Graduate Amy McWaters is Chief Operating Officer at Australia’s leading online gift provider SOL Group, with websites The Hamper Emporium and Gifts Australia.
Graduate Amy McWaters’ sister Emily founded The Hamper Emporium in 2007 as a subsidiary to her gourmet food wholesale business, and then bought Gifts Australia in 2011. In 2014 she sold the wholesale side of the business to focus on online retail, and the growth was so rapid that she quickly brought her two sisters into the fold - Amy as Chief Operating Officer and Libby as head of Buying and Marketing.
Amy, the eldest of the three sisters, was at ICHM from 2000 - 2003. Her industry placements were at Hayman Island, Pan Pacific Hotel Yokohama and Radisson Cairns (now Shangri-La).
Amy’s career in hotels over more than a decade took her to the Middle East, China and the United Kingdom, where she honed the skills mix ideally suited to her current role.
As Chief Operating Officer she oversees business development, logistics, finance, human resources, warehouse and dispatch, customer service and website strategy, along with developing key corporate partnerships.
Amy says there is no job description for a COO - she works in and focuses on the area of most need in the business, and that can change from day-to-day.
‘My favourite part of the role is our achievement together; growing a multi-million dollar business takes plenty of hard work, but by maintaining a family feel with a close-knit team of staff, the hard work never outweighs the enjoyment of celebrating success and customer happiness together’, she says.
Her positions before joining the business in 2014 included two pre-openings; the most recent as Assistant Training Manager at Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah, United Arab Emirates, and as Private Rooms Manager at The Savoy London. She was also seconded to the Training Taskforce at the Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai, China, as Food and Beverage Training Manager, and had previously spent more than two years as Assistant Outlet Manager at the Burj Al Arab, Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Amy says she’s relishing her career change into e-commerce and is full of enthusiasm about the potential to keep growing the company.
‘And the joy of being home in the Aussie sunshine is a true bonus’, she says.
Amy joined ICHM after attending week Career Week in Year 12 in 1999.
‘My favourite subject at school was Japanese, and I wanted a career in which I could use my Japanese in Australia and around the world. After spending a week living on campus and attending sample classes, I knew ICHM was for me.
‘Being at ICHM taught me that academic achievement is important, but it needs to be matched with hard work and determination in industry. My work ethic, problem solving, perseverance and self-belief all stem from my time at ICHM’, she says.
Based in a 2000 square metre warehouse in Sydney’s Regents Park, SOL Group employs 25 full timers throughout the year, with the headcount increasing to 100 during the Christmas peak when a gift is sold every 14 seconds on the busiest day. The Hamper Emporium alone processed more than one million hamper components during Christmas, including almost 70,000 bottles of champagne, wine and beer.
SOL Group proudly lays claim to more than one and a half million users accessing their websites annually across more than two million sessions, with growth over the past two years at an impressive 72 per cent. With an annual turnover of $17.5 million, more than 200,000 gifts were delivered in 2018.
‘Libby left the business last year to spread her wings in a dedicated buying role. We replaced her with three people, so you can imagine how thinly spread she was in such a rapidly growing business! She has flourished in her new role, but we are already planning for her return one day’, says Amy.
Photo: L Emily and Amy McWaters