Eleven years ago, I was a women without a plan. today I am a presenter selling my shapewear products on live shopping channels in Australia and the UK and am launching on the French Shopping Channel in March 2016.
In the year 2000, after having two children, I went from a size eight to a size fourteen. With a wedding to attend I was looking for something that could ‘hide my tummy’ and I found some ‘firm knickers’. While the underwear did flatten my lower tummy, it created a muffin top over the top. In the end, it was a choice of having a bulging midriff or a bulging belly. I can’t even remember the choice I made.The magic moment occurred when I was selling these T-shirts that I had picked up in China to my friends. All the T-shirts were a little too tight and I realised that I needed to find something that us Aussie girls could wear, something that could tuck us in and slim us down without being too uncomfortable or hot.
Finding the right material was quite an effort, until I received a sample from a supplier in the United States, and that’s where it all began.
Prior to having kids, I had been an enthusiastic traveller, and suddenly I found myself on a flight to Colombia. I was unsure as to what to expect from the country, but after arriving I discovered that Colombia and its people were just amazing.
It was working at a shapewear manufacturer in Colombia that I met Angela Bishop from Channel Ten News.
What’s been your proudest moment in business?
I gave Angela a piece of my shapewear, and she then went on to wear it to Nicole Kidman’s wedding. Afterwards, Angela presented a news story on my shapewear, which created interest in the product and led to A Current Affair reaching out to cover my shapewear in a story.
From there I went on to become a presenter on the live shopping channel TVSN Australia, where I sold my own products. More recently, I launched my product, Bella Bodies, on UK TV shopping last July, and I will be launching on the French Shopping TV in March this year.
What are the challenges of your business?
The challenges sometimes are finding the right information and finding the people with the answers. It took me months to get a handle on exporting into the UK and finding all the answers I needed. You get there eventually, but sometimes you feel you are just hiking up a mountain where you are never going to reach the top.
Given what you know now, what would you do differently?
Although I have much more of a plan these days, I am not a great believer of planning too much. My belief is you need to have an idea of where you need to go but you need to be very flexible so you can change quickly if you need to. Bella Bodies is really quite small and we do outsource some of the business like some parts of social media and warehousing.
Who would you most like to employ in your business – famous or otherwise?
I would love to work with Anna Wintour who is the chief editor of American Vogue. I think she would be an amazing influence on my business as she is a highly disciplined and influential woman who has held down her job since 1988.
What would you say is the recipe for success in your sector?
I think some of the reasons why Bella Bodies thrives, and survives, in such a competitive market is that I am still very much on the pulse, so we can change and adapt really quickly. You really need to listen to your customers. The styles and fit of our shapewear have really changed over the past 10 years, subject to feedback from all the lovely ladies.
What advice do you have for other business owners?
Excess stock is really quite a problem and we overcome this by donating to the Salvation Army. I believe volunteering and donations are very important to building a great community, and I believe that all businesses, if possible, should try to donate or volunteer time.
My father died in 2015 and he was a great inspiration to me. He was a teacher and had such a great rapport with his students, so when I saw the opportunity to become a mentor with Raise, the foundation whose mentoring programs provide a community of support around young people, I grabbed it. Some of these teenagers just need someone non- judgemental to listen to them and many do not have a significant adult in their life who they can talk to. At Raise they believe that at times you can always find time to help people and although making money is very important it should not be your only focus.