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Top10 Dynamic Entrepreneur Winner: Julie Mathers, Flora & Fauna

Dynamic Business will be highlighting the top10 Dynamic Entrepreneurs for the next few weeks.

The Top10 highlighted those who are doing extraordinary things in the startup world.

First we have the ethical retailing entrepreneur, Julie Mathers. Mathers started Flora & Fauna (F&F) in late 2014 and it was driven by a desire to be the most ethical retailer possible with the BEST customer service. Mathers is a super proud vegan, has an adorable pet pig and is a self confessed workaholic.

Mathers has a real desire to make change happen. She’s worked for many large corporates and found it slow and muted.

“To make real change I knew I had to make my own destiny and make it happen myself,” she says.

Consumers are wanting to buy ethical and environmentally friendly products but there are still people who are finding it hard to adapt to the change of single use bottles, no plastic bags and the loss of straws. Mathers says it’s about “short term pain for long term gain.”

“We have a responsibility as businesses to shift what we do and that is getting rid of the low hanging fruit. There will always be a noisy minority but the majority understand the importance of acting and expect businesses to get onboard. Coles have recently received a lot of criticism for their Toy Shop promo and their flip flopping over the plastic bag decision. That should be enough to make businesses realise customers expect them to drive change and it really does start with them. McDonalds are getting rid of plastic straws in the UK. It’s a start so, if they can do that, any business can do anything,” she says.

Mathers’ husband has been on this journey with her from a few months in so he’s ‘as close to a co-founder as you can get’. He runs the Operations and Finance side of the business and they have a great partnership.

“I often am asked ‘How can you work with your husband?’ and it’s really easy. You can have very blunt conversations which you need to have plus that person knows you very well so knows your shortfalls and what makes you tick,” she says.

“I’m lucky in that Tom and I have an excellent balance and our values align. We are both engineers, although Tom took it further than Uni, but I am more creative and aspirational whereas Tom is very process driven and operational. It’s a great mix; I elevate him to think outside of the day to day and he brings me back down to earth. Somewhere we meet in the middle. ”

F&F has around 30 staff and that includes onsite and offsite.

F&F is completely self funded so the only investor is Julie herself. “I put in funding to get us up and running with technology and stock and, since then, we’ve been working from cash generated. We haven’t needed further investment. We have a positive cashflow and have been profitable since the first year,” she says.

“My advice is to not get funding unless you absolutely need it or you are very, very clear on how it is being spent. Retaining 100% control of my business has been critical to acting quickly and making decisions that are always aligned with Flora & Fauna’s ethics and values. I never want to compromise on that. Money is never free and it either costs you in debt and interest or equity and you have to be very comfortable with that. If you do get funding ensure your values and goals are aligned.”

Having a female CEO/Founder still makes headlines and is often still seen as a novelty. Mathers believes businesses and the media really have to move past this.

“I have worked for 25 years in retail and always had a male CEO. It’s ridiculous that that is the case and inequality is so rife in 2018. I have worked with some amazing women, and men, and there is no reason women shouldn’t be CEOs and CEOs of ASX listed companies,” she says.

“A truly great CEO has vision and balance but also has a powerful team around them and there is no reason a woman can’t do that. I believe we need to lose terms like #girlboss as that does us no favours at all. I view myself as an inspirational leader and I’m good at what I do and gender is not part of the equation.

Dynamic Business asked Mathers a few questions about her success and what lessons she has learnt in her business journey so far.

How do you feel about coming first in the Top10?
I am incredibly honoured to be in the list and number 1, wow. We are purpose driven and this really showcases the power of purpose. I’m really hoping that as a female leader I can inspire others to follow their passion and not sit on the sidelines.
What is new and exciting for Flora and Fauna?
Currently we’re in the thick of Christmas so it’s trade, trade, trade. We’ve also just moved warehouse and office to a much bigger space and we’re about to open our first physical store which is very exciting.
3 Top 3 lessons:
1. Know your brand and customers.
2. Be prepared to make sacrifices. Starting and running a business is all consuming, be prepared for that.
3. Focus on cashflow!
4. I love running and walking in the bush and that gives me device free time and me time both of which are much needed. I also have a slight addiction to the Jurassic World game on the iPhone!

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Gali Blacher

Gali Blacher

Gali Blacher, editor, Dynamic Business

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