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Monique Holmes-Richardson

CEO/Director of M&R Distributors

When it comes to defining the word determined, Monique Holmes-Richardson should be pictured next to it. Her story is a true Australian success story. She has faced her share of difficulties and risen to each as a challenge while maintaining her dignity, morals, and loyal values.

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 Monique is the owner and Director of M & R Distributors, an Australian-owned company with more than 30 years in the business of oil distribution. Monique has been in the industry for over 30 years taking over the family business from her father after he passed away when she was just out of high school. Monique intended on just ‘helping out’ till her mother decided what to do with the business. Some 33 years later she has faced challenge after challenge in a male-dominated segment that, at times, just tried to pull her down.


Monique discovered a love of cars as a child when her father owned the BP Service station in Portarlington. He also had a few Aston Martins and loved classic cars. Throughout her many career years, including branching out on her own and forming M & R Distributors, she has managed to raise three children into successful young adults and help others by heading up and participating in multiple charities, including the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

WinA caught up with her at work, a warehouse and shopfront in North Geelong that she says has a constant flow of clients coming and going, to find out just how she has done it.

Taking on an oil distribution business at age 18 alone must have been hard, but how were you received as a female?


Well, the help was non-existent. The mentoring was non-existent. Some of the things being said to me when I was achieving were things like ‘you must sleep with them, because that's the only reason why they're buying off you.’ And I would respond with things like, ‘I'm only 18, seriously I don't even know what you're talking about’. And ‘oh my God, he’s a 50-year-old mechanic, I don't think so’. So I've heard everything and I've seen everything. But yes, it was extremely toxic back then.


What is your best advice for women working in any male-dominated industry?


Don't give up, because someone trying to push you down is a sign of weakness on their part. It's not yours. It takes you a lot to admit that to yourself and to grow and to accept. And I still don't fully accept it at 50. But still, just persevere. I'm a person who when they said, ‘She'll be gone soon’ said, ‘How dare you. I won't be!’ It's not in me to give up.


Have you had any really great female role models in your life? 


Not a lot, to be honest. And I find that really sad. For my generation not many females from school went on to own their own business. But I'd say probably my mother who ran her own business and my daughters. They mentor me. 


What do women need to succeed in small business?


As females, we can do anything we want. But we do need help. We do need mentors. You don't have that many opportunities in small businesses. If the people running the business are the owners, like me, we're so busy in the business running it, we don't step back to say, ‘That's a really good decision. We should go in that direction. Or this isn't working, why isn't it working?’ And you need somebody sometimes to be able to say, "Stop for 10 minutes or half an hour this week, we're just going to have a chat. Where are we at? Where are the sales coming from? Or are we getting repeat business," Whatever it is, but mentoring to me and having a mentor is crucial. Thank goodness I found one, a great one, in one of my employees.  


Do you know someone like Monique, with an inspiring story to share? Get in touch!

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