MC: You started cosmetics website Adore Beauty at age 21 while working part time on the Clarins counter at university. What were those early days like?
KM: It was pretty lo-fi [laughs]. I was working out of the garage, storing stock under my bed and using dial up internet. I had to crawl under my desk to unplug the phone and plug in the internet. I remember going to the bank to ask about a loan, and they looked at me like I was a crazy person. I worked out the minimum amount I would need to get the website off the ground and asked my boyfriend’s dad for a $12,000 loan. My father-in-law agreed, and that boyfriend is now my husband – and I don’t need to beg my friends and family to buy cosmetics anymore.
MC: How has the business grown in the almost-20 years since you launched?
KM: Instead of my garage, we now have a warehouse and an office in Melbourne, with around 150 staff. We have two million customers visit the website every month. We’ve just launched in New Zealand and are set on world domination [laughs].
MC: We conducted a Women In Business survey with Salesforce and we found that the main factors for starting a small business were more flexibility, work-life balance and the ability to be your own boss. Can you relate?
KM: Well, I probably should have known that I needed to be my own boss. I had four jobs before [I launched] Adore Beauty, and I was fired from half of them. Being your own boss does give you that flexibility and to be in charge of your own destiny. I would never pass that up.
MC: The survey found that the three most important traits in business are passion, dedication and strong money management. What are the traits that have gotten you where you are?
KM: I think I’m fairly tenacious, I refuse to accept the status quo and always see the possibility in every situation. I’m also willing to challenge myself and accept my own weaknesses as opportunities for improvement.
MC: What weaknesses have you found and addressed?
KM: It’s been quite a leadership journey going from me in my garage alone with my cat, to having a team of 150. I wouldn’t consider myself and expert in leadership, so I’ve learnt to try and build a vision for people and create an environment that empowers them.
Join us at the marie claire Small Business Brilliance series presented by Salesforce on Wednesday October 9 at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney 8:30am-10:30am, and Tuesday October 22 at TwoTonMax in Melbourne 8:30am-10:30am, $50 per person (plus booking fee): eventbrite.com/o/marie-claire-19824407207