11 August 2023

'Mind reader': Sarah Taranto snares Griffith's best employee gong at annual business awards

| Oliver Jacques
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Sarah Taranto on a car

Sarah Taranto on a vintage 1963 Toyota Tiara, the first Toyota make manufactured in Australia. Photo: Oliver Jacques.

Owen Motor Group’s brand manager Sarah Taranto has won the outstanding employee award at the annual 2023 Griffith Business Chamber awards, which recognises an inspirational worker who has demonstrated a passion for their role and a commitment to their workplace and the broader community.

The 33-year-old business graduate manages the company’s extensive community program, which donated more than $106,000 to 115 different Riverina groups in 2022 alone.

“Owen Toyota has also won employer of choice [Griffith Business Chamber award] for the second consecutive year,” Sarah said. “That reflects why I’m still here. They’re such a family-orientated business, they place a lot of emphasis on work and life balance, and they’re very empathetic and understanding that life happens.”

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The company has taken the concept of “family business” to the next level. Six couples have got together among the staff, resulting in four marriages, one engagement and another heading in that direction.

Sarah herself met her husband Damien through work, who she married last year.

“It’s getting out of hand, we call it ‘Love Island’. They’re not actively playing Cupid, but it’s a very fun and social workplace.”

Owner Mark Owen said he first noticed something special about Sarah when he interviewed her for the job in 2018.

“When I saw her, she looked familiar. I realised I’d sold Sarah a car four years earlier. She was already an advocate for the brand.

“She turns up to work as if she has ownership in the business… She relishes her role by going over and above on what would be expected,” he added.

“Sarah will take on a task where more often than not, I won’t have to oversee or set the outcome to a desired result. Sometimes I reckon she is a mind reader, it’s so scary.”

Owen Toyota, which was started by Mark’s father Lester on Wakaden Street in 1974, celebrates 50 years of operation next year. The Owen Motor Group now covers three dealerships, including Leeton Toyota and Griffith City Volkswagen. There are 58 staff in total, a growing number of which are women.

“Being a female in a male-dominated industry doesn’t seem to be an obstacle in this workplace because the boys are so encouraging of their women and will them to succeed,” Sarah said.

“Basically, the women run this place, we just tell everyone what do to.”

Old photo of Owen Toyota

The Owen Toyota dealership in the early 1980s. Photo: Deb Jansen/Old Griffith NSW Album Facebook.

Her love of cars even took her to the Monza Grand Prix in Italy for her honeymoon.

“He [my husband] really did get the best wife, the best deal ever,” she said.

Born and raised in Griffith, Sarah said her work ethic was instilled in her by her late father Paul Taylor and grandfather John Taylor (still alive aged 94), who were co-owners of printing business Ever-Redi Press.

As a teenager, she wanted to be a musician and play the drums for a band, but has no regrets about her ultimate career choice and recommends it to new graduates.

“Give the automotive industry a go. People don’t realise how many opportunities there are in the industry. It’s not just swinging spanners, there’s all types of management and administration roles,” she said.

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Mark, who runs the dealership with twin brother Dean, agrees.

“There are many various job functions within a motor dealer franchise, many of which are suited to women. Sarah is an advocate to challenge the male stereotypes of the vehicle industry,” he said.

Also nominated for the category of outstanding employee was Sarah’s colleague Paul Connell, Macy Spencer of Soul Property Agents, Maria Trimboli of La Piccola Grosseria, Fiona Smith of Quest Griffith and Victor Wild of Beckom Road House.

Sarah Taranto and Mark Owen in front of vintage car

Sarah Taranto with boss Mark Owen. Photo: Oliver Jacques.


Outstanding Visitor Experience – Gurdwara Singh Sabha Society

Local Business of the Year Award – Worm Tech

Outstanding Employee Award – Sarah Taranto

Excellence in Micro Business – Fluid Engineering

Young Business Leader – Cassandra Cadorin

Outstanding Business Leader – Cassandra Irvin

Outstanding Start Up – Riverina Mobile Vet and Equine Dentistry

Employer of Choice – Owen Toyota

Excellence in Micro Business – Fluid Engineering

Excellence in Small Business – Worm Tech

Excellence in Large Business – Aquna Sustainable Murray Cod

Outstanding Community Organisation – Country Universities Centre

Local Business Woman of the Year – Cassandra Irvin

Local Customer Service Award – Cafe 2sixty2

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