Date posted: 6/03/2017 5 min read

Driving change for a better world

Meet Emma Evans CA, a young Australian entrepreneur with big plans to make the world a better place.

In brief

  • Emma Evans CA represented Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand at the One Young World summit in October 2014.
  • Evans left a secure career with PwC to become CFO of three SME businesses.
  • Having secured a CFO role so early in her career, Evans is now looking for new challenges.

At 25, Emma Evans is young to be a CFO.

She is also an entrepreneur who runs her own business (with her chartered accountant partner), and an international ambassador for the profession, having represented Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand at the One Young World summit in October.

One Young World brings together future  business leaders in the 18-30 age group to help them form international networks and develop solutions to pressing global issues. Evans returned from the recent forum in Dublin inspired, if a little overwhelmed.

“It’s still just sinking in,” she told Acuity in October.

“My dad called and asked what was a highlight. I said I couldn’t even explain.”

She met chartered accountants from around the world, heard harrowing tales of business and personal tragedy, and inspiring ideas from world leaders including former Ireland president Mary Robinson and former UN secretary general Kofi Annan.

“Going into the summit I didn’t really know what to expect. I wanted to be inspired, open my mind and my eyes beyond Melbourne, beyond business and accounting.

“I thought it would be really ‘business’ oriented, but it was much more than that. It was life changing. There was such an incredible range of speakers. It was an eye opener.

“I keep going on to YouTube to watch the clips.”

Leap of faith

Some of the speakers resonated strongly with her, such as those entrepreneurs who had turned their backs on the corporate world, frustrated with its restrictions and hierarchy.

Evans took a leap of faith to leave a secure career with PwC to join SMEs Map Coffee, Capi Sparkling and Lucy Folk Jewellery, where she is now the CFO/COO.

“I am proud of the role I have today and the values and entrepreneurial spirit I carry but know that my chartered accountant foundation and time at PwC contributed to this success,” she says.

Her advice to others is to be bold and a quote from the summit captures her view: being an entrepreneur comes from within but building a business can be taught so go for it and learn as you go. Surround yourself with positive people and a team that has the skills you lack. Even better, surround yourself with people smarter than you. Be persistent, have fun and ultimately love what you do.

Other stories at One Young World opened her eyes to the challenges faced by people in places less fortunate than the “lucky country”.

“I am proud of the role I have today and the values and entrepreneurial spirit I carry."
Emma Evans CFO Map Coffee, Capi Sparkling and Lucy Folk Jewellery

She cites a delegate from the Marshall Islands who had to flee his home as the island was about to be engulfed in water.

Another was worried about his sisters not being able to go to school in Rwanda as they had their menstrual cycle so he developed pads out of banana leaf fibres and then began manufacturing them.

Others had established organisations to provide healthcare for third world countries, or those who left their homes to escape extreme conditions or conflict.

“It was so incredible to hear the stories, and so emotional. I couldn’t believe what people have been through. It makes you realise how lucky we are.”

Doer, not dreamer

Evans is not the type to feel the emotion and then just carry on regardless.

She is a “doer” and is determined to take the lessons of the forum into her business life.

But nor is she a dreamer, and she expresses a desire to take practical steps to bring about change.

“At the business I work in I mentor and lead people and I will try to instil what I have learned into them, and make them understand the bigger picture.

“For example, one of the key references that stood out for me was the emphasis on a need to act now, not tomorrow, on issues.”

Another quote from the summit captures her thoughts: climate change is a real issue; an agreement is needed from each country, and then accountability, as there is no plan B for Earth. We as young leaders must act and make demands of our countries’ leaders.

“‘The Earth is not ours, we hold it in trust for future generations…  tomorrow begins today,’ said Kofi Annan. "I for one now have a mental note to seek the information and reports that come out of the Climate Change meeting in Paris in 2015 as countries put forward their commitments.”

“I know I can’t change the world but I know I can influence the culture of my business."
Emma Evans CFO Map Coffee, Capi Sparkling and Lucy Folk Jewellery

Back home in Melbourne, she wants to learn more about the production chain of her business and its sustainability impact.

“Water, glass, understanding our product end to end.

“I am definitely going to look into the idea of a circular economy. Also, as we source ingredients from all over the world, understand the conditions the workers in those countries are exposed to.

“[One Young World co-founder] David Jones said that it can feel like a world full of issues and yes it does, but each of us needs to tackle an issue little by little, ensure it is scalable and together we can make change.

“I know I can’t change the world but I know I can influence the culture of my business. And that is one step in the right direction.”

She sees this as being an extension of a business culture that already embraces sustainability. Capi has a vegetable garden and a chef to cook the produce for staff.

It also encourages education and is looking to offer internships through the University of Melbourne.

“A common theme throughout the summit was the importance of education. Education as a human right but delegates were also concerned with the changing landscape and curriculum of education.

“A quote I wrote down was ‘education doesn’t prepare you for life, life prepares you for education’.  I think this is a great point as people can get so hung up on doing every course available, but you need to get your hands dirty in the field, apply what you are learning and thinking, make mistakes, learn from them and find your way.”

Learning by doing

Evans has been finding her way by doing this since she joined Capi. One of her first challenges was to manage a significant merger and acquisition process of Map Coffee.

“When I took the role we had an offer for the business from Tata Global Beverages in India. I was heavily involved in the process for 18 months to sell the business.

“It actually worked out really well and I learned an incredible amount. Because I knew every aspect of the business I knew how to find information quickly and easily to answer questions.”

Becoming a CFO was her career focus. Having achieved it so young, she is now looking for new challenges.

One can be found in her own business – chanmanshop.com.au – selling men’s fashion accessories. Her partner is into fashion, while she brings experience in running a business, building websites and developing payments portals.

“After work, we divvy up roles – I do the social media. Getting the first order was exhilarating.”

Another challenge can be found in becoming more involved in the “end to end” running of Capi, with a view to developing the skills needed to be a CEO.

“I’m somebody who can’t sit still. I go, go, go, go 24/7.”

Becoming a CFO was her career focus. Having achieved it so young, she is now looking for new challenges.

And the One New World summit has added a new challenge to her busy life.

“I am so grateful for the opportunity I have had to attend One Young World. I am a different person, and I will stay in touch with the people I met as I think we share a bond that no one else will understand.

“Becoming a chartered accountant was a proud moment and huge achievement. Becoming a CFO before the age of 25, my initial life career goal, was hard work that paid off in ways I cannot explain. Getting engaged made me feel love and happiness.

“But after One Young World I know there is now more to me and to what I can do. The sky is no longer the limit, space is on the agenda as [astronaut and forum speaker] Ron Garan made me aware.

“Working for, and also being, an entrepreneur, I did think how lucky I am. If I have an idea it will happen. There is no corporate tape, no politics and basically freedom to do, freedom to make change.

“I don’t know what impact I will make but I do know change will come, change is needed and the world has to be a better place.”

This article was first published in the December 2014 issue of Acuity magazine.