The Hembrow sisters have established a highly marketable brand within a short timeframe of just three years, combining their skills to develop a multi-million-dollar global fashion, influencer, health and fitness business empire. Yet like any start-up venture, there are always lessons to be learnt along the way.
Tammy Hembrow is one of Australia’s biggest influencers, with over 10 million followers on Instagram and 1 million on YouTube. Sister Emilee Hembrow is also a well-known influencer herself, with 1 million Instagram followers to her name.
Finding success through her passion for business and marketing management, Amy Hembrow is the Co-Founder and General Manager of the health and fitness app, Tammy Fit, used by nearly half a million people worldwide. Through this online community of engaged followers, the Hembrow sisters have created the Tammy Fit app and their podcast Hanging With The Hembrows as well as the athleisure clothing line Saski Collection, named a Westpac Top 200 Business of Tomorrow.
Read on for the full interview with Amy Hembrow below, where she discusses the Hembrow brand’s key business strategies, the importance of company culture and why influencer marketing is crucial for any start-up.
What were you doing prior to the development of Saski Collection and Tammy Hembrow Fitness?
“Prior to the development, Tammy and I were actually working together on her personal brand. I was the Account Manager involved in developing her Tammy Hembrow Fitness plan. There was a lot of demand – Tammy saw an opportunity early on and she saw how engaged her audience was, and she was surprised that not more people were doing the same at the time. So, we started to harness her audience, and look into what they loved about Tammy and what she was passionate about. She has always had that entrepreneurial spirit.”
And you have a marketing and business background, correct?
“Yes, so before I actually left my job to work with Tammy, I was Marketing Coordinator for a small boutique agency in Sydney. I was working there for a couple of years and moved up in the business quite quickly. I was fortunate enough to learn almost every aspect of marketing, including PR, design and sales. I also have a Design Diploma and Marketing Degree, so the experience fit perfectly with my prior knowledge.”
Tell us about the business plan and how the Hembrow brand got to where it is today.
“Tammy has always had a passion for fitness and fashion, and she is always in activewear so we decided to pursue the avenues that we really wanted to venture into. Basically, Tammy started building her brand and we then started cross-collaborating with our sisters to build their brands. So, Emilee has got a really strong mummy audience. We just all started to cross-promote one another and work together to build a strong foundation. The reason why people follow Tammy is because if you look at her audience, there is such an array of people.
“It’s not just the fitness audience. It’s also the people who love the family side, the fashion side – so we just aim to target everyone and have a cohesive brand. It’s kind of like the personality of a certain type of girl that wants it all – the girl who wants to be able to run her own business, be a mum, manage a healthy lifestyle but still have the chance to spend time with friends and be fashionable.”
What are some of the key strategies that are paramount to the business’ success?
“We have a lot of touch points with our customers. We want to build that community, so we have an online database that we use through intercom, mostly for the app users. So, we have 100,000 subscribers for the app, which launched in May 2018, but in our database of users in our community, we have over 800,000. That’s a massive strategy for us – building that community online.
“A lot of people don’t know that we have this community outside of Instagram, but we have very engaged active users in this space. We can then use this for retargeting ads and cross-promotion. We are very engaged with them and we have a customer support team that can answer user’s questions and provide necessary information, whether it’s about upcoming meal plans, products, what Tammy wears – all sorts of stuff.”
What do you think it is about influencer marketing that can grow small businesses and start-ups?
“I think it’s definitely the fact that the audience is engaged in that person – they trust them. If you’re a good influencer and you’re transparent then you will go far. It’s not like looking through a magazine and flipping over the page. People are following you for a reason, and if you can tap into that reason, your followers will engage with it.”
What does the team look like now, versus the early days?
“It’s definitely expanding! Early days it was literally me and Tammy doing everything and that was not only for the app, but also for Saski Collection. When we first launched it, me and Tammy were doing the quality control and we got all the family in to pack orders. We didn’t even realise how big the demand would be, so me and Tammy thought we could do it easily – we were wrong.
“We actually over-sold, our website crashed and so we ended up having to really quickly pack the stock because we had another shipment coming in soon after. Tammy actually called up people personally to let them know what had happened and that their order would be shipped straight away. You only get one shot to make a good first impression, and I think because she is so prominently in the limelight, we really wanted everything to go smoothly with the launch.
“But of course, that’s business – what will go wrong will go wrong. We have definitely learnt from those experiences and now we have a really efficient operations team. Through recommendations, we found the right team for the job. Especially with Tammy’s status sometimes you get people who are not wanting to work with you for the right reasons, so trust is an incredibly important factor. We found a really great team and we trust their recommendations and their recruitment process which is great.”
What was it like to be named one of Westpac’s Top 200 Business of Tomorrow?
“Really exiting! We’ve actually won quite a few awards over the last couple of years which has been amazing. Tammy now has four Young Entrepreneur Awards I believe, and Saski Collection recently won an Australian marketing award. With a lot of awards there are sometimes restrictions on applying for them based on how new the business is, so we are excited to get the app into a lot of award demographics now.”
What were some of the hurdles and lessons you learnt along the way?
“Definitely that you can’t do everything yourself. It’s so important to delegate. Tammy and I were doing everything at the start. She is a bit of a control freak and wants to always make sure that customers are getting the value that she would expect if she was in their position. It is hard to let go of the reigns a little, but we have a really great team and company culture. For the business to work seamlessly, it is crucial to have a good company culture. So, we have a lot of strategies in place, team-building projects, monthly and weekly meetings, to really have Tammy’s presence in the office when we can. Having those touch points with all the employees and for them to understand who she is and what her company is about is the key. Everyone that we hire wants to strive for the same goal and that’s also important.”
Have your interests always been in fitness, lifestyle, fashion and wellness?
“Yes definitely. For me not so much fitness – that’s more Tammy! But I love the business, company culture, strategizing, marketing side of things. Really, it’s the best of both worlds – we came together to work together, and she said, “You understand business and I have these passions, let’s bring this to life.” Now I am moving further towards the lifestyle side of things, especially in terms of our podcast. I am just excited to keep expanding our family brand.”
Do you think authenticity is a major factor in how influencers develop and strengthen their brand?
“Absolutely. I don’t think an influencer can build an audience without being authentic. There is a fine line between exposing everything about yourself and being authentic and I think sometimes people get confused. Some influencers think they need to share it all, but this isn’t the case. You just need to be yourself and share your passions without airing your dirty laundry.”