Written by Leanne Esposito & Lizzie Macaulay
When it comes to the entrepreneurial spirit, you couldn’t get two people in the Wide Bay who embody it more than twin sisters, Kodie Axelsen and Shae Kennewell.
These passionate, dedicated philanthropists and savvy businesswomen prove that you don’t have to work in the big smoke to make an impact.
The naturally gifted sisters may be “nearly-identical”, but their paths in business couldn’t be more unique.
Both intelligent, insightful from-the-heart operators, Kodie and Shae have built businesses that would make most tremble at the knees.
Kodie, a finance broker and property developer, and Shae, a social media and digital marketing maven, started their businesses from scratch just a few years ago respectively, with little outside input.
Kodie is the literal antithesis of what you’d picture someone from the finance world to be: creative, introverted and passionate with a fairly large soft spot for playing the drums.
Shae is more widely known as the extrovert with an equally creative bent.
Both have exquisite minds for business, taking calculated risks and using their incredible powers for good.
As self-confessed ‘high-school failures’ (naturally intelligent, but not necessarily dedicated to over-achievement), Shae and Kodie prove that marks are not everything.
The sisters were determined to help others and create lives that allowed them not only freedom and flexibility, but to escape the cycle of financial stress they experienced growing up in a divided household.
“That was always a motivator for me,” Kodie says. “We just come from an average working-class family, but obviously when your parents split up, you go from a two income household to then a one income household on each side, and things get a lot tougher.”
“I think that was just always a motivator for both Shae and I is to be able to have options from a money perspective. Not to work incredibly hard like our parents did and just live week-to-week.”
This experience extends to Kodie’s work as a financial broker, as she regularly redirects deserving, hard-working locals from the path of financial disaster to financial redemption.
It’s hardly a surprise that someone who used to read investing books as a teenager ended up delivering sound financial advice to others.
As for Shae, the path to her current commercial success was not always clear-cut.
Her empire began as a small, high-end online fashion store that was developed while she was on maternity leave with bub #2.
“I was told I’d been made redundant two weeks after returning back from maternity leave,” Shae recalls.
“I hired a guy to build my website. I designed it myself. The fashion I sold was high end. I bought specialised gift boxes and would personally send those. It was all about the customer experience.”
Of course, as a small business owner, the path ahead is never direct. It meanders with the occasional pothole for good measure.
“I had to pivot. When you are buying products wholesale the profit margin is extremely low. They were high end designer clothes which were much harder to sell. It was a huge financial outlay.” Shae said.
Many would see this as a complete roadblock. Shae found the opportunity in a difficult situation.
Enter: Miss Empire, the digital marketing agency every modern business truly needs.
Shae continues to grow her business brand through intuition, tenacity and organically made connections.
“Instead of doing courses I would talk to people who are CEO’s of companies. I figured there was no point in talking to the messenger,” Shae concluded.
Absorbing insights from her equally experienced peers, like American digital marketer Ryan Deiss or local success story, Josh Rimmington, of JRMG.
“I went to the people who knew what they were doing. How to grow and how to invest. I thought I would put my money where my mouth is,” she said.
“I remember thinking, ‘I can’t wait to do $10,000 a month’. In my second year, my business grew 690%. Last year I started my own online store and made six figures in my first month.”
It’s fair to say, impressive doesn’t quite cover the tenacity, dedication and trajectory of the local sisters.
Best of all, however, is the good they’re able to do with the proceeds of their hard work.
“All these things have happened to lead me to be able to do more. I want to build a bridging accommodation-type shelter for women experiencing domestic violence,” explains Kodie.
“So that to me is something that I really want to put some time and energy into and get funded. I’ll get a bit of a plan together and get that rolling.”
“We can keep doing all this, but you need to give back. It’s not fulfilling. I have to be fulfilled in whatever it is that I’m doing. I love helping people build their own wealth as well, but for me personally that’s just not enough.”
With clients based in countries where poverty and inequality are the norm, Shae believes that in assisting her clients there is an even greater opportunity for change.
“It’s very important to me to work with purpose driven clients who give back. A lot of my clients are connected to charities, or they have a bigger end-goal. It’s not just about them. Not just about making money. I had a client who was from Asia where women weren’t provided with opportunities or education. Her goal was to give back to her community and give women there the chance for an education and a bright future,” Shae said.
It is often said that a sincere purpose in life is to start with nothing, to build an empire and to leave a legacy. That way you will know the sweat of hard work and the plight of the common person which seems to be real touchstone for both women.
The source of their commercial and altruistic superpowers most definitely comes from their unique connection.
“We’re always together,” says Kodie. “We have very different businesses.”
“I’m very good with money, Shae’s not so much,” she smiles. “She’s good with all the marketing stuff and I’m useless at that.”
“So, we sort of complement each other in that regard. I suppose as twins we’ve grown up having a significant other that knows you inside-out, always there for you as a support system.”
“So, for people that don’t have that, I don’t know what it’s like but I just know how much that boosts our confidence up,” she continues.
“We know what each other are capable of. And, I don’t know, we’re not scared of failure.”
Kodie concludes on a philosophical note, “You only live once so you might as well give it a red hot go. And if the shit hits the fan, we know that we’re there for each other.”
Perhaps that’s the secret sauce to their success – knowing that no matter what, someone truly has your back, will cheer for you and celebrate, push and commiserate with you… no matter what… That’s a true privilege, and a delight to bear witness to.