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Lifestyle

Girlboss Q&A: Bethany James, Founder James Said

11th July, 2018

Businesswoman Bethany James started her first company as child, selling stones, sticks and nuts that she’d spray painted gold to her neighbours. In her twenties she founder her own cosmetics company, Bethany Cosmetics. And now, after struggling to find the kind of furniture she wanted in her work as an interior designer, she started an import business called Regency Distribution. Since then the Perth-based entrepreneur now has three showrooms, James Said, with two in Perth and one in Sydney and now has over 3000 pieces available for purchase on its online store. Here Bethany shares the secrets to her success, learning to let go of wanting to control every aspect of her business and why the drive to work is the most important part of her day.

Where did the idea to start James Said come from?

I was working as an interior designer and I had a specific style that I loved. I couldn’t find the pieces that I wanted in Australia and had to look overseas to find them. I identified a niche in the market so I set up a distribution company and started to import.

What was the process like to start it?

It was very challenging. I had a toddler at home and started the business in my spare room with very little initial start up capital. Juggling motherhood and new business was very hard. I would work most evenings until 2am – simply because I would be child free and able to get it done.  The start-up of my business was completely organic because I had no money for marketing.  In fact when I started I didn’t even have a single piece of furniture! All I had was catalogues and lot of pretty images. I started off as a wholesale business exclusive to interior designers. I went through the designers in the yellow pages online and email them all, one by one, introducing myself. It took me months, but this is how I built my database and started my company. On my own, in my spare room, working to the early hours of the morning. I pre-sold my first container that I imported and the deposits I received covered most of the cost. Even with such a modest beginning I still managed to turnover over a million in sales in first year. Our growth now is snowballing every year, whilst I take it in my stride each day, it amazing to look back on each year to see how far we’ve come.

What’s the biggest business challenge you’ve faced and how did you overcome it?

Growing fast without adequate systems. We were unprepared for our growth and didn’t have adequate software to assist us. The result was poor service and unreliable lead times. It feels great to have this sorted. When I look at my business now I continually think – how can I do this better? How  can I exceed my customers’ expectations in all areas of my business. From the range of products, to my sales staff and the customer experience in store all the way through to our delivery service.  What would exceed my customers experience—and that’s what I do.

What’s been the biggest turning point in your career? Why?

Staff. When I originally started to employ staff, they were of little help to me because I was so protective of everything. I wouldn’t delegate, I just didn’t trust anyone to do the job as well as myself.  I was afraid of the commitment of full time salaries so instead kept employing casuals. The result was that my staff were of no assistance to me and I was at capacity so the business couldn’t grow. In the third year of my business was my turning point. I decided to invest all my energy into my staff and delegating everything. The more I put into them the more I freedom I had to grow the company. I now only employ full time staff, almost never casuals. My business moves so fast that I need team members that are fully absorbed in the company each day. I take the time to understand what drives each individual staff member so that I can make sure that their time with the company allows them to feel secure and fulfilled.

James Said focuses on Hollywood Regency style pieces

How do you start each day?

I try to swivel out of bed and have my feet touch the carpet as soon as my alarm goes off, otherwise I end up in the ‘hit the snooze’ cycle.  Then it’s an expresso shot while google home tells me the latest news. Then I spend the next half hour with my coffee browsing social media.

Once out of bed and showered I listen to inspiration podcasts or YouTube videos whilst I do my make up and get ready. Mixed into that I get my son ready for school, fed and we’re out the door. My most valuable time is the drive between school and work. This is my time and use it to ensure that when I arrive into the office I am in the right state.

My energy affects everyone in the office so I make sure that when I walk in I bring high energy vibes with me. During that drive my car is my sanctuary, sometimes I listen to Oprah other times I just crank the music loud, but the outcome is always to leave any negativity behind me so I when I arrive at the office all my staff can feed off my energy.

What drives you?

For me my business is like a sport. Obviously its serious because I employ people and it’s my livelihood but when I dig deeper, I’m driven by pushing to see how far I can take the business.  I am never satisfied with any milestone, I’m always on the next step. I never want to wonder —what if? So I just go for it,  I give it everything I have, every day. I relate it sport because each day I’m faced with new issues or problems I have to solve and overcome, all whilst persevering forward all the time, always feeling challenged. I love it.

What’s your management style?

I know its probably wiser to have a barrier between yourself and your staff, however I’ve never been able to have that separation. I’ve always been the kind of person that brings my personal life to the office and so I develop friendships with my staff. We have a lot of fun, a lot of laughs but we also work very hard. I really consider my staff as my team, I value and care about  them enormously. Finding staff that are the right cultural fit  is an important part of our recruitment process.

What are some tools—whether it be a gadget, an app, a favourite site— that help you manage all your various businesses and projects?

Changing my inventory software was huge for my business. It streamlined everything, made us more efficient and we were able to offer better service to our customers.

As far as apps go Instagram has been a huge part of our growth. It’s how we connect with our customers and drives more customers to my stores than any other marketing source.

What do you think has been the key to your success?

Being brave and consistently persevering through challenging times.  I also have unending energy for my business.  I don’t know where it comes from but it’s just always there. I never run out of new ideas or passion year after year.  I guess if that ever stops that will be my que to move on to something else.

What makes you so passionate about interiors?

I always want to make everything as beautiful as possible. It crosses over into all areas of my life. I need to have a creative outlet to be happy, it’s just a part of me. My interior style is always evolving, I find inspiration everywhere and it’s a great feeling when you create a space that is unique that people respond to.

Bethany says she loves interiors as she “wants to make everything as beautiful as possible.”

What’s the most satisfying thing about working on James Said?

I love sitting in the driving seat of my business because it gives me the freedom to create the next step for the business. Its enormously gratifying to have an idea and take it all the way to fruition.

Where do you hope to take your business in future?

I plan for James Said to be an international brand. I would love stores all over the world.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt in your career?

To be authentic. When I launched my business I was doing my own thing. I was laughed at by many of my competitors for selling bright coloured and gold furniture. But I followed my heart and it was immediately successful. From time to time I would look to what my larger competitors were selling and copy. This was never successful.

Now I really don’t pay any attention to my competitors, I just run my own race and sell what resonates with me. I don’t visit other stores in Australia, or check their websites. I don’t want to be influenced in any way and I feel that there’s room for everyone.

Even when I opened my Sydney store, I didn’t visit any other Sydney stores. I wanted my store to be completely fresh and unique, I didn’t want to risk being influenced by what other stores are doing in any way.

What’s your working style? 

I juggle my day with the school run so I’m grateful to have to have staff that can open and close the business. As my business opens at 7am to sync up with the east coast [of Australia], by the time I arrive I’m already behind so most of the day is spent catching up and I’m caught up the day to day running of the business. My true productive time is late at night after my son is asleep. This is when I have clarity to think with out interruption. Anything important is done at this time.

My best creative moments are usually when I travel. International travel always leaves me with a broader and larger view on business.

What’s the best piece of advice you can give to anyone starting a business?

I often have conversations with people who tell me they have thought about starting their own business and they ask me for advice.

Starting your own business is hard, it’s financially risky and will most likely leave you without income for quite a while. I discover most people aren’t really prepared for that kind of risk or commitment.

Starting your own business has to be something that you just have to do. It’s not a decision to do, you have to do it. It’s that kind of passion that’s needed to live and breathe the business year after year. If you have that passion then you have to just be brave!

Being an entrepreneur is just part of who I am. When I was a kid I stole my dad’s gold spray paint and sprayed stones, sticks and honkey nuts and then sold them to all my neighbours. When I was a teenager I made earrings and sold them at school. In my twenties I had my cosmetics company. It’s just part of who I am but it’s not for everyone.

Fashion, Lifestyle

Girlboss Q&A: Hermione Underwood, Founder of Atelier Romy and Espie Roche

23rd May, 2018

Being a true girlboss often requires a little multitasking. In Hermione Underwood’s case it’s a bonafide juggling act. Being at the helm of four business endeavours, that include handbag label Espie Roche and jewellery brand Atelier Romy, Hermione manages to make it look oh-so easy. After leaving her beloved Sydney behind to relocate to London, the entrepreneur has flourished in her new home and says it has been the major turning point in her career. Here Hermione chats to me about learning to be a little fish in a big pond, ignoring the doubters and why she thinks a positive attitude is everything.

You currently juggle your brand consultancy, your style and travel blog hermioneolivia.com, Atelier Romy and Espie Roche. How do you manage all four?

I find the busier I am, the more I get done. It just requires some fairly strategic time management and planning. Despite the fact there are multiple businesses, a lot of what I do crosses over so it is manageable.

What’s the biggest business challenge you’ve faced and how did you overcome it?

Pushing forth when people told me I was crazy… and then pushing forth when I momentarily thought they might be right!! More specifically, I would say raising capital investment for my fashion ventures and securing the entrepreneur visa in the UK have been recent highlights.

What’s been the biggest turning point in your career and why?

Moving to London was definitely the turning point for me. I wanted a challenge and boy-oh-boy did I get it. I went from being comfortable and supported to being a tiny fish in a big pond, having to build my network from scratch with limited resources whilst pursuing much bigger career goals. Four years later, the gamble is paying off and find it exciting to be working in a big international city on these businesses.

Who or what is your biggest inspiration?

I’m inspired by people who execute their vision. Those that quietly chip away to see success. Two Aussie friends, Alyce Tran of The Daily Edited and Justin Hemmes of Merivale come to mind… they both have the Midas touch.

How do you start each day?

Usually checking my whatsapp and emails and racing off to a meeting…!

What drives you?

At the end of the day, I just want to do good work that I’m proud of, be challenged and always be learning. I thrive seeing vision come to fruition. I feel very fortunate that my work rarely feels like work because I’ve turned my passions for travel, brands and fashion into businesses.

What are some tools – whether it be a gadget, an app, a favourite site – that help you manage all your various businesses and projects?

I actually run my businesses on whatsapp—it’s obviously immediate and allows my business partners and I to share and easily access documents, references, passwords, designs—you name it—all in one place at any time.

I also use Planoly and UNUM which are Instagram planning and scheduling apps.

What do you think has been the key to your success?

Success is an interesting word. I don’t feel as if I’ve made a success of myself just yet but I would say that I now have the foundations I dreamt of because of hard work, not taking no for an answer and putting my fears to the side.

Where do you hope to take your businesses in future?

I’d like to see my brands Atelier Romy and Espie Roche grow internationally, continue to develop their unique aesthetics and collections and continue learning about the digital/social space to bring them to life online. Recently I’ve acquired a really wonderful group of international clients which I’m helping to infiltrate into the UK and Australian markets which is really exciting for me.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt in your career?

Positive attitude is everything and as my grandfather used to say, ‘the harder I worked, the luckier I became’.

What’s your working style? 

I try to have at least 1 meeting free day each week. This allows me to focus on real work. I’m also most productive in the morning so I try to ensure meetings are in the afternoon to give me that time to catch up on Australian clients who have emailed overnight, and to get the most important tasks done before the day begins.

Every day is different for me. If I’m not shooting or travelling, I’ll usually work at Chess Club in Mayfair or at one of the Soho Houses.

What’s your number one social media tip for someone starting a business?

Have a clear vision and aesthetic, know your audience and unwaveringly stick to it. I also think it’s important to not take it too seriously and to let your personality shine through.

What’s the best piece of advice you can give to anyone starting a business?

You are going to be faced with countless hurdles and have your decision tested repeatedly so make sure you are truly passionate about whatever it is you are pursuing.

Fashion, Lifestyle

Girlboss Q&A: Tash Sefton

18th April, 2018

She’s one half of the hugely successful fashion blog, They All Hate Us. She founded an art business, Sefton Segedin with her sister, Hayley that produces beautiful paintings, prints and a capsule ceramic collection that will be released later this year and now Tash Sefton has a new business venture to add to her already busy schedule. Where Did Your Style Go is Tash’s new styling consultancy that’s helping men and women discover their unique style, and look and feel their best.

Juggling three businesses is no small feat however Tash manages to juggle it all, along with being a mum-of-two and make it look effortless. So, who better to share her secrets to success and achieving your goals than the woman herself. Here Tash chats style, staying motivated and her biggest tip for anyone wanting to get their own start up off the ground…

What was the catalyst for starting Where did your style go?

I am in an unique position to share knowledge I have gathered throughout my career. Where Did Your Style Go, is a consulting business aimed at assisting women and men look and feel their best. I get contacted on a daily basis through my social media and even stopped in the street with people desperate to ask me questions about fashion and style. Social media can be such an intimidating place for some and I have always found it difficult to answer people in detail through this platform. This lead to the idea of creating a place anyone can read my ‘real’ advice and implement it into their lives. To me, simple advice is the best advice, especially in the fashion world with so much information out there.

Having witnessed all facets of the industry and experienced insecurities personally, I have found that small changes can make a big impact on people’s perception of themselves, both internally and externally. It has also been important to create this next phase in my career. After years of gathering industry and personal knowledge about what works, what doesn’t and why—it is now time for me to share this. I am exploding with knowledge! I started in this industry because of my obsession and love of fashion—it’s never been about the bling or selfies but the journey of why I yearn to find the perfect item and treasure it.

What do you enjoy about helping others find their style?

What’s really interesting is I can help people with a simple things I take for granted knowing. And these simple things can be a major life change. Why is it so important to present well and feel good about ourselves? The impact of having a defined personal style goes far beyond making a good first impression. Great style is about approaching each day with confidence and the ability to feel, with conviction, beautiful in what we are wearing. Believe it or not, the right wardrobe can make a massive difference to your self-esteem.

What’s the biggest business challenge you’ve faced and how did you overcome it?

When I had my second child and left my ‘real job’ to start my own business was very daunting. You go from security to the unknown and I had to re train myself to not work in an office full of people. The quietness was hard to get used to. And teaching yourself to set goals while working from your lounge room is actually pretty hard. You have to learn how to do everything from warehouse, IT, accounts etc while still looking like you know what you are doing!

Stylish and successful, Tash is helping others tap into their own unique style

Who or what is your biggest inspiration?

My parents. My mum and dad have their own very successful business and I remember sweeping the floors in the office when I was a kid. As my parents were always working, I knew no different and my drive comes from them. I like that my children see me working as they can see for themselves the sacrifices you need to make…and that money doesn’t grow on trees.

You have so many projects on the go at the same time–how do you juggle it all?

I am very good at juggling. As I worked for a very large company and managing a huge team working on many projects globally at one time was just what I did. I would travel overseas for three months of the year and learnt how to do it all because that’s what was expected of me. So now, doing what I do is actually much calmer…as I am the boss I need to report to! Also with technology you can work wherever and whenever and no one needs to know you are home with the kids or in your sweat pants.

How do you stay motivated?

I am motivated because I love it. I believe what drives you needs to come from within.

What do you think has been the key to your success?

I have remained me. I haven’t let ego take over, and I am surrounded by great friends and a very supportive family. Plus I have a true love of fashion. Everything I do is based around this—it’s never been about me, but about my passion.

Where do you hope to take your businesses in future?

My new business is all about a new philosophy I have. It’s about teaching and not preaching. There is so much NOISE at the moment, and it’s sometimes just too much. I am excited to share my knowledge with people who really want to learn.

SHOP my handbag guide – READ how they speak a universal language – link in the bio

A post shared by WhereDidYourStyleGo (@wheredidyourstylego) on

What’s your approach when it comes to juggling your family and business? How do you make it work?

My children come everywhere with me—they are around my work. They can sit next to me doing homework, while I am working. We spend lots of time at home just being together.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt in your career?

Cash flow! Hahaha so boring but so important.

What’s the best piece of advice you can give to anyone starting a business?

Keep working and start on the side. It takes to pressure out of it ‘being a success’ immediately. Learn from your employer before you take the leap alone. Just don’t tell them! Ha!

Who would you love for me to feature in my Girlboss series?