Former Gunnedah woman nominated for Brisbane Young Entrepreneur Awards

Jo Menken with her daughter, Cameron. Photo: Caitlin Roselt

Jo Menken with her daughter, Cameron. Photo: Caitlin Roselt

Jo Menken is showing no signs of slowing down.

Seventeen months after undergoing a double mastectomy to reduce her risk of breast cancer, the former Gunnedah woman is throwing herself into preparations for her second Breast Wishes Ball on October 14.

In the midst of her preparations, Jo found out that she is a finalist in the social entrepreneur category of the Brisbane Young Entrepreneur Awards.

The nomination recognises her work in bringing awareness of the risks of breast cancer and the faulty BRCA2 gene, which she carries. The gene is commonly linked to an increased risk of breast or ovarian cancer.

Jo explains the BRCA2 gene.

Jo said she was thrilled to be shortlisted for the awards, which will be held on September 29.

“I’ve never been a finalist in anything in my life,” she said.

“It’s just sort of nice to be recognised and that in itself is a win.

“The hard work’s kind of paying off.”

Jo has been working on the ball for six months and said it was “like a full-time on top of my full-time job, plus being a single parent, so it’s like three jobs in one”. However, she is looking forward to seeing it all come together.

“If I get 155 [people] again I’ll be happy, but I’d love 200 or 300,” she said.

“I cannot wait. I can let my hair down and kick my heels off and enjoy life and contributing to society in a positive way and having a good time ‘cause you just never know what’s around the corner.”

Breast Wishes Ball ambassadors

Jo is upping the ante at this year’s ball, booking the newly refurbished Queensland Cricketers' Club. The evening will feature Brisbane funk band, PocketLove, and a live auction, which has attracted many donated items, such as holidays.

This year’s ambassadors are cricketers Chris Lynn and Holly Ferling, former Miss Universe Australia Courtney Thorpe, Acai Brothers Ben Day and Sam Carson, and social media starlet Piper Sienna. Special guests will include 2016 amabassador and Olympic swimmer, Cate Campbell.

The proceeds from this year’s ball will be donated to the Brisbane Breast Bank, which is housed in the University of Queensland’s Centre for Clinical Research. Jo donated her breast tissue to the bank last year.

Senior post-doctoral researcher, Amy McCart Reed, said the Breast Bank was excited to be chosen as a recipient.

“We found out that Jo was going to donate the money to us in November last year and we were super excited,” she said.

“Getting funding for research infrastructure is becoming increasingly difficult. Something like a bio-bank, it’s hard to secure funding for the length of time it would need for a tangible outcome.”

Amy will attend the ball with post-doctorate researchers and Breast Bank manager Kaltin Ferguson.

“I think the idea was that we could wear some stickers and be available for anyone who wants to talk about research,” she said.