A Greek Australian cheesemaker has won the Nokia Business Innovation award at this year’s 2010 Telstra Australian Business Women’s Awards.

Kris Lloyd of Woodside Cheese Wrights, said she didn’t expect to win at all. “The calibre of the women there and what they’ve done is unbelievable,”

Ms Lloyd told Neos Kosmos. “The candidates were very impressive, and you really put yourself in perspective; we’re a tiny cheese business from the Adelaide Hills, winning was extremely unexpected.”

Ms Lloyd said the ceremony, attended by 700 people and held two Thursdays ago at Melbourne’s Crown Casino, was a celebration of extraordinary women. “It was absolutely gorgeous, all the girls were frocked up and everyone looked stunning. I was very honoured to be in their company.”

Ms Lloyd, who was a finalist from South Australia, took over Woodside Cheese Wrights in 1999. Not having a cheese making background, she first focused on the business fundamentals before turning her hand to learning the craft.

As Woodside Cheese Wrights manager and head cheesemaker Ms Lloyd is responsible for the sales, marketing, PR, business strategy and planning, training and staff development. In 2002, she established Cheese SA, an incorporated body to raise the awareness of the specialty cheese industry and be the voice of the local industry promoting training and up-skilling.

Ms Lloyd is the founder and Director of CheeseFest, an annual event to promote the industry, while Woodside Cheese Wrights has won numerous cheese awards throughout Australia, including the Grand Dairy Award, and is a four-time winner of the South Australian Premiers Food Award. Ms Lloyd is the only Australian to win gold at the 2008 World Cheese Awards, with her mixed milk cheese.

With women from South Australia taking out three awards, Ms Lloyd said the state was well represented.

“This is fabulous for South Australia, fantastic for the South Australian food industry and fantastic for business,” she said. “For South Australia it positions us as competitive and successful”.

Having her small business recognised on a national scale is a coup for Woodside Cheese Wrights, Ms Lloyd said.

“It’s really great for us, and perhaps it confirms the pathway I have chosen to take the business, in creating a different range of cheese to showcase Woodside and to create a seasonal range. I’m just thrilled, really delighted,” she said.

The winner of this year’s Telstra Australian Business Woman of the year, was Denise Goldsworthy, a Western Australian woman who turned around Rio Tinto’s Dampier Salt Limited (DSL) business to become the world’s leading exporter of solar salt.