Since Nikki Milne was a child, she dreamed of being an entrepreneur. “I always wanted to be my own boss,” she says.

Today she is a successful business consultant and founder of The Perth Collective, a platform promoting female-run small businesses in Western Australia.

Milne took an unusual route to fulfilling her career ambitions, one shaped by her parents.

“My parents had a rule,” she says. “When we left school we must either have a trade or a qualification. Once we had it we could do what we wanted with our future.”

Milne settled on hairdressing. “I did my trade and took off travelling Australia,” she says. The work was constant and interesting. “From cutting hair in a dodgy little salon to working with celebrities on a private island and travelling to work by seaplane each day, life was never boring,” she says.

At 23, Milne bought a salon in Subiaco in partnership with her parents. It was there that her long-term ambitions were revealed. “If I am truthful, I never liked hairdressing,” she admits. “I loved the business and marketing side.”

Life changed with the birth of her first child in 2014, which made managing the salon a struggle. “With a baby at home, I could no longer drop everything to run to the salon and cover clients if one of my team called in sick,” she says.

It was the catalyst for a career change. Milne sold the salon and began freelance business consulting for former customers. She quickly identified a gap in the market: female small-business owners working in creative industries. “It frustrated me no end that there was no platform for these amazing women to show off what they do,” she says. “So I created one on social media.”

The Perth Collective was born. “It took off at lighting speed,” says Milne. Today it has more than 60,000 followers on Instagram, where businesses are featured for free using the hashtag, #theperthcollective.

In 2016 she self-published How to Influence Your Creative Market, a book outlining social platform strategies for growing a business.

“It’s given me the opportunity to expose these creative small businesses and their talents to a big social media following,” she says. “In turn I’ve built a solid marketing and consulting small business, from doing what I love for people I can relate to.”

Milne has since added events, workshops, an online directory and a membership program to The Perth Collective’s services. She also publishes SALTED, a quarterly magazine dedicated to female small-business owners in creative industries.

Milne says the skills she learnt in her salon days have been crucial to her success as a consultant: dealing with clients, staff, rents, marketing, general small business management, and most importantly, people skills. “Without doubt I am good with people,” she says. “That comes from 15 years of dealing with people in hairdressing. You learn how to read signs, know who to avoid, and who to embrace.”

Milne says firsthand experience is more important than a qualification. “I bring experience and the ability to work with a tiny marketing budget,” she says. “There are so many consultants and coaches out there who are teaching and giving advice to small businesses that have no past business experience themselves.”

The mother-of-two’s hectic work schedule is similar to her hard-working clients. A typical day starts at 6am and finishes at midnight (or later). Milne says it helps that she has a supportive partner. “I am very fortunate that as a firefighter my husband works set shifts,” she says. “I can schedule my workshops, events and consulting around his roster.”

At the heart of Milne’s philosophy is self-belief – something she loves to encourage in others. “There is nothing like starting a consult, event or workshop with someone who is lacking the confidence to grow their idea and by the end they are rushing off to start,” she says. “I can relate to that so much. When I get an idea I just want to go and make it happen. It’s a joy helping light that spark in others.”

This article is presented in partnership with Hostplus, which has your super covered no matter your role and how it changes through your career.