Anna Ross of Kester Black started her business with $50 is now a B-corp 8 figure nail polish brand
Today on the show we’re learning from Anna Ross, the founder of Kester Black.
We’re chatting through the pivots she made early on when she saw traction in a different space, how she deals with shipping dangerous goods, her thoughts on circular packaging and some key pieces of advice for entrepreneurs. The real key part of this episode is in the very last 10 minutes when she’s going through her 6 quick questions so make sure you tune into that bit. It is not to be missed.
Now before we get into the episode as you most probably know I am shouting loudly about my first book that comes out at the end of February featuring the stories and learnings from 51 of the mindblowing women from the first year on the show and I am just SO excited to share it with you! It’s the perfect book to pick up, flip to any page and get a dose of inspiration and learnings from female founders who have been there / done that. It’s the kind of book you can scribble, post it notes and highlight. It’s the kind of book you can read if you’re an entrepreneur, a future entrepreneur or just someone interested in the stories behind the brands we know and buy. And right now I am looking for different folks who might be able to support the book like freelance PR people, influencers or people with communities.
If you’re someone who might be able to help me get the word out, or you know someone who might be able to help me get the word out. I would love to meet you, slide in my IG dms so we can chat. If we aren’t friends already you can find me at @dooneroisin
Please note, this transcript has been copy pasted without the lovely touch of a human editor. Please expect some typos!
My name is Anna Ross. I'm originally from new Zealand but spent 11.5 years living in Melbourne.
00:04:43Edit So when I started my business Kester Black, it's sort of an Australian business. But then we sort of took it back to New Zealand and now we're in europe setting it up here. So que esta Black is an ethical, sustainable cosmetics brand that specializes in color cosmetics. So we make now polish lipstick and eyeliner at the moment, but we will be launching it into a full beauty brand. And the key differences with chest black and most other brands on the market is that it's cruelty free vegan B corp. We were the first company in the world, first cosmetics company in the world to get B corp certified and everything that we do is based around this. Like how can I do it better? How is it better for the environment? How can we set ourselves apart? So it's awesome that these days, because Cast Black is almost 10 years old, That's standard, and if it's a new brand you should be doing that anyway. So I think that's the most exciting sort of thing that I've seen in the last 10 years of running my little business. Yeah, I love that. It's pretty wild to me that you're the first um like cosmetics company to get a B corp certification.
00:05:52Edit Like I would have just thought that that was kind of like it wasn't It wasn't 10 years ago. And so when I started it was 2012 that I started actually, it was 2009. So it's quite a long time ago, but 2012 2012. So firstly it started as a um because I studied fashion in New Zealand and I'm, I really love working with my hands. So it started as a fashion label, then it became a jewelry label and as I grew and became more hungry and learning more skills. Um it then turned into this cosmetics business. So that was actually that we launched the first six colors in August 2012. So back then there was only one nail polish brand on the market In Australia that had both cruelty free and vegan certification and that was it. one, wow, that's crazy. You know what I love is that instead of like closing the business and starting the new one with the new direction, you just pivoted it like a couple of times you iterated from fashion to jewelry to now cosmic world to nail polish to full cosmetics.
00:07:04Edit It's so interesting to me that you know that idea of like just iterating and quickly going around to find what you're happy with versus like stopping and starting again from scratch and like just building on what you've already built What I would call a business back then, which is the beauty of it. So, um, so I finished my degree and I asked my mom for $30,000 to start a fashion label and she said No you are going overseas to get some experience. So I moved to Melbourne broken, going over over heartbroken. So I moved to Melbourne and I ended up getting a job in retail and it was hard to come from New Zealand to get a job in the fashion industry in Australia because the Australian market didn't understand how excellent the new Zealand degree was and in Australia you either studied design or construction and manufacturing, whereas in New Zealand we got both of those sets of skills in the one degree. So actually I was highly skilled as a graduate because I had also been running like my little fashion label and making clothes for three years the entire time while I was at school as well.
00:08:12Edit And so it was like, it was just a creative outlet when I first got there alongside my full time job. So I just used to make jewelry on the weekends and the only reason why I didn't end up doing best of luck, the fashion label in Australia was because it was too expensive to bring my sewing machine from New Zealand. So it was just a fun little project to create a brand and see if I could sell it. The turning point was though, when I did translated from jewelry into nail polish, I actually got a job in the fashion industry as the product development manager at a really big Australian fashion label and the job was paying $90,000 a year and I thought, wow, that's you know, I think I was on 35 or something back then as a design assistant, I managed to like get a job in the industry and I thought actually I reckon I've put in too much effort. Too little kester black and I would really like to see how far it goes. So I turned down the job, quit my job in fashion and then went and took a job working for an optometrist association so I could do kester black part time and it was at that point that we launched the nail polish colors and then within the first three months of launching nail polish colors, the business tripled revenue within three months.
00:09:26Edit What was the just a painted picture? Are you able to share like what the revenue was when you tripled, It was $30,000 And then within three months we were turning over $90,000 and then it's a lot of nail polish for like a, you know a new business. It was, it was just this like, so we think of it as pivoting, but really it was me getting bored and wanting to do something new and it was a hobby so it wasn't a risk or it was back then because I think the invoice for $2,000 to make the first batch of nail polishes would have bankrupt me almost. So it was risky in that sense, but it's not like I didn't have a job so I could just not do the project and I could just keep going to work and getting paid and paying my rent if that makes sense. Yeah, you've got the safety net. I love it. I have a few different questions on this first of all is like you've decided to switch from jewelry to nail polish, Why? Like what was the, what was the like little tiny glimmer that you were like, oh, it's going to be nail polish, That's what I'm going to switch to.
00:10:28Edit That's the first question. And the second question is like, why do you think it resonated so much with the audience that you were targeting? Like how did you triple your revenue? Like in a tactical, you know, way? So the first part of the first question was I was making sterling silver jewelry and I got bored of working with just one color. I felt like, I think I've been doing it three or four years at that point and, and I felt like the creative outlet was becoming really stagnant and I've always been really interested in color, which is funny because I always only wear black and white, but I love colorful stuff and I love shiny things and you know, like, um, opals and diamonds, But so I wanted to see if I speak in my language, same, I wanted to see if I could color the sterling silver and I thought, I'm pretty sure you could do it with enamel paint. So and I thought what's an easy way to get enamel paint and I thought I'm pretty sure nail polish is enamel paint.
00:11:30Edit So I went and bought a nail polish and I was like oh this is fun, I was actually shopping for a dress and a handbag and I couldn't afford it. Um and then I bought this $14 nail polish and I was like wow, I feel like amazing, it gave me this complete satisfaction of having bought something new, like it was a new outfit, but only for $14 and I thought that's really cool, so I thought I would make colored jewelry and then matching nail polish and the technical reason behind that was because, and so the colored jewelry didn't work, but then I thought I would just launch the nail polish anyway because I wanted to create an ad on sale if you've ever worked in retail, it's just like a small item that you add on to the sale to increase the value of the Um and I thought, and I was like, Oh that's gonna be cool, I could increase it by, you know, $15, I think it was back then or $16 with every ring that I sold. And so that was kind of like the tactical decision to do it and because I'm developing something with color and it was really fun and and new felt satisfying and then when I did launch it into the market to answer your second question, the reason why it went so well I think was because the bottle was designed really nicely and If you can remember back 10 years ago, the main nail Polish brand on the market was Opie and for anybody who likes a neat bathroom counter, those silly round bottles just drive me up the wall because you can never get the label facing the front.
00:13:05Edit So I made it in a square bottle, I put the brand name on the front and I put all of the other rubbish information that nobody really cares about on the back, like the mills and I think we're probably like one of the first brands in the world to do it. I didn't even know if it was because I didn't know about global compliance regulations back then. I don't know if it was illegal to do that. That now knowing the regulations, they don't have to be on the front of the bottle, they just have to be on the bottle somewhere. And I was wondering why I took this product that was mass market. I made interesting colors and then I made it a design forward. I thought about the design first. So I developed this mass market product with design as the core principle. That's so cool and so interesting. It's sort of um, it was oldest happened because I, I didn't have anything to lose and it was interesting and it was a process. So the early days of Kiss to black was rough and ready, I would say we've probably done about three brand design, you know, three, we've had three logos or four logos over the time, but it just grew um naturally and I never had any money to put into it.
00:14:15Edit I started with $50 and then I grew the business step by step from the $50. So there hadn't been any investment up until last year, wow, that's so crazy. And I think I read you're, you're like an eight figure business now, that's like so impressive when you think about the last decade, obviously there's a lot that happens in a decade and it's hard to remember it all. But if you were to kind of like piece down on the milestones that got you to where you are today. What are those key milestones within the business after pivoting to nail polish. Cool. So pivoting to nail polish was an 2012. And then within the next two years I had grown the range from six nail polish colors to 60. So it was the expansion of the color range, jesus. And Then yeah, and then, um, probably within the first three years, 2015 We had 500 wholesale stock artists in Australia.
00:15:21Edit And so I would not recommend that in today's landscape, wholesale is a really different business. It's a different ballgame, but e commerce was still fresh back then. And um, I don't even know if Shopify was around, but anyway, we made our first website on Wordpress and it was rubbish. The person I was working with wasn't that good. And the functionality of Word Press wasn't as good. And so you know, sort of all developed by now and then it would have been probably getting into liberties in London. So our first massive international department store, which is really exciting. And then that's sort of that the most memorable thing recently was And 2021 March coronavirus. We, all of our wholesale stores in Australia got shut down because of the lockdowns. But we had just redone our website and it was at that point that we started facebook advertising as well. And it blew up essentially because our website was ready to go.
00:16:29Edit There was a demand from the customer because people were at home and really looking to buy online. And our facebook ads account really started to gain some traction. We'd probably started facebook advertising a year before and really started to scale at that point. But there's so many ins and outs with facebook advertising and what we've learned from that is like that we need to do it in house. And the agencies can't help. We tried to do it for a number of years before 2020, But it didn't really work because we kept trying to outsource it because we were a small team and we kept trying to spend $1,000 a month. And now we spend, you know, back in 2020, we were putting $20,000 a month into it. And until you can afford to do that, it's almost in my opinion not worth it. Yeah. And I think as well, like the thing about facebook ads, especially in today's landscape since the IOS changes is like you need to have so much foundational, you know, things in place before you should even start to consider ads. You need to have, like what you were saying, your website needs to be optimized and ready for those ads.
00:17:34Edit You need to be able to produce content, especially now, more than ever, you need to be able to produce content at scale. That's engaging. That's incredible. That's going to hook this person in when they're scrolling through a saturated social news feed, there's just so much that you should be doing before you even, you know, go into that space. And that's, I think what I see a lot of small businesses trying to jump the gun, they want to go straight from have launched a brand now. I need to launch ads and it's like there's actually so many steps in between those two phases. Absolutely. And the key thing to remember with facebook ads is that's how to get new customers to your brand. But if you're not, if you haven't already set up your emails and your nurture flow and your website is not optimized, There's no point in spending that, it's just money down the drain. So we um did a little test, which was really exciting. We use Shopify now and we have an Australian website and that was the original one that we jumped onto about three or four years ago when we made the switch.
00:18:35Edit That was probably a key milestone too because Shopify has got fantastic reporting. Yes, it's more restricted. So that yeah, it's the best. I would have absolutely recommend it. And then we set up a new Zealand website a year and a half to two years ago and We got that kind of all right in that market and then we launched into the market and our conversion rate on our New Zealand website is about 9% and on the Australian website it's about 5%. So it's really interesting to see if you get all those steps right and then launch into a market and you do it successfully, you get this awesome optimization. But of course the Australian markets where we've made all of our mistakes, lots of people saw us and whole foods stores or at the moment we're having problems in Australia with our warehouse packaging, the items really nicely. So in New Zealand we seem to have got it right and we've got that running in the first Year, I think we've started at $6,000 a month in New Zealand and then Within eight or nine months we were doing $90,000 a month in New Zealand a month.
00:19:51Edit So it was really easy to scale that market quickly because we've made all these mistakes in Australia, We knew what to do. So we're hoping that when we scale europe, it goes smoothly while we're over here. Yeah. Third time around, you're gonna, you're gonna breeze through it and what I also, I just want to, you know, circle back for one second to anyone listening who is a small business owner. The reason why, you know, it's not sustainable to acquire every customer for the first time if you don't have all of your funnels and everything set up is because, well I've said it the wrong way around. It's not sustainable if you have to acquire everyone and then you lose them as a customer. What you want to be doing is making sure that that customer has a, you know, a long lifetime with you and you're able to capitalize on acquiring them that first time. So you only pay for them once. And then you're able to kind of, you know, build on that relationship and offer them new products through your email series and things like that. So for anyone listening who is wanting to just have the magic pill and jumping into ads, there's more to Consider, it's like that's so funny because that's exactly how it was for us.
00:20:57Edit I don't know, kissed a black officially started in 2014 when we registered it as a company and not just me playing around on the side, but it's taken a long time and for the first probably five years it was all word of mouth and free. Pr So built the brand with no marketing spend whatsoever and we had like a 90% return customer rate which was amazing. And so it wasn't until we sort of got all of that then it was worth even bothering to start spending money on marketing unless you have a couple of million dollars to start with and you can afford to do it. But even then you can burn that money quickly unless you've got the working capital. Unpredictability is part of what makes starting and growing a business both exciting and terrifying from the next loan payment to your next big sale or your next acquisition finding predictability and business is about as likely as finding a last minute valentine's day dinner reservation unlikely hubspot Crm platform is here to help grow and scale with you through uncertainty.
00:22:04Edit So you can spend your time getting to that dinner reservation, hub, sports reporting dashboard is like your crystal ball giving you a bird's eye view on your marketing, your sales and customer service performance. So you can get ahead of any issues before they happen. Lead rotation and automation takes on operational sales tasks so your team can focus on customer needs and shared inboxes, make incoming chats and emails easy to manage and scale for the whole team, learn more about how a hubspot crm platform can help your business grow better at hubspot dot com. And I think as well the reality is that today we're in such a unique position right now with the way that instagram reels and Tiktok are, you know, really taking small businesses to the next level. Everyone should be focusing their efforts on their content marketing strategy and their organic content marketing strategy. Because every video has the opportunity to go viral, you can reach people for free essentially just with time. I think it's such a cool, cool moment in the landscape of social and that is something that Kiss Black has not done well.
00:23:13Edit You know, we've done a traditional sort of, we were initially a wholesale were 80% wholesale, which means that say Um you have a product and it costs $5, then you double it to $10 and that's your wholesale price and then you double that again to $20 and that's your retail price. So if you've got a $5 product, you're only making like $5 on a wholesale item. But if you're selling it direct to consumer, you're making $15 for the same product. So it was in 2020 in January March 2020 that we've pretty much pivoted from. And organically because of the situation 80% wholesale too. Um 10% wholesale, 90 Online and with 90% online. Um we had a growth a bigger gross margin and we had way more money to spend on things, but then we spent that on facebook ads. So we haven't actually done a really fantastic content marketing strategy, because mainly because I found it really difficult to find people who are great at that, it's really interesting because I mean everybody is a native and everybody seems to be a social media marketing person.
00:24:23Edit But content creation is so hard or it's hard to find great content creators who really understand the brand and create on point content for our customers. So yeah, it's because it's such a big mix of skills in there, you know, it's like graphics skills, copy skills, video making, skills editing, you know, styling. So We need someone who's actually been a long-term customer who's kind of been with you on the journey for the last 5 to 10 years, who's really passionate about what you're doing and gets it. That would be so cool. That's so we're looking if anybody's out there, please get in touch. Yeah, that would be so fun to I wanted to ask you about shipping nail polish in my in my research, it was brought to my attention that shipping nail polish is shipping a dangerous good. And so I'm interested, I haven't spoken to anyone about that on the show before. So what's the lay of the land now polish?
00:25:25Edit My advice to anybody listening is don't touch it. So that was one of these big faux pas that I did from the start, which is probably my number one piece of advice is if you're going to create a product, check how you ship it. And one of the brands that I've seen do this really well was frank body from Australia and they actually had their initial products, their coffee scrubs and little bottles, but then they would have to send that as a parcel, which would have cost six or $7. So they redesigned the packaging so that it was a flat bag and then they could put it through the post and it cost them a dollar per unit. So that is a really important consideration if you're at the start of making a brand. We um I made nail polish and sent it through the post for two years before I even understood that it was illegal to do so and it wasn't until I had a big shipment going to a store and it must have got dropped by the post e and it got sent back and it was just this mess of shattered nail polish bottles essentially.
00:26:33Edit And there was a note on it saying you cannot be shipping this through the post and I was like, oh I wonder why. So I went online and looked it up and I found that you had to have a license to ship dangerous goods. Anything dangerous goods essentially means anything that is covered in the classes. And the classes was like flammable goods um nuclear nuclear items, explosives, batteries. You know these times that yeah like biological virus samples that could wipe out the human population. They are considered dangerous goods. So I had to do this get do this test door, do this course to get my license And I thought I'll do it online. How much does it cost? Maybe not very much between say $3 and $500 or something? Not not heaps right? But I did it online and I had to learn how to ship all of those items to get it.
00:27:34Edit And it took me seven months. It was the hardest thing I've ever done. It was so oh my God so anyway I got the license and going forward though that means that there's a dangerous goods charge on every order sent. So um for example when we were in Australia we're trying to ship now foolish to new Zealand and it would cost say $30 shipping with DHL because it can only go by DHL or Fedex essentially or an approved dangerous air carrier. So you cannot post dangerous goods using a postal system. It won't even get out of the border of the country. It costs $30 then plus the D. G. Surcharge of say $10. So then it takes your $30 shipping item two $40 and are now publish it that time is $20. So it would cost twice as much to ship just the cost of one product. And then of course you obviously wouldn't ship it what we did for like two years because we thought we thought it would be better to to retain those early customers from new Zealand than shut them off for two years until we could find another solution.
00:28:44Edit It just means that it's really difficult to expand into new markets with it because to send a pallet of dangerous goods, that's a different shipping class to how we would normally send it if you if I was sending one to you and then um it's troublesome because then any warehouse that we get like a third party logistics pack and send dispatch warehouse, they need to have trained and approved staff. You need to be able to store a certain amount. So there's all these legalities around products like this and they are very complex and I can see why every other beauty brand. I thought Chester Black was all being smart and cool by creating products that no other beauty brands were really focusing on. So there was a gap in the market. But I found out why there is a gap in the market and it's because it's incredibly difficult. Yeah, you've taken on that complex challenge of filling the gap in the market. It's and you can't manufacture it yourself, you can't fill it yourself. So you know if your factories fall, you can't then process any of that stock yourself because you would be usually able to buy in bulk and then pour, we've poured skincare into bottles before.
00:29:53Edit And that was easy. But my gosh, no polish, no way. Is that why you decided to introduce the other cosmetics to kind of have things that were easier to share? Yeah, it was part of it. But I guess my my vision of Coastal Black has always been centered around me, whatever products I would like that, that's what I want to make. And so my focus, I guess in the early days with nail polish, what started as like this cosmetics brand because I was really interested in sustainability. And I wanted a new project to keep me interested and I looked at now and polished and I thought what a crappy product this product is rubbish. It would be better off for everybody if we didn't have it. In fact, if nail polish didn't exist, that would be the best. So actually I wanted to create nail polish because I was like, I wonder if you can do this in a positive way because people are not going to stop buying it. But there's no really great options on the market for people who really who who care about the environment.
00:30:56Edit So why? What's bad about it as a, as a Total Nube. It's well, it's a plastic film. So it's plastic because it's dangerous goods, that means until it's dry, it's toxic. So when you paint nail polish on the fumes are bad. But then once it's dry it's completely non toxic. But it's plastic, it's like the packaging is made up of a plastic lid and a plastic brush. And there's probably about four or five different types of plastic in their packaging. And then glass. And the problem with nail polishes that often you cannot clean the glass so none of the glass is recycled. So there are lots of issues with um nail polish. And then of course there are broader issues like a lot of the Mica used in the in the cosmetics industry, which is the gorgeous powder that gives things a tiny shine or an iridescent sort of look. Um it's so it's a rock, but often that is mined by Children and so it's using slave labor.
00:32:00Edit It's dangerous in the minds then it's like processed with other chemicals which are toxic. So there's lots of things in the industry which are really, really bad. And I was like, wow, nobody has tried to make this any better. I wonder if we can. So there are some things in the industry that we can't change, like for example, the fact that you can't clean the glass bottles that easily because to clean them, you need industrial chemicals to do it. So then therefore if we did manage to get the glass back and recycle it, you can do it easily at home. So you can clean your glass and recycle that glass. But as a brand, we can't do it on an industry scale at the moment. So, and to, to offset some of those things, we um donate money back to charities and we are carbon neutral and we are a B corp so we focus on this broader aspect of sustainable business and ethical business because initially my understanding of ethical and sustainable business was, you know, small and so I just thought that doing better would be making in small batches, that there was no off run run offs, no excess and making it vegan because most of our polish has actually got animal ingredients in it.
00:33:17Edit So it was just a few of those small things. And then as I've grown and sustainability has become more of an interest, there's just so many problems that I want to try and address. And one of the biggest ones is the packaging and the cosmetics industry is just, there's just so much. And the main problem with it is that it's mixed material, so you can't recycle it at least you know how to respond. So it's complex. What is your advice for small brands who want to go down the path of certifications? I know you have somewhere in the range of six different certifications like cruelty free and vegan and be cop what's your advice for small businesses who want to go down that path. I imagine this, you know, costs involved. I imagine there's a lot of time spent towards applications or things like that. What's your advice? It's a great question because my advice is it's very hard to retrofit product and brand. If you don't come up with these concepts initially you don't have to pay the licensing fee and get the accreditation.
00:34:27Edit But you need to understand the values of the certification when you're small. So for example, we want to get some clean certification for our products and that's complex because the word clean is not standard across the industry. So at the moment it's considered a greenwashing term. But I don't think it will be in the future because there will be standards built out against this. You know, like vegan was a you know confusing term and cosmetics initially until there was a group of people who decided on what the definition of vegan and cosmetics means. So for example, with Clean they actually have a list of um listed on their website of ingredients that are not clean. So for us it's really easy because we can go onto the website, download their list and use their lists initially when we're doing all of our formulating. So that is a really important step for us to do um in regards to ingredients.
00:35:29Edit But if it's something like B corp. B corp is such an awesome one because they're um questionnaire is free and you can go on and do it as many times as you like and only until you would like to pay and go through the certification process which you've done all of the hard work in the questionnaire before you even do that. Like that's an incredible tool, you just do it once it'll take you two or three hours and it'll give you so many different things to think about that. Then you've got your roadmap of the next three years, sort of working towards getting those things set up. So I I would just do do it early, use the free resources on their websites and just think about it um as a brand, we're sort of going through this at the moment developing, expanding our product range and it's really hard to retrofit packaging. So an example of, we've finalized our sister sorry sustainability strategy. And one of the things that we want to do is circular packaging, but um it was almost six years ago, I started making a lipstick, it took three years of development and then we launched it three years ago and only last year did we said um standardized what what that meant in regards to say sustainability, I can't say my guess is today.
00:36:44Edit So anyway, so I've written a design philosophy for all of our products moving forward and the eyeliner products fell into that, so they're plastic free. Um the cap is recyclable and otherwise they're biodegradable. So they're an awesome product for sustainably, but the lipsticks aren't because they have a wand because their lipstick liquid lipstick, they have a wand which has a couple of different plastic materials in it. The first batch that we made wasn't in post consumer recycled plastic. So we have updated the bottles and they are now post consumer recycled plastic bottles, but for it to truly fit in our sustainability strategy moving forward, we would have to discontinue the product. We probably wouldn't have chosen that format for that product, had I have understood what the design philosophy of all of kester black products was, and it's the same thing with the nail polish.
00:37:46Edit So if we truly want to become clean and sustainable and circular, we would have to discontinue our lipsticks and nail polishes. So just having to think about it in the first place is just important. I think it's easy to be sustainable if you design it then. So it really, really sustainability starts with the design and following on from that, What is your general Top Piece of Advice for Entrepreneurs in 2022? Oh, that's a big question. That's too big a question. What's the best piece of advice you were given from someone else? All the worst, So we can learn from it. I think one of the things that always pops up is start your business the way that you intend to run it because yes, you won't be able to do that from the get go, but to think about your little business and different stages of growth and how that's going to look because You got to about 2016 and I experienced um I got diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome and it was because I didn't have a clear vision of what I wanted it to look like.
00:39:02Edit And so I was trying to do everything myself and I wasn't accepting help from people and we couldn't afford to pay people. And so it actually became really, really difficult where the one thing I have learned over the years is that hiring people who are way more experienced than yourself saves you money in the long run, who are always trying to hire juniors and train them, but they didn't come with enough experience to be able to grow the business. So they sort of cost the business, but there wasn't a growth aspect to it. So yes, start your business the way that you intend to run it. I think it's important. That's great advice. I love that. Thanks Thanks for listening to this amazing episode. We are testing out something new here for the next while and we're splitting up each episode into two parts, the main interview part and then the six quick questions part to make them easier to listen to. So that's part one done, tune into part two, to hear the six quick questions.
So question number one is what's your, why? Why are you doing what you're doing? I think my answer to that is why not. You know, I don't know. I don't know if I believe in this like purpose and why I think that and you can express yourself and cast a black is definitely an expression of me and my interests. And um the main barrier for people starting their own businesses is that they think too much about it.
00:01:12Edit Just get going. Why not do it otherwise, I'll just have another full time job and I wouldn't be making any kind of impact on the world. 100% Amen. Mm hmm. Number two is what's been the number one marketing moment so far. Mm. Mm I think it was actually it's like a broader but when we started facebook advertising in house, that's just when stuff really started to change and that really was fast growth. Mm hmm. Love that. Love that for you. Question number three is what's your go to? Business resource. Could be book podcast or newsletter. I have so many. Okay. Um gorgeous. It's G. O. R. G. I. S. It's like a customer service management platform. It's the best. These guys are the best, it's cheap. It's awesome. The same with as in they manage your, they do your customer service. No no you do it. But it's a platform that manages all of your, all different emails, all of your instagram, all of your facebook messages and it pulls it all into one and then you've got templates prewritten because the prewritten response because often we get the same questions so why not automate that a little bit more.
00:02:25Edit Um It also loops into Shopify and pulls out all of the order history. So just within the one screen you can see how many orders they've made, what orders they've made and then it says you know there's all this like pre filled stuff that you can customize and one of the best. Um the other one is a kendo. Of course I'm sure most of your listeners will know that reviews are one of the most important um proof points for customers, especially these days. What do other real people think about your product? So a kendo. Is this incredible? Reviews plug in for Shopify? Um that's a lot like yat po, there's another one called Jacopo. But I was looking at your post and it was $4000 a year and I think a kendo is like 400 a U. D. A year or just some way cheaper. And the guys there are so nice and so helpful and they do all the customization and implementation on your website and it's been one of the best things I've ever done in my business. I love both of those.
00:03:30Edit Thank you so much. I can't wait to check them out and spread the good word to everyone who will listen. Question number four is how do you win the day? What are your am or PM rituals and habits that keep you feeling happy and successful? I meditate every day Between one and 2 hours and it sounds like a lot of time. But since I started meditating my business has grown my relationships in regards to business and with staff and other suppliers become a lot stronger and I don't get so stressed out. And it's probably been one of the main things that I've needed to do to manage this chronic fatigue Issue. Not that its as bad as it was in 2016 but I reckon I'm about 80% recovered through meditation wow. How did you like? Where did you go to learn? What are the kind of resources that you started looking at? I started it with TM meditation which I wouldn't recommend because it's just because it's thought.
00:04:34Edit It's using thought, which I think is not the point of meditation? Meditation is to not worry about thought. It's not not to think but it's not to use thought to get into a state of heightened state. So I actually use an app called undo app. And um I also go on the undo retreats which run once or twice a year. And so the first time I truly learned how to meditate was I went on a 2.5 week meditation retreat in Perth and it was one of the most wild experiences of my life. So it was silent. You weren't allowed to talk to anybody but there's no religious or spiritual um concepts in this meditation. It's literally the point of meditation is to just sit there and be still and don't stress yourself out and then your body just heals itself. And that's what that's what meditation I think is supposed to be. I have it really high up on my list of things to do a silent meditation retreat.
00:05:38Edit I think it I would really enjoy it. I can't wait. I have to get the recommendation from you. I'm going to one in three weeks so I will send you data where are um it's actually being run in Estonia and you can find the details on the website. Quiet retreats. So that is the retreat side of the business to the app undo. Got it? Let me check it out. Thanks Question # five is for you right now, where is the most important spend of a dollar within the business? That's such a trick question. So it's if we've got stock it's on marketing but if we don't have stock it's on stock because last year we um had supply chain issues and we were sold out of the top six bestselling colors um products. Sorry and I reckon it affected our revenue by 40%. So we were marketing But then people would come into our website and trying to buy and we don't have the stock to buy. So it's always a catch 22 marketing or stock. That's a tough one. Holy Moly And question # six, what has been a major fail that you can share and how did you deal with it?
00:06:50Edit Um I have a real doozy. Oh my god, I love a doozy. Please give us a doozy. It's not a quick fire question though. How much time do we have? I'll give you the short version. Um Oh my god no give us a long version. I um started a second business and skin care about three years ago with a woman that I met at a conference. Um She was very successful and had had a business previously but had sold it and wanted to come and do something in the skincare realm. So we started working on this beautiful brand together, we're 50, 50 shareholders. And um what I didn't do at the time was get everything in writing. And so we had all these agreements or I did have quite a lot of writing actually. Um you know how much I was going to get paid, you know, that, that I was an employee and also a shareholder. So we were business partners and I was working for the business for a wage.
00:07:58Edit There was an understanding that I wouldn't get paid until the business was turning a profit, which was fine because you've got to work hard at the start of business to like make any money. So I did all the branding, all the website, all the formulations, essentially all of the work for three years. And then I didn't understand the difference between having a company in new Zealand and having a company in Australia and I thought that the responsibilities of directors were essentially the same, but they're not this slightly different. So I really only understood the Australian law. And then what happened was um, that partner, my Boss, business partner, diluted my shares from 50% down to 0.02% and said that she didn't show me any money and essentially I have no stake in the business anymore. Um, and I have no oversight of the business and I haven't been paid and this is all these things, it's just this ongoing drama, We've been going through holy ship, that's crazy That it's around $330,000 of unpaid, just wages, right?
00:09:08Edit That's not even accounting for any kind of brand value or anything like that. And so we've been through this like consistent legal battle where we've just filed with the employment relations agency in new Zealand and one of the most amazing things that I've learned through this process, it's been really interesting to go through a full court process because often it's a really terrifying thing for people who don't, you know, you're only really afraid of the unknown and what I've learned is even if you win and you get positive rulings and you're on the right and the money is owed to you, there's absolutely nothing you can do to ensure that the company or the person pays the money to you and there are no repercussions for that. So the legal system, what after we've paid, That's crazy. You know, and we've paid legal, I've I've personally paid legal fees Up to, I'm sitting at around $40,000. I've paid a lawyer or different lawyers to try and recover this money.
00:10:11Edit Um I've just kissed all that money goodbye and there's absolutely nothing I can do about it. Isn't that why we deal with that? Like mentally and like how do you like come to peace with her doing that to you and do you have any contact with her like that's just so mindless, that was so close. And I think the reason why I didn't get anything in writing was because I truly trusted her and she was a very close friend and an incredible mentor and we spoke to each other about three hours a day so we were like inseparable almost. But what I learned through the processes that she set it up from the start, it wasn't just like there wasn't anything that fell apart. We didn't have a fight. There wasn't really, I think it just got to this point where she didn't need me anymore because I've done all the work and then um she just sort of started playing a game and it has been very upsetting. It's taken a lot of energy out of me. That's three years of 20 hours a week that I could have been focusing fully on Caster black that I wasn't.
00:11:15Edit So there's not just the loss of wages that I haven't been paid. There's a massive opportunity cost as well for my opportunity cost is crazy. So um I hate that for you on so many levels. I meditate a lot. And I've like had to do a lot of work because the feeling is why does this person hate me so much. I haven't done anything wrong. Could she do that? And I just wanted fear. Not not what even was what it's not even what's fear because fear would be you know share of the business or something like that but just what minimum minimum I guess is what I'm asking for. So it has been really difficult and like just I've always thought this, I've heard so many other entrepreneurs have stories like this where they get an investor or this is the whole reason why we didn't do an investment around for such a long time because I was terrified of them of investors because I didn't want anybody having control of my business or shares in the business or I was worried about going to court if I spent $2 on a coffee, that wasn't a business expense and then I would be embezzling from the company.
00:12:26Edit You know, there's all these risks around becoming a being a company director and be having shareholders to report to. But look, I've learned a lot, I don't think I have fully resolved it yet. I'm still hurt and um, but it's been a fantastic growth opportunity for me because initially I would have been really aggressive and reactionary and now I get an email from my lawyer saying PS and if we even win, we might not be able to recover the costs anyway. And then I just get upset for about half an hour and I think, oh my God, what have I wasted all this time for? And I think the thing is, I just would never ever have, I don't know, A 5050 business with anybody else. And when we did the capital razor only sold 10% of the shares of the company, so I still maintain major control And of course we went through virtual. So it's not like having a single solo investor. There are. Yeah restrictions I guess that that apply in capital raise capital public capital raise office like through virtual for example.
00:13:38Edit So it's been really hard and I probably would have had it takes more energy to a Big Doozy Business. Real Tough one. My God. Well thank you so much for sharing that with us. That's obviously something that everyone can learn from is to really. Yeah I mean I don't even know how you would avoid that. That's just truly like One tough one. Like a really good like a bit of advice around that um like a smaller version of this right? And a smaller example of this is if you're a brand and you get a graphic designer to build your brand you need um legal paperwork called a data VIP. Or date of release to say that you as the brand owner who has paid money for that owns it because actually in regards to I. P. And legals we probably tried to spend not very much money on legals initially and that's probably the best spending money ever. So I had heard of a friend of mine she started a brand. Her graphic designer did the entire brand.
00:14:41Edit She spent heaps of money on it. And then she doesn't actually even own that. The graphic designer still owned it. So she'd spent all this money building a brand. That's crazy. Yeah, it's really crazy. It's something that you've got to check up front when you start working with the designers and to get working files because often designers only give updf pdf and that's like almost irrelevant to a brand. I think we always get our graphic designers to send us, you know that in design files or the Photoshop files all set up and established so that if we need to change one bit of copy, we can. It's not a problem. I'm exactly the same because especially like especially if you're able, if you have the skill set where you can just whip something up, you don't need to go back to your designer and be like, Oh, can you just shuffle this a little bit to the left or like just change this word? It's it's so key to have the working documents. 100%. Oh anna, this was absolute gold. You have just shared so many cool things in this episode. Thank you so much for coming on the show and for making the time and yeah, thank you so much.