MC: Sally you come from a journalism and TV background, and Maha you’ve worked in corporate finance. How did you get your wellness blog SWIISH off the ground when you launched in 2012?
SO: We knew wanted to create an online magazine that was all about feeling good and looking good. We’re fifty-fifty partners in the business, so we both put in half the money to pay a website developer to build our website.
MKC: I was still working in my corporate job when we started and I remember taking my laptop with me to the office to work on SWIISH stuff hunched over at my desk, hoping no one saw. I worked on SWIISH for six months on the side before leaving that job and going full-time.
MC: What started as a blog has turned into a wellness/beauty/fashion e-commerce empire with a team of 15. Where is the business at now?
SO: In 2015, we started the e-commerce site with fashion, homewares, beauty and wellness products. In late 2016, we launched our Supergreen superfood powder, which we’d worked on for two years. It’s been incredibly popular, we sell one every nine minutes, and have expanded our wellness range to include Glow collagen powder and a Sleep formulation. Plus, our new cookbook Super Easy is out this month. We’re still all about looking and feeling good on the inside and out.
MC: What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made along the way?
SO: There’s been no shortage of mistakes [laughs]. I think one of the biggest has been hiring the wrong people. That has definitely happened to us quite a few times. It took us a long time to work out what our culture is; people assumed that because we’re family, that there’s a real family atmosphere and they can mess up as many times as they want. But that’s not our culture. We’re related, but we’re not a family business, we’re a team.
MC: How did you address that?
MKC: I’ll be honest, we’ve only really done it in the last 18 months. We sat down to address our hiring issues and figure out why we’re hiring people that don’t fit and wasting time. We realised it wasn’t about the skills [of the people], it was about the culture. Once we worked that out, we spent a lot of time on our values, so we can hold our team accountable according to them.
MC: SWIISH has an Instagram following of 90,000. How important has social media been to building the business?
MKC: Social is vital. When people ask us what’s the one thing they should do to build their business, we say, invest your time in social. We still reply to every single DM and comment we get – even if it’s at 1am in the morning. It’s those little things that build a relationship and loyalty with your customers. And interesting content will keep them engaged. We have a little slogan, innovate or die.
MC: What’s the best and worst part of working with your sister?
SO: We bicker a lot [laughs]! The worst part is when she doesn’t approve all my ideas. The best part is sharing huge life milestones with her, like our book signing at Booktopia today. It’s so special.
MC: The worst part about working with Sally is her unrealistic expectations, but the best is her vision, drive, humour and kindness. We just don’t get sick of working with each other.
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