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After 6 years of pretty intense work I thought it was a great time to reflect on our journey. - it's also that time between Christmas and New Year where I'm feeling reflective. Many of you have asked me questions about how we got started and quite a few of you have your own businesses so I'll share a few stories - the good, bad and ugly! First, how did we get started.
I'm Julie, the Founder of F&F and I often get asked the question 'How did I start Flora & Fauna and Why'. I came up with the concept of F&F in July 2014 and it was a meeting of many things all at once. I'd worked in the corporate world for 16 years and worked for retailers such as Coles, Woolies, John Lewis in the UK (still one of my favourite retailers), Virgin Retail (pre-music downloads being a thing) and in retail consultancy and private equity. I'd always had an itch to do my own thing and be my own boss. Over the years I had mulled over many ideas and at one point in 2012 thought I could sell running gear on ebay - it was very apparent I couldn't do that and should just stick to running.
Just prior to launching F&F I was pretty advanced in starting a Juice Cleanse business. I personally love juice cleanses and decided I could run a business doing it. As I dug deeper into the business plan I realised that it wasn't a very scalable business and I was also terrible at making juice - that was the clincher! I can remember saying to my husband that actually we should stop the juice idea - we'd designed the logo, packaging and worked out the numbers but it wasn't the right idea for us. The juice cleanse was a really important part of F&F's journey - what I was really good at was retail and with the juice business I was venturing too far out of what I was good at ( I can't stress how bad I was at making juice).
I realised I needed to stick with what I knew and loved which was retail and I needed to combine my passion for sustainable retail, animal welfare and a great customer experience. It just so happens at the same time I was shopping for a lipstick in a health and beauty store and it was a terrible experience - the ingredients were confusing and I had no idea what products had been tested on animals, so I decided to create a store where everything was cruelty-free and we only stocked products with good ingredients.
Hello Flora & Fauna!
Where Did The Name Come From
One of the first things we had to do was come up with a name. Tom and I have come up with a few now and we literally brainstorm it. We've brainstormed names on car journeys and bushwalks. We've always done it where we aren't sat at computers so we can free our minds and get away from the old routine. One of the things I love is nature and I said Flora & Fauna thinking that domain and business name wouldn't be available.....they were! Admittedly along the way a lot of people have thought we sold flowers and one person even turned up for an interview thinking we're a florist. So we had a bit of work to really define who we are and stamp our foot on the market.
We Have a Name So Then What
There is a period with any business when you need to do the admin and it's so important to do this right from the outset. First set up your company structure - that is really important. Also, unless your business is going to be a hobby, register for GST. It's way easier to just get it done at the start. After you get a name trademark it, and once you have your logo, trademark that. It isn't a cheap process for a business starting out but it will save you a lot of hassle down the line. I know businesses who did not get their name trademarked and have had a lot of issues with copy cats.
The Logo and Brand
The logo we have now is not the logo we started with. The logo above is our launch logo. We started F&F on a shoestring and I used my savings to get started. When you have trademarks, company set up, warehousing equipment, a website to build and stock, the money you have doesn't last long. So we used a crowdsourced website to get our first logo. It got us going which was what we needed. A couple of years later we changed it. More on that in another blog.
Again our first website is not the one we have now. In fact, we have re-platformed the website twice since that first launch - anyone who works in this field knows that is not a small job. I think the words 'never again' have left my lips a fair few times.
Our first website was simple, and not very pretty, but it did what we needed it to. We used a base platform and I built on that. One thing I learnt very quickly was that you have to be a 'Jack of All Trades'. We didn't have the money for a graphic designer or an ecommerce coordinator or anyone to do marketing. I had to do everything. At the time I was in a full-time job being a General Manager at a large retailer. I didn't have to do much doing so I had to upskill quickly. I went on a Photoshop course and that was possibly the best $300 I have ever spent!
It's all well and good coming up with a brand, logo and idea but you need something to sell and we started with beauty products. The first brand I spoke to was Trilogy because my friend Kristy worked there in NZ. I mentioned that I was setting up an online store and could I sell their products. It was a great intro and with one win I then felt empowered to talk to a few more brands. Before I knew it I had 30 brands and 500 products on board.
From coming up with the concept in July 2014 I worked 7 days a week and a good 18 hours a day to launch F&F on November 8th 2014.
As you know we are a very purpose-driven company yet I haven't talked about it much here. In 2014 our purpose was to 'deliver a website with only cruelty-free, natural products'. That's not really a purpose - it's a description of what we do. With F&F we needed to figure out who we were before we could really define our purpose so that is something that has really developed and become defined over the years. It has taken a huge amount of continual reflection to get to where we are now.
Our Learnings in the Getting Started Phase
Don't keep perservering with an idea if you know, in your heart, it isn't quite right - you need to back it 100%. Be prepared to walk away early.
Do the admin up front - register your company, register for GST and get your trademarks
Upskill - it's fun and, unless you have investment, you need to! It has also taught us to be really smart with our cash because we've had to.
Put the hours in - you're going to have to so be prepared. I have friends who have started businesses and shut them down. They are a huge time commitment - if you don't want to work weekends and put your business at the center of your world don't do it.
Get Started - don't worry the website isn't perfect or your graphics aren't great, just get going. For two years I was the (very bad) graphic designer/ ecomm coordinator/ marketer/ box packer and customer service. Be prepared to get your hands dirty.
I hope this has been fun to read. I have loved writing it as it's the first time I've actually reflected on Flora & Fauna properly in six years. I'll write a few more blogs in due course with different segments. If you want to follow me and my musings on F&F my instagram is @juliemathers. There will also be babies and nature posted too - just to forewarn!
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