Starting out as a boutique makeup brush brand 12 years ago, the chance meeting between an Australian entrepreneur and a makeup artist in London preceded the complete transformation of an Australian brand.
Fiona Neale, who at the time had set up the first class beauty lounge for Virgin Atlantic in London Heathrow Airport, happened upon the brushes and discovered that they were made by a little known brand in Australia – only available to makeup artists, and not the public.
She made the instinctive decision to purchase the brand, and in 2006 and relaunched it as Issada Cosmetics, a company that specialises in skin treatment and mineral makeup.
Now with two flagship stores, and relationships with some 250 stockists Australia-wide, the past eight years have been an intense period of growth for Neale.
Dynamic Business caught up with Fiona Neale to hear more about her business journey.
What convinced you to start your own business?
I actually got the confidence to start my own business from working with some truly amazing mentors and entrepreneurs. They showed me what was possible. I wanted to make a difference and to create an infinite career path directed by my own decisions and hard work.
Do you have to manage overseas suppliers or are the products all made locally?
Issada products are made both locally and all over the world. We source the best possible ingredients, pigments and formulations from around the globe. So I manage suppliers in Australia, Italy, Germany, France, Canada and the US.
How has the business evolved and grown?
In every way imaginable. From product development, distribution/ stockists, concept stores, head office and training facility, vrand awareness, media attention and the list goes on. When Issada began in 2006 it was myself, my laptop and a few products. Now eight years later Issada is a known Australian mineral makeup brand with two Flagship concept stores and over 250 stockists. We have won awards for both design and business achievements. We have an office/ warehouse and training facility in Brisbane and have partnered with a national distribution company just this year. The growth has been exciting and rapid.
What challenges have you faced along the way?
I am still not entirely comfortable with public speaking. I get incredibly nervous and can’t wait for it to be over! I tend to avoid it but I know that it is for the good of the brand and with time it is getting easier.
Building a dynamic team is also always challenging. To surround myself with great people, while achieving maximum results in a happy environment is every business owners dream. We definitely have a great culture in our company. We have a creative, innovative and fun approach to work. There are always new team members required within a growing business, but we have had many of the same team members for years. They have grown with the business and have been crucial to the success. Selecting people that bring completely different ideas and expertise makes for an exciting ride.
What mistakes did you make, and how have you learned from them?
Thankfully we have not made too many mistakes and certainly nothing crucial. We have become much more dynamic in our recruitment processes with a few incompatible choices early on. I have also become much more protective of our products, packaging and formulations as we grow, protecting them from being copied or used by others.
How do you manage your personal time and the time you put into the business over the years?
It’s a juggle and the scales are always tipping one way or another. My family life and work life balance reasonably well with the help of a phenomenal team at work and my amazing family at home. Me time however is scarce. I’m just lucky my work is also my passion and hobby! I always jump out of bed and can’t wait to get to work and I’m excited by the days I spend at home. I can’t remember a moment where I have had nothing to do, but it seems to work for me.
What tips do you have for other entrepreneurs out there?
There are so many businesses that come and go and it’s not an easy road to success. I started Issada with the future in mind. I had a grand plan, so everything I do and every decision I make is to protect our brand and our people.
Details such as pricing, education, design, company structure and support have been given extreme thought. Every decision was made carefully and we take our time to ensure we are making strategic moves to ensure brand longevity. It is not wise to make hasty decisions or to simply undercut competitors in order to make a quick sale. Be thoughtful. You may be a one-man band in the beginning (like I was), but you have to allow for the future. Think about setting realistic expectations from the beginning in order to prevent disappointment from customers. Don’t break promises or under deliver. Aim high and factor in growth from the very beginning. You ultimately want your brand to be sustainable and have the ability to grow.
Anybody wanting to start their own business needs to be prepared to work very hard for a long time and account for this financially. Surround yourself with creative like-minded people who get you, and get the vision you have for the business. These people will help you and enjoy the journey you take them on. Don’t copy other people. Be comfortable saying no. Always be open because it educates your team about you and your business. Choose a business that will make you happy on a day-to-day basis, an enjoy yourself!