Meet the Winner of our Business Acceleration Grant: Maria Baker

Isabelle Comber5 mins
Company news
Meet the Winner of our Business Acceleration Grant: Maria Baker

We know that Australian business owners have big ambitions. As it is in sport, so it is in business – realising your goals takes speed, performance and grit. Plus a team that’s lifting you up and cheering you on. 

That’s where we come in. At Airwallex, we love to help homegrown heroes strive to be the best. Whether that’s with our high-impact product suite that transforms business finance operations, or by boosting business stars that are on the rise.

Galvanised by our partnership with McLaren Racing, we decided to establish the Business Acceleration Grant; a $10k cash prize to put the growth of an Australian business in the fast lane. 

Taking home our first Business Acceleration Grant was Maria Baker of size and shape inclusive sportswear label Nobody’s Princess. We spoke with Maria about the meteoric rise of Nobody’s Princess, her plans for the Business Acceleration Grant and the advice she has for other up-and-coming businesses looking to hit the gas on their growth. 

AWX: Congratulations on winning our first Business Acceleration Grant! Our judging panel loved the story of Nobody’s Princess, could you tell us about the business’s growth journey so far?

MB: About ten years ago I started snowboarding, and one of my biggest frustrations – apart from how long it took to actually learn – was the clothing. Because I'm a bit taller and a bit bigger, I just couldn't find stuff that fit me well. 

The defining moment was when I bought myself a new pair of pants a year into committing to the sport, and I ripped them open on the very first day. I spoke to people about it on the chair lift and they shared similar stories. I realised it wasn’t just me - a lot of people were having this problem.

The idea was in the back of my head for a couple of years. Then during Covid, I was working within the travel industry and my job got stood down, so I decided to give it a shot. I reached out to a designer and did some crowdfunding on IndieGogo, which raised about ten grand to start prototyping. After testing the product on the mountain, I put the idea on Kickstarter with a goal of about $100k. Amazingly enough, women from around the world put their faith in it and funded it.

When I finally did have the product ready to release in 2022, a few retailers had been watching my interactions with the communities on Facebook and Reddit. I was really fortunate that from developing such a needed product, I had people wanting to stock it straight away. So It went from having one product in 2022 to being stocked in over 30 stores across Australia and New Zealand and in 2023.

[Maria with Airwallex CEO Jack Zhang, McLaren Driver Oscar Piastri and Airwallex ANZ Managing Director Luke Latham. Photo by Gazi Event Photography]

AWX: So the catalyst for entering our Accelerate Your Ambition competition was to expand Nobody’s Princess to the U.S. and Canada. What challenges have you encountered with global expansion and what are your international ambitions? 

MB: The U.S. and Canada are some of the biggest snow markets in the world, so it made really logical sense. When I did the Kickstarter, half of the people on there were already from that side of the world. So naturally, word started to spread there.

But the U.S. is a whole different beast in terms of the way that people do business and what their expectations are. The hurdles come around shipping, logistics and operations – and having the same quality checks that they do over there.

To get established there you need trademarks and to register business names and things like that. The idea of switching lanes triggered something in my head; I really needed to set those things up and this grant could enable that - like you say, it’s an acceleration grant! 

The grant would help me take that next step without hindering my growth in ANZ, as my business is still very much in the reinvestment part of its growth. And funnily enough, having the Airwallex tools will also be very useful for getting started in the U.S. and Canada. It means I can do it faster and, excuse the corny pun, accelerate the entry there.

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AWX: What would your advice be for someone who wanted to enter to win our next Business Acceleration Grant?

MB: Think about what would truly accelerate your business. Ask, “What's blocking me now?” For me, the grant is going to be used for setting up overseas. If I wasn't able to do it now, I realistically wouldn't be able to do it for another 12 months. So if I can bring that forward, I can bring everything forward.

I also thought about what would make me stand out, and what would make my entry unique. I wouldn’t just say you need marketing dollars or to fund research and development; what is it specifically that you need to bring forward your business timeline?

Being true to your business will also help. Your business has a niche, so your entry should have that niche point to it, too.

AWX: At Airwallex, we’re so proud to partner with McLaren Racing because we share the common values of speed and performance. How do these values resonate with you as a founder, and why is it always important as a business owner to strive for better?

MB: I think there's definitely always been a bit of a thing around being slow and steady and winning the race that way. In that case, at least you'll have a solid foundation underneath you and may not necessarily fall as far. But, I think there's a lot to be said about missing out on an opportunity if you don't act quickly, aren't responsive and aren't just continually pushing. 

When I got the offer from those first few retailers, I had people saying “you're not set up for it, you're not ready for it…” I'm like, well, if I don't do it now, they're gonna move on and forget about me and choose the next person. 

So there's always a balance; being reactive and having your foot down is definitely going to give you a bigger return than being slow and steady for a lot of things in business life. Even though you will eventually get there, your journey might be twice as long with half the reward.

I spend my day throwing myself down the mountain. Going fast is the best fun, on the slopes and in business.

Accelerate your ambition with our suite of growth-boosting tools

Join emerging and established businesses around Australia who are growing rapidly with Airwallex. Our suite of financial operations can help you make a splash in new markets, streamline your internal processes and create epic customer experiences. 

It all starts with our free business account. Sign up for yours today

Disclaimer: This information doesn’t take into account your objectives, financial situation, or needs. If you are a customer of Airwallex Pty Ltd (AFSL No. 487221) it is important for you to read the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) for the Direct Services, which is available here.

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Isabelle Comber
Business Finance Writer

Izzy is a business finance writer for Airwallex. She specialises in thought leadership that empowers businesses to grow without boundaries.

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