The 24 year old CEO

Bachelor of Business / Bachelor of Digital Media

Griffith Business and Digital Media alumnus, Jackie Babbage is disrupting the international gifting experience market via her online business 'Gifting Owl'. Raised and educated on the Gold Coast, she is a contemporary, tenacious and enterprising CEO who is building her career one experience at a time.

At only 24 years of age she has already completed a double degree, started her own business and established herself within an industry she is passionate about -  tourism, adventure and leisure.

Her start-up company, Gifting Owl, already provides experiences in 103 countries. Whether it’s a gift to enhance a friend of loved one’s overseas trip or an opportunity to tick off those must-do bucket list items, Gifting Owl’s innovative integration software allows the user to book using a live calendar and in their own currency. Different to other platforms, experiences are transferable worldwide and have a generous and flexible redemption time frame.

The benefits of saying ‘yes’

When asked how she’s already achieved so much, she credits it to a combination of factors.

“I like to contribute where I am today to a lot of hard work, coupled with a bit of luck. During my studies at Griffith and still today, I’ve learnt to say ‘yes’ to opportunities that cross my path and then follow up by putting in the hard work that is required to succeed.”

To lay her foundations, choosing to study a double degree at Griffith wasn’t luck but it was an easy choice for Jackie. Not only did it allow her to stay living at home on the Gold Coast, but it provided her the chance to combine her interest in business theory and desire for a creative yet professional outlet.

“I’m not the most creative person in the room. I can’t paint or draw but I like digital art creation and challenging myself to learn new skills,” she said.

“I also love understanding the theory behind business and learning strategic elements such as how marketing will drive your business forward. Griffith’s double degree was the perfect creative and analytical mix and made me realise I didn’t want to be pigeon holed into just one field.”

In addition to studying full-time, Jackie constantly said ‘yes’ and took on as much work experience as she could, including helping local tourism operators establish their digital presence in addition to interning almost full-time at Gold Coast Tourism and Rippals Media.

“My final year of study was the busiest time in my life so far. But I thrived in the fast-paced environment where I was constantly putting what I was learning at uni, straight into practise,” she said.

Saying ‘yes’ to hard work also led Jackie to meet one of her mentors, Mark Barrett, founder of Rippals Media and member of the Gold Coast Adventure Travel Group committee.

“It was amazing to have a mentor so early in my career, who I’m continually learning from. He has been such a positive influence and has provided me with real-life learning environments that been invaluable to my professional skills development and establishment of Gifting Owl.”

Business challenges

Not one to shy away from hard work, Jackie’s busy lifestyle didn’t stop at the end of her studies. She launched straight into full-time work at Riverlife group, another opportunity that was presented to her whilst completing her studies. It was here that she met John Sharpe, a ‘serial entrepreneur’, who went on to be her Gifting Owl business partner and mentor.

Together the business duo faced the challenges of a start-up business. Prior to the successful launch of Gifting Owl, an earlier business model didn’t take off and required adaptation to meet changing market demands. Such setbacks triggered moments of doubt for Jackie.

“Being a young, professional female, you can’t help but feel there are these pressures on you or assumptions about you, even if there aren’t,” she said.

“Sometimes it’s simply a matter of not believing in yourself enough and it’s at that point you need to surround yourself with the people that are truly on your side and are there to support you.

Alumni advice and perks

Reflecting on her time at Griffith, Jackie is amused by her new-found appreciation for one of her least favourite subjects.

“I really didn’t appreciate legal studies at the time as it was such a difficult subject,” she said.

“However, there’s been so many occasions during the establishment of Gifting Owl, that I’ve drawn upon the skills I learnt in that subject. Being able to understand contracts and business propositions, without the help of others, is really satisfying.

“If I could offer two bits of advice to current students it would be to stick out those hard subjects and always say ‘yes’ to new opportunities, even if you’re scared of them.”

As of late July 2019, Griffith Alumni will receive 10% off all international experiences purchased via Gifting Owl.

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