Type to search

Business Development Learning Retail Leaders Topics

We caught up with one of retail’s most inspiring and successful role model – Sportsgirl’s CEO – Colleen Callander

4 min read

We are passionate about supporting retailers at all and every level of their career, which is why we get so excited to meet people who also believe the same!  

We got the chance to engage with the powerhouse that is Colleen CallandarSportsgirl’s CEO, influencer, passionate about women’s leadership and an advocate for supporting young retailers. 

Here’s what she had to say: 


Hi Colleen, thanks for joining us! Let’s start with a bit about how you began your career. What got you into retail?  

Like many teenagers, my career aspirations changed regularly; in fact, my parents could never keep up. But one piece of advice they gave me that has always stuck in my mind was; 

love what you do, be passionate and work hard”.  

At the end of year 11 I took a summer job at my local Just Jeans store and little did I know my career had just begun.   

I realized very quickly that I absolutely loved customers, I loved fashion and I loved business….so retail was the perfect fit for me. 

The summer break came to an end and I shared the news with my parents that I was leaving school, I wasn’t going to finish my final year of HSC and that I had decided to work in retail. I could tell by the look on their faces that this was not what they had in mind for my future, but in there usual supportive style the reiterated 

“love what you do, be passionate and work hard”. 

So at the age of 17 I started my retail career and I loved it. What I loved the most was the connection with people and very quickly I moved through the management ranks from assistant manager to store manager and at the age of 20 I was promoted to the role Area manager overseeing 16 stores. 

At the age of 24 I was appointed as one of the youngest ever Victorian State sales managers and this was where I spent my next 4 years of retail career.   

Then in 1999 I was approached to join the Sportsgirl brand and it was hard to say no. Sportsgirl was such an iconic and loved brand, one that I grew up with and as a young girl I had always dreamt of working at Sportsgirl.  

As I fast forward to 2019, I will celebrate 20 years with the Sussan Group this year.  

12 years of these years as CEO – 6 years at Sussan and 6 years Sportsgirl and 

I still get up every day and love what I do. 

I am a strong believer that your environment plays a very big part of who you become. From a very young age I was surrounded by business talk at the dinner table. My parents had many businesses in Geelong ranging from restaurants, to hotels to property development. I was always very inquisitive, listening intently and asking questions. I believe my childhood helped shape me into be the businesswomen that I am today.  


And, what have you found to be the most memorable moments in your career? 


I remember back in 2007 when Naomi Migrom, owner of the Sussan group, asked me to step into the role as CEO of the Sussan business, and I really didn’t think I was ready to take such a big next step.  

I remember her saying to me “I believe in you”. Those words made me believe in myself. 

That moment has stuck with me throughout my career, the power of belief.   

Believing in yourself and believing in those around you is very powerful and encourages and allows people to often do things that they may not have thought possible. 


If you could give your younger self advice about leading in the industry, what would you say? What are your top tips?

  • Be confident in yourself and your ability
  • Stay true to your values 
  • Stand up for what you believe in
  • Learn from those around you but don’t compare yourself to anyone else
  • There is only ever going to be one of you so write your story the way you want to write it 


Can you describe your day-to-day work life? 


The thing I love about my job is that it is so diverse. As CEO I have a touch point to every part of the business.  

One day I can be signing off product ranges with the buying teams, the next working with the team on store design and the next day focusing on growth strategies.  

I take my role as brand protector of one of Australia’s most iconic fashion brands as a privilege and so the execution of everything we do from stores, to campaign imagery to the culture I create inside our business is very important to me.  

Staying true to our brand DNA and values overarching all our decision-making. My role is to ensure that we have a profitable and sustainable business that continues to grow for the future of our people. 


What is the most valuable aspect of being a leader in Retail? 


I am often asked about leadership and what leadership means to me. I start by sharing what leadership is not. Leadership is not a about a salary, a title, a position or the size of your office.  

 Leadership is about one life impacting others in a positive way. 

 My leadership style is about encouraging, empowering and inspiring people to do and be their best. It is about honesty and transparency, challenging them to take risks and to step outside their comfort zone.  

I always encourage us to laugh together, celebrate success and learn together from our failures. I believe great leaders surround themselves with great people that share the same values. 

 I get to connect and influence people careers and lives on a daily basis whether that is directly or through the Sportsgirl brand.  

 I am particularly passionate about empowering young women in leadership and inspiring and supporting the next generation of leaders. 


I feel tremendously proud and honored to lead a company which empowers women. 


How do you share your passion for retailHow do you inspire the younger generation to develop their careers in retail? 


I am so honored to lead an Iconic fashion brand such as Sportsgirl that is trusted and has a special place in the hearts of so many.  

For 70 years Sportsgirl has embraced Australian lifestyle and culture and connected with Australian girls as she transitions from girlhood to womanhood and understand the issues that are central to young women.  

 My role is to not only inspire the younger generation to develop their careers in retail but to empower and encourage them to be anything they want to be.  

One of our most successful Sportsgirl campaigns has been our “Be That Girl” campaign that launched In August 2018.  

 “Be That Girl” all about empowering and inspiring the next generation. 

It’s about encouraging all girls to feel confident, capable and strong in their own identities no matter what they are trying to achieve. It gives girls a platform to tell their stories in the hope that it inspires every Australian girls to be whoever they want to be. 

 Empowerment and self-belief start internally, and these values are ones we embrace within our teams and customers in everything that we do. 


You Might also Like