Dr Fiona Stewart

Dr Fiona Stewart
'Spotlight' is designed to give us all inspiration and confirm that anyone can make his or her business dream or that promotion a reality...

This month the spotlight is on
Dr Fiona Stewart,
Founder of


Dr Fiona Stewart, a communications sociologist, spent the first 10 years working life in academe. Yet like many Generation Xers, life in a university held little prospect with shrinking budgets and a no-can-do culture. So, when her postdoctoral fellowship expired, Fiona decided it was time to try life on the outside.

At 33, she established her own consulting company Realworld Research and Communications. A play on how she saw university life, Realworld allowed Fiona to apply her expertise - and hence make a living - in online research and elearning. It was at this time that she also began to write opinion articles for The Age and other Australian broadsheets. Something she continues to do today.

That said, academia was good to Fiona. Not only did it allow her to develop skills that have been critical to her professional life since, but she was able to consult to the World Health Organisation, win prestigious research grants and publish her writing in international journals.

Most of all, perhaps, it was through her work with WHO that she came to co-write the world's first online research book; a factor that has been critical in her new business, NotGoodEnough.org

NotGoodEnough.org is Fiona's first "from scratch" start-up. Conceived after she was stuck in Brisbane last September when Ansett collapsed and unimpressed at Qantas' lack of effort to account for additional passengers, Fiona founded NotGoodEnough.org in February 2002.

Since this time, NotGoodEnough.org has quickly become a prominent site for consumers from around the country to vent their spleen. The upside of this gripe site is that companies too can access the feedback, thereby fixing their service problems and creating a win all around. The business brings together Fiona's core skills of online research, working the media, battling for the underdog and corporate accountability and consulting services.


Founder and Chief Executive

Also, opinion writer for The Age, Herald Sun


NotGoodEnough.org Consumer Website





Where did you grow up?


What was your first job?

Clearing dishes at the Koonya Hotel at Sorrento

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

Could never really decide - nothing stood out - I knew what I didn't want to do, and that was most things that girls were meant to do, teacher, nurse, that sort of thing. Knew I wanted to be different, maybe I wanted to stand out. I have this saying now that I used to think being opinionated and "difficult" were personality deficits, now they are partly how I make my living (opinion writing) and treading the fine line between consumers and big and small business.

How did you get to where you are now?

Gradually is the answer. It took me most of my 20s and early 30s to work out what my real skills were. It's easy to know that you're good at this and bad at that.

I think I did get to the point where I knew that I wasn't good at taking orders. That I didn't like set categories or hierarchies. I've always been a bit of a free spirit, so it wasn't until I started working for myself that I thought yes this is me. I'm still working out how to make a decent living on my own.

Incidentally, while I think I would have got to self-employment eventually, it wasn't till I was forced out of academia - through a contract ending - and no other jobs on offer that - what was to prove the biggest turning point in my life actually happened.

What qualifications/experiences are required to perform your job?

I oscillate on the qualifications question. In this I mean that when I've been consulting to dot.coms its almost been like, what's wrong with you that you were able to take time out from the world to do a PhD. How academic is that?

On the other hand, and especially with Not Good Enough, the PhD gives me a bit of credibility. Writing one of the first books in online research methods is the other. I also like to think it makes businessmen take me more seriously, but that could be in my head.

How many hours a week do you work?

Too many I think. There are days when I just wake, work then go back to bed. This is the danger of the home office. It's always there and if work is enjoyable then it often doesn't seem like work. That's a danger too. Can't say hours, but can say I've never worked so hard in my life.

Where would you like to be in ten years?

I've never been able to see that far ahead. Sorry... have never been able to answer that sort of question. I do think I will be doing something different to what I'm doing now.

What advice would you give to somebody embarking on their first business or aspiring to achieve extraordinary career goals?

Be patient, expect to be scared, be hard on yourself but not too hard. Expect to win new friends and lose old ones as you grow. It's often amazing how uncomfortable people can be with personal / professional change.

What do you class as your biggest career achievement?

Establishing my consulting company and making a living out of that for 2 years. Establishing Not Good Enough is now my biggest achievement in terms of having a brainwave - an idea - and working out how to make it happen and how to make a business out of it.

What is the best piece of advice anybody has given you?

Nothing specific comes to mind but it's the been the affirmations of my ability, of my strengths that has made me go on.

Fast Facts

Who living or dead would you most like to invite to dinner?

Elenore Roosevelt, Anthony Giddens (Head of the London School of Economics)

Name a movie that actually inspired you?

The Insider

Your favourite toy as a child:

My doll Rosebud and my Fisher Price Airport set

What are you reading at the moment?

Current copies of Fast Company

Is there a talent/attribute you wish you had/ had more of?

Keeping my mouth shut at the appropriate moments

Which song transports you to another place when you hear it and why?

Go Your Own Way by Fleetwood Mac, reminds me of last Christmas when I was in the Northern Territory and was lucky enough to be taken out to Wave Hill where land rights all began.

Your favourite place in the world, and why?

Blairgowrie Backbeach - lots of memories from growing up, the ruggedness, the sheer escape of the coast

What is your idea of the perfect Day?

I think my idea of a perfect day is a well organised day which means early coffee in bed with my beloved, morning chit chat, then up and getting dogs walked, watered and fed bones. To the desk for work, get done what needs to be done. Listen to morning radio while beavering away.

A perfect day, especially if a weekend, is about my garden, my love of red wine, and more walking of dogs. I also really like going around the corner to my local pub. Nothing glamorous and having a beer in the public bar.

Can you tell us 5 things required for a happy healthy & enjoyable life (important to you)

  • Work that inspires and allows your talents to shine.
  • Feeling loved and valued by those around you
  • My border collie x spoodle George and my border collie x kelpie Molly
  • Not worrying too much about money
  • Appreciation for when the sun shines

    Are there other related careers to your chosen career:

    Entrepreneurship - doing your own thing - comes in many forms. By definition, anyone who works for themselves is an entrepreneur. This can mean anything from working as a freelance accountant to inventing something that didn't exist previously, whether as an artist - making an objet d'art of creating new knowledge that others want to buy. That's the parallel.

    Many thanks from the Femail.com.au team!

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