Meet the WiRE Program Team

Retha Wiesner (project Director)

Hi there! I have the privilege of leading the WiRE program. I have been lucky enough to marry my three main career passions: Entrepreneurial Behaviour, Research and Teaching.  I'm a Professor in Management and Entrepreneurial Behaviour and am Research Program Leader of one of the key programs in the Australian Centre for Sustainable Development at the University of Southern Queensland.  I teach and research entrepreneurship, innovation and creativity; managing behaviour in organisations; and small business performance.  My core professional passion is helping women to empower themselves through entrepreneurial behaviour and innovation.  I have extensive experience in leading large entrepreneurship capacity building projects and project teams, both in the national and international arena. For example, in the last five years I have led research and capacity-building projects of over $5m (with significant industry engagement) in the entrepreneurship and small business domain. I have also interviewed hundreds of women entrepreneurs who shared not only their success stories but also failures with me. A key theme from all these interviews is their passion for what they do and how they managed to turn this passion into profit.  I see myself as an "initiator" and entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial behaviours are core to the person I am. I love writing and have published over 80 research articles and co-authored 9 books on management and behaviour in organisations. I love working with enquiring minds and individuals who have a passion for self growth. I am currently supervising ten doctoral students within the small business and entrepreneurship arena.  I am currently working on my next book "Turn your passion project into profit".  I am looking forward to work with you in this program and learn from you all!

Retha Wiesner of The WiRE Program

Alison Mobbs (project manager)

Alison Mobbs, President of QRRRWN is a strategic thinker and business leader with a proven track record of developing women.  She is a director and secretary of Mobbs Cattle Co Pty Ltd, breeding beef cattle across Queensland for over twenty years. She and her husband have in the past few years diversified into trading cattle, civil construction earthworks and in 2014 purchased a motel in Longreach. Alison has many years’ experience in devising and delivering community-based cultural and skill development projects, events and training. Her interests are wide ranging and include business, the arts, tourism, sustainable agriculture, natural resource management, community development and education. Alison has completed a Master of Business Administration majoring in Leadership as well as Bachelors of Teaching and Education. She has had governance experience as a councillor on the Murweh Shire and as a community representative on steering committees and ministerial and other advisory boards.  She is the chairperson of the Longreach Regional Council’s Economic Development Advisory Board and founding president of the Longreach Regional Enterprise group.  Alison was previously the vice president of the Queensland Rural, Regional & Remote Women's Network and a branch president and Agricultural and Environment Advisor to the Queensland Country Women’s Association.  Her experience is in engaging stakeholders, working with community members from a diverse range of groups, providing effective facilitation, developing ideas and delivering great outcomes.  Alison will be instrumental in leveraging the strength of QRRRWN to rally entrepreneurial women in rural, regional and remote communities from across Queensland to participate and engage with the proposed program. 

Alison Mobbs of The WiRE Program

Chad Renando (project manager)

Chad Renando, Fire Station 101 Community Manager, has extensive experience in large-group facilitation, developing business networks, startup and entrepreneur mentoring, community development, and change management programs.  Combining practical application with theory, Chad is currently undertaking a PhD focusing on the role of innovation hubs for community resiliency in regional areas. The research and his community management role leverages his experience in managing large-scale change programs in the Queensland energy and resource sectors, his advisory and product development roles in the Impact Academy social enterprise accelerator, board roles for not for profit youth engagement programs, advisory and investor roles in regional startups, committee roles in national hackathon programs, and leadership roles in digital and manufacturing sectors. Chad has a Masters of Applied Social Science (Management), five years’ experience as a certified PMBOK Project Management Professional (PMP), and applies his certifications in individual, coaching and team building instruments to the personal journey of the entrepreneurs.  

Chad Renando of The WiRE Program

Anne-marie walton (project officer)

Anne-Marie Walton is a regional entrepreneur creating a positive social impact through Kidswantu, an innovative mobile app which helps busy adults and carers get more quality face-to-face with 2-7 year olds, whilst building their creative thinking and communication skills.  In addition to running her own business, Anne-Marie is Operations Manager at the Fire Station 101 Innovation Hub where she leverages her background of over 15+ years’ experience driving stakeholder partnerships, streamlining processes and maximising resources having grown and managed diverse businesses. 

A long history in volunteer work across the education and performing arts sectors has cemented Anne-Marie’s contribution to community and her strong collaborative nature. She is passionate about helping women recognise their skills and capitalise on the opportunities modern technology provides to grow and scale their ideas and businesses.

Anne-Marie Walton of The WiRE Program

Joy Taylor (project manager & Project officer)

Joy Taylor is the Community Manager for the Canvas Coworking Space, where she shares her passion for people, new ideas, collaboration, and embracing digital opportunities. Canvas Coworking Inc. is a not-for-profit association and Toowoomba’s first and only coworking space for startups, entrepreneurs and digital nomads. Canvas Coworking is a creative, digital hub for the Darling Downs and South West Queensland. The organisation:

  • encourages entrepreneurship through supporting the region’s startup ecosystem
  • fosters social enterprises
  • develops partnerships between skilled mentors, freelancers and entrepreneurs
  • fosters collaboration and the growth of innovative businesses to drive the region’s economic growth.

Joy has initiated innovative sharing and learning including:

  • Mumpreneur Mondays – sharing the success of women who have created startup businesses while balancing families
  • Wordpress Meetups –learning to use Wordpress
  • Lunch and Learns –topics include LinkedIn, Google My Business, Google Docs, using, Using Excel, Blogging for Business
  • Perfect Your Pitch
  • GovHack – using open source government data to create useful applications or communications
  • Startup Weekends
  • Mentor Blaze – with local and remote mentors using skype
Joy Taylor of The WiRE Program

David Masefield (project manager)

David Masefield, Startup Ecosystem Activator, Director of Startup Toowoomba and President of Canvas Coworking Inc. David is a Startup Ecosystem Activator creating a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem in Toowoomba and the Darling Downs with the Toowoomba Startup Group & Startup Toowoomba Pty Ltd. He is passionate about supporting the budding entrepreneurs that live across Southern and Western Queensland. David is also the Cofounder & President of Canvas Coworking Space, an initiative of Startup Toowoomba. As a Techstars Startup Community Leader and a Startup Weekend facilitator David has developed network connections throughout Asia, The America's and Europe. Experienced in Ecommerce David has founded 8 businesses over the last 15 years and can bring his vast experience of grassroots entrepreneurship to any forum.

David Masefield of The WiRE Program

Research Team

Julie Cotter 

Integral to the project is the involvement and commitment of Professor Julie Cotter, Centre Director of the Australian Centre for Sustainable Business and Development.  She is a leading strategic thinker and adviser on research programs and specifically in for the agribusiness sector. Professor Cotter was a finalist in the category ‘Outstanding contributions to policy development’ in the 100 Women in Australian Agribusiness 2014 list. She is also an experienced company director including Non-Executive Director roles for member based organisations as well as large, complex organisations. Current board and committee roles include membership of the Australian Agricultural Company Scientific Advisory Board, Chair of the Transforming Queensland’s Agricultural Value Chains Program Steering Committee and  Chair of the Australian Institute of Company Directors Toowoomba Regional Committee. 

Julie Cotter of The WiRE Program

Aastha Malhotra

Dr Aastha Malhotra is a Vice-chancellor’s Research fellow in the area of organisational resilience at the University of Southern Queensland. She holds a PhD in Management and a Masters in Human Services from UQ and brings with her ten years of practitioner experience with organisations in India, Canada and Australia. She uses her multi-disciplinary background to inform her research interests which include entrepreneurship development, gender sensitive capacity-building, innovation, and small business strategy and sustainability.  She is an experienced qualitative researcher with expertise in interviewing, content and narrative analysis, developing case studies and impact evaluation. Her recent work includes engagement in a number of evidence-based capacity-building projects, including international fellowship programs for women entrepreneurs from Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka, funded by Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and a pilot aimed at examining and enhancing the digital skills of migrant and refugee women entrepreneurs in Regional Australia, funded by Advance Queensland. She draws on empowerment and entrepreneurial perspectives and is driven by the potential of entrepreneurship for social and economic development. 

Aastha Malhotra of The WiRE Program

Khorshed Alam

Associate Professor Alam is an applied economist and policy analyst in the School of Commerce at the University of Southern Queensland. His research interests include business innovation and entrepreneurship, digital economy, and regional economic development. He has published over 70 articles in the high-impact peer-reviewed journals. He received funding from Federal, State and local government agencies. He has considerable skills in the areas of survey design and data analysis, policy analysis and project evaluation.  Dr Alam’s recent project experiences include (funded through Federal, State and local government agencies): assessing the role of information and communication technologies in lifting Australia’s regional economic competitiveness, assessing community preferences for digital futures, examining innovation-growth nexus among regional small and medium enterprises, and investigating geographic and gender differentials among start-up enterprises in regional Australia. 

Khorshed Alam of The WiRE Program

Peter Murray

Prof Murray has been researching about women in management and entrepreneurial activity for many years. His research focuses on a critical view related to the macro, meso and micro processes that prevent women from advancing in their chosen vocation as well as managerial careers. His research has not been limited to management however and has included various gendered lenses from women’s lack of empowerment in the Indian subcontinent and South Asia and in poor agrarian societies, the managerial implications of inequality regimes, agency and coping strategies for ethnic and gendered minorities at work, and more. More recently, Prof Murray completed a research project with the Western Downs Regional Council on high performance work systems and work engagement. He has published over 80 journal articles, books and book chapters in top quality journals. 

Peter Murray of The WiRE Program


Numerous successful women entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial leaders in RRR Queensland and Australia will act as skill providers and mentors of participants in the WiRE Hub component of the program. They will also feed into various other components of the program such as webinars and online-workshops.  Hence, watch this space!