Seizing opportunity to empower women
In 2000 I co-founded online cosmetics business, ADORE BEAUTY. The inspiration came to me partway through my Bachelor of Business degree at Monash. I was working part time on a cosmetics counter in a department store and had close range exposure to the way women and the beauty industry related. I saw that traditionally, it was very much a teacher/student relationship where buyers had to be almost granted ‘permission’ to purchase products. The industry had traditionally been built to minimise the information available and customer purchasing was channelled into brand silos. I saw a gap that no one was filling.
I wanted to put women in charge of the purchasing process so buying beauty products became an experience of empowerment. Beauty is so important to the way we feel and I wanted the customer experience with their beauty regime to be positive from the get go. My business stocks an unparalleled range of big brands as well as hair care and niche brands and our customers are encouraged to try and sample across ranges so they can find the products that best suit their needs.
"I started the business in my garage and now we employ over 100 people. It’s obviously been a pretty big learning curve and my ride has been an evolution."
I started the business in my garage and now we employ over 100 people. It’s obviously been a pretty big learning curve and my ride has been an evolution. The thing I am most proud of is being able to let go of parts of the business and trust people to uphold my vision. I liken it to raising children, you only know you’ve done a good job when they don’t need you anymore. You have to learn to relinquish control of the small things so you can concentrate on the bigger picture; otherwise you hold the business back. A good example was the other day when I was in my office an a team member came in with a fire warden’s hat on, telling me there was a fire drill that I didn’t know about. I thought ‘Wow! That’s so cool! This stuff is going on and being organised completely without me’. It made me really happy as I love watching my team develop, grow and blossom.
When I initially started at Monash I was studying arts/law although I realised fairly early on it was not the right fit for me. I was still trying to find my place in life and was unsure about the next step. At the time I was studying some business units and I was really enjoying them so quickly switched over to a Bachelor of Business with a double major in Management and Marketing.
My degree gave me a good theoretical framework and a good background of general business knowledge which has been really useful to me as a start up – although there have been times when I wish I’d studied more accounting subjects! I think a business degree gives you a really good foundation from which to start as before you enter the workforce you already understand things like researching, creating reports, using spreadsheets and understanding data. These skills are just so useful.
My advice to business students who would one day like to run their own business is to take all the opportunities you can. Get involved at university and push for any chance to get hands on experience and workplace exposure. Group work is also really important as you learn how to work with different sorts of people, which is such a valuable life skill. Focus on learning and problem solving skills and never stop trying to get a broader view of the world. Knowledge is not as important as it used to be as it’s now so easily accessible. What’s important these days is to be an agile thinker, a good communicator, and a great problem solver. Also be proactive and a can do thinker. In the end you hire the attitude and then you teach the know-how.