that is centred in kindness, humility and self-awareness, and that puts people at its heart. 

Where it all began. 

As a teenager my career aspirations changed regularly. One day I would share with my parents I wanted to be a vet, the next week a hairdresser, the next a lawyer. As it turned out, none of these were going to be my career path. At the end of my year 11 schooling year, I started a casual summer job at the local Just Jeans store, and this was the start of my fashion retail career that would span over 30 years.

So, there I was at the age of 16 with no formal schooling qualification, I entered the world of fashion, starting as a sales assistant and was very quickly promoted to store manager. I was passionate and worked hard – and it paid off. At the age of 20, I was promoted to one of the youngest area managers in the group, overseeing 16 stores, and at the age of 24 I was appointed to the role of Victorian sales manager and this was where I spent the next four years of my career.

I had a passion for fashion, business and people and this was my winning combination. My nurturing approach went hand-in-hand with my love for people and ability to create winning teams. It was this people-first approach that allowed me to successfully foster and grow unique cultures throughout my entire career. 

I had always dreamt of working at Sportsgirl, a brand I loved and had grown up with, so in June 1999 when I was approached to join the brand it was an opportunity I couldn’t refuse. This is where I would then spend the next 20 years of my retail career.  

”However, the path wasn’t always smooth sailing”

Juggling three small children and a high-profile career, I suffered from burnout in 2007. I decided to throw it away – the job, the career, the leadership – before chance stepped in, and I continued on my road towards retail leadership.  After implementing self-care into my life and putting myself first, I discovered the power of simple yet effective ways to stay on top of my health and my life – and I want to encourage all women to take care of themselves. 


After 30 years in retail and 13 years at the helm of two iconic fashion brands, it was time for me to start writing the next chapter of my life. 

I was initially excited to have a break and pursue some passion projects: writing my book, mentoring and coaching, travelling and doing some charity work. Funnily enough, the break didn’t actually happen – I’ve been so busy! But I’ve been busy in a great way: so many new doors have opened, and I have so many exciting projects on the go. 

As a CEO, my mission was to engage, empower and inspire people to be the best version of themselves, and now in this next chapter of my life, my mission is the same! Whether that be through my Mentor Me Women 4 week program, through my business and leadership coaching, speaking events, interviews, podcasts or through sharing my story in this wonderful online magazine ‘Women on Top’. I want women to believe in themselves and create not only the life they want to live in, but the one they deserve. 

‘Leader By Design’ – Be empowered to lead with confidence in business and in life 

My book ‘Leader By Design’ is perfect for women of all generations. I share my story from finishing school at the age of 16 to an award-winning CEO, and everything in between including how my upbringing influenced the women and leader I am today, hitting burnout, the power of kindness, how to find your superpower and how we all have the ability to become a ‘leader by design’.  

I want to empower women to step up, have a voice, change the rules, live with confidence and embrace their superpower. You might not have discovered yours yet, but I can promise you, you do have one! 

”I also want to inspire leaders and challenge organisations to embrace a new era of leadership…one that leads with kindness, authenticity, trust and self-awareness and embraces more women at the helm.”

LEADER BY DESIGN is part guide/pocket mentor, full of actionable tips, advice and insights – whether you’re climbing the corporate ladder, a student, an entrepreneur, a volunteer, a professional athlete, working in the family business or holding down a casual job while raising a family. Regardless of your current role and situation it will empower and inspire you to step into your confidence, lead with purpose and support you to reach your full potential, and position you for success no matter where you are in your leadership or life journey.  

You too can become a ‘leader by design’ as I give you permission to become the leader you always wanted to be, and the kind of leader you always wanted to follow.   

“The greatest lesson I have learnt is that a title doesn’t automatically make you a leader”

Leadership is a topic I am extremely passionate about, not only my leadership but also the leadership those around me, especially women. 

We have all looked up to and admired people with titles, levels of authority and positions of power throughout our lives labelling them leaders. What I learnt over time is that it is not someone’s title, level of authority or position of power that automatically qualifies them for leadership.  There are people at the highest level of organisations, communities and politics with titles and rank, and people do what they say because they have power and authority… but we would not choose to follow them.   

I didn’t realise at the time, but now looking back over the years, I was shaping myself into the leader I wanted to be by observation. I listened, I learned, I made mental notes and I asked questions. 

I was intrigued with the way that people behaved, both good and bad, and I always wondered why this was? What made people treat others with kindness and respect? What made people step all over others for their own gain? What made some people create environments of fear, and others, environments of collaboration? Why were some people caring and others cruel; why were some generous and others greedy?

I was constantly taking mental notes of the leader I did and didn’t want to become. 

I decided to become a LEADER BY DESIGN – the title of my book. I decided to become the leader I wanted to have, the leader I wanted to be, and a leader people would choose to follow.  

As leaders, every decision, every interaction, every reaction and every action, is an expression of our values, the leader we want to be and influences future leaders. 

‘Leader By Design’ is available now on Or in all good book stores and online bookstores 1st May. 

Contact Colleen for more information, booking enquiries and bulk book sales enquiries. 



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