It’s been a hot minute since we’ve heard from Julie Stevanja and Sali Sasi.
The ultra stylish and business savvy twins founded Stylerunner in 2012, jumping early on the athleisure trend in a move that saw Julie debut on the rich list in 2017 (Sasi left the business in 2015).
For the first time in years, the ladies are back working together, and their new business venture will have you reaching for your credit card before you can say “add to cart”.
Enter Her Black Book; a premium online shopping and discovery destination designed to save you money on the brands you love. Think: Zimmerman, Alice McCall, Bec & Bridge, Spell, Ginger & Smart and more.
The crux of the platform is to make shopping and selling easier (and more affordable) than ever before.
Shoppers are alerted to deals and promotions (including cashback offers) and can peruse styling tips and slick content.
Stevanja and Sasi claim it’s like nothing else entirely on the market—and it launches on this Sunday, November 7.
Ahead of the launch of Her Black Book, marie claire had the opportunity to sit down with Sali and Julie to discuss the brand and the future of fashion commerce.
Read on below for everything the pair know about starting your own business and the hard-earned lessons from Stylerunner that they’re bringing along for their new journey.
What Inspired You To Create Her Black Book?
SS: For myself it came about from consumer frustrations. Everytime I had gone to update my wardrobe I was trying to find really good deals, but was continually met with online frustrations, whether it was from using expired codes or being diverted to websites that were untrustworthy.
It was always a really unpleasant experience and often to the point where I would abort mission.
Last year on my 40th birthday (when I was looking for dresses) the situation was heightened and I just found that frustration was still apparent and it wasn’t just a matter of not being able to find the coupons that I knew I had sitting in my inbox.
I was also part of many fashion and beauty forums and saw that many other women had similar experiences, so that’s when I approached Julie with this idea.
JS: To Sali’s point, there is nothing more frustrating when you’re searching for a good deal and nothing works. It’s the worst feeling ever.
When Sali brought this to me I had been at Stylerunner for 10 years now so I was very much thinking like a retailer. We run promotions and I could see as a consumer that there were so many offers out there. I saw an opportunity as a retailer to get those deals out to the consumer in a short window and presented in an onbrand, stylish and premium way.
Her Black Book solves two things; getting retail promotions and incentives to consumers when they want them, and doing it in a beautiful and engaging way.
Stylerunner Was So Disruptive, What Are Some Lessons You’re Taking Into Her Black Book?
SS: We started Stylerunner ourselves and weren’t part of a corporate organisation where there is so much red tape, some of the things that worked so well that we’ll definitely be bringing into Her Black Book is about continually being creative and innovative and sometimes making decisions quite quickly.
We’re really allowing the market and the consumer to drive whether or not our business model is working, and in doing so are able to pivot quite quickly. I think those things, rather than being able to cross check it to the nth degree where that idea becomes old is some of the exciting parts we’ll be doing to keep things fun and fresh.
From a more personal level, one of the things we’ve learned is to have a bit more balance. As a first time entrepreneur you work crazy hours and put everything you have into it, now we’ve learned it’s about working smarter, not harder. We’re still working really hard and delivering a great product, but we’re ensuring we take time for our family and don’t miss out on those personal moments.
When you’re not running on empty, it allows you more opportunity to be creative and gives you more energy and drive.
JS: We’re putting ourselves in the consumers shoes at all times. Often people join an industry and essentially follow the same model. Sure, if we look at the affiliate channels as it is, we can roll something out and make it a little prettier but it’s not something we did with Stylerunner and it’s not something that we’ll do with Her Black Book.
Being willing to challenge and reinvent everything from a consumers perspective is important to us, just because we think it can be done better.
Most importantly, we just want to have fun and enjoy the journey.
Since Partying Ways In 2015, What Is It Like To Be Working Together Again?
JS: Creating a business is a marathon, not a sprint, it’s a 10 year journey.
SS: It’s kind of funny in some sense as it’s almost like we’re back at the beginning. It’s like the clock has been rewound.
Julie and I work in synergy together and always have, we’re complete polar opposites but we have so much in common at the same time. The things we do really well is creating beautiful platforms for women to shop and it’s something we’re both really passionate about so when you put us in a room it almost becomes like an innovative think tank. It’s been a lot of excitement and a lot of fun/
JS: The best thing about working with your family, especially your twin sister, is that we’ve literally known each other from birth so we know each other as well as anyone could. Sali is one of the hardest working people I know and incredibly bright so we kind of know what we’re getting into. I couldn’t imagine starting this with anyone else.
Actually we’ve been having a lot more twin moments lately which is crazy how over the years we’ve become a lot more aligned.
So, What Makes Her Black Book Different?
JS: The fact that we’ve built a really premium affiliate destination means that we’re able to curate and bring onboard some incredible brands, which is why it’s so exciting because there is no mix like this in any affiliate space.
We have some of the best brands in the business, we’re talking Zimmermann, SIR The Label, Bondi Born, the best of Australian fashion but also premium international players and we’re only just starting. You can expect to see this list grow.
SS: We’re also not just targeting really well known big players, but similar to how we did with Stylerunner and discovering emerging labels we’re bringing that discover piece into the Her Black Book model.
We have direct membership which allows really cool brands who may not have the capacity to use affiliate plug ins to be able to gain exposure on our platform.
JS: It’s not just fashion either its beauty, homewares, childrenswear and it’s not just exclusive, it’s really accessible. We know the consumer, it’s someone like us who shops at everything from high street to really affordable. Everything that you love is in one place.
We’re also launching cash back and planning some digital content that supports our retailers and brands. We’re doing 20 features a year on incredible women across all walks of life and will be donating $10,000 to charities through that program.
SS: For me as a breast cancer survivor it’s important for us to have a piece within our business where we’re able to give back and do good with what you’ve built has always been paramount since Day 1. It’s one of the first things we built into the business model.
JS: We’re also putting ourselves in the consumer shoes and asking “what do you really want?”, “what do you want to shop”, so if we can keep doing that and building a solution for Her we can keep giving something back to the consumers.
What Excites You Most About Her Black Book?
SS: Seeing our community grow, the users the downloaders everything.
JS: For me it’s the fact that we’re doing something that has never been done before and that we’re creating something from scratch in a growing industry is super exciting.
What Is The Future Of Retail In Australia?
JS: A lot of retailers are running promotions, but it’s really hard to actually get that out to a consumer, things like consumer’s open rates from emails are going down so there are all these other channels that aren’t working.
In the short term, it’s going to be a tough couple of years for retailers. There’s a lot of people who haven’t been in the best financial position due to the lockdowns and that’s impacted supply chains, inventory levels so it will take a couple of cycles to get back to optimal positions.
We didn’t plan it this way but our app will be really useful for both retailers and consumers throughout the next 18 months and more.
There is so many disruptive Australian businesses across retail and tech so I think you’re going to see a lot of innovation.
SS: There are also a lot of retailers looking to push the boundaries and really taking that step forward and wanting to be leaders. Whether or not cryptocurrency or artificial intelligence plays into the technology led retail activities we’re going to see the tech side step up.
Any Advice For Female Entrepreneurs?
SS: When you start a business, you add an immense amount of unnecessary pressure because you think you need to live and breath it 24/7. This creates such an unnatural working environment and I think having spent 10 years across multiple projects it allows you to understand what’s important and what’s not.
Going into this project we’re a lot more humbled and are excited to just have fun, which as a first time entrepreneur you can lose sight of.
Her Black Book is available to download on iOS and Android from Sunday November 7 2021.
Video created by Charles Grant @ Cousiin
Styling by Suzy Eskander; HMU by Hayley Wilson & Stefanie Pratico.
Models: Olivia Suleimon, Sienna Weir, Shanti Groupil