When Valerie Khoo agreed to an interview with WOMAN.com.au, I almost tripped in my Mano-look-alike stilettos (I bought them on eBay) when she replied with an affirmative to my
pleading tweet (because Twitter is the new phone).
Valerie Khoo is one of those women who are living their entrepreneurial dreams. With a love for writing, entrepreneurship, social media and tech, she created the highly successful Australian Writers’ Centre in 2005 and recently co-founded web startup SocialMediaCallout.com. In October 2012, her book “Power Stories” debuted as the number 2 business book in Australia. Quite an amazing feat considering it was her first.
But it doesn’t stop there. Valerie Khoo is also a prolific blogger and journalist at large. She is the woman behind the Enterprise Blog and is an experienced journalist and business commentator with her Enterprise byline appearing in The Age, Sydney Morning Herald, Brisbane Times, Canberra Times, Business Day and WA Today.
She may not admit it but it seems to me Valerie Khoo is on a path to world domination. And she does it by helping people who are committed to making their dreams a reality. She knows how tough it can be to start out on any venture, career or otherwise, and how a little help can make a big difference to one’s journey. To that end, the Australian Writers’ Centre has helped shape the careers of aspiring writers and journalists, helping them get published, score book deals or change careers. Under her leadership, it has welcomed over 13000 students since 2005, won the NSW Telstra Business Awards in 2010 and named by Dell as one of the “10 most innovative businesses in Australia.”
I have a bit of a girl crush on this fabulous woman who have been making the coolest of things happen for herself and for those around her. Valerie Khoo is not only smart, talented and business-savvy, she is also a very generous woman.
What was your first job?
My first job was at my local newsagency. I started working on the checkout there when I was 14 and stayed in that part-time job until I finished high school. It was the perfect job for me because I loved reading all the magazines and newspapers. It was fascinating to see the magazines people would spend their money on!
Why did you make the switch from a stint in PwC to journalism?
I had always loved writing but, when I was growing up, I never really considered it a real job. It just wasn’t in my frame of reference to consider it as a career. I grew up in a household where you just became a doctor, lawyer or accountant.
It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realised I wasn’t passionate about accounting, and that I should pursue a career that I could get excited about. I had always loved writing and had always been obsessed with magazines. So I finally got the guts to make the switch – and it was the best decision I could have made. Suddenly I was being paid to do what I loved. It’s a great feeling.
You started the Australian Writers’ Centre in 2005 which has now grown into a buzzing community of writers, journalists and authors. Tell us some of the success stories and standout students whose words have found a home among publishers and bookstores.
Wow, how long have you got? One of the most gratifying things about my work is hearing from students who have changed careers, signed book deals, been able to increase their income by freelancing and so on.
I receive emails from students every single day about this and I can’t tell you how wonderful that is. It’s humbling to be able to play a small part in making a difference in someone’s life.
A recent standout is our former student Jessica Shirvington who hadn’t been published before she started learning with us. Jess did about three courses at the Australian Writers’ Centre. Before long, she got a four-book deal with a major publisher and recently Steven Spielberg’s production company in the US announced it was turning her series of books into a television series!
But Jess is just one of our “success stories”. I could talk forever about how wonderful are students are. I’m really blessed that I now also call many of them my friends.