Kate Morris Adore Beauty Interview
Carlton-based beauty entrepreneur, Kate Morris, founder of Australia's first-ever online beauty retailer adorebeauty.com.au, has been announced as the winner of the 2010 Victorian marie claire Young Business Women's Award in the annual Telstra Business Women's Awards.
Kate Morris was awarded for her foresight and business skills in establishing an online cosmetics website in 1999, aged 21, at a time when e-tailing was a new phenomenon and high-end cosmetics manufacturers were reluctant to supply a small, independent online retailer.
'I started adorebeauty.com.au 10 years ago in a garage with my business partner, James Height, after growing up in Launceston where I couldn't access the latest cosmetics. I am a beauty addict so I started the store with the goal of helping women get the products that they loved and wanted, no matter where they lived,' says Kate Morris.
'Back then, online shopping was extremely uncommon. There was no such thing as broadband - I had to disconnect my phone line and then dial up the Internet to check the site and get orders.'
When it launched, adorebeauty.com.au stocked two cosmetics brands and made one sale a week. Today, the site attracts 1.1 million visitors per year and has 107 brands on its virtual shelves from niche, cult brands through to the beauty industry's big players - a feat that Kate has worked hard to achieve.
Kate Morris's business savvy and understanding of online trends, is also reflected in the fact that adorebeauty.com.au was one of the first online stores to interact with its consumers, establishing an onsite forum and reviews page as well as embracing social networking with Facebook and Twitter accounts.
"To be successful as an online retailer, it is essential to have a strong dialogue with your customer base. We are always speaking to our customers about products, sales, getting their feedback," says Kate Morris.
"adorebeauty.com.au is a business which has survived the dot-com crash, an e-tailing boom and most recently the GFC. The secret to our success is that we respect our customers, listen to what they want, and provide them with the sort of service that they want to tell their friends about."
Telstra Chief Marketing Officer and Telstra Business Women's Awards Ambassador Kate McKenzie says the winners of the Victorian Awards, including Kate, were successful business women whose leadership qualities and achievements would provide inspiration for women across the state.
Kate Morris will proceed to the national finals in the 'Young Business Women's' category of the 2010 Telstra Business Women's Awards.
Other state winners in the Young Business Women's Awards finals for 2010 are:
Janet Buhagiar, St Vincent de Paul Society, Northern Territory
Melanie Gordon, BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance, Queensland
Carly-Jane Tozer, CJ's Style, ACT
Lauren Brown, Pulse Marketing Group, New South Wales
Teena O'Keefe, Dance Fit, Tasmania
Peta Mantzarapis, Maloney Field Services, South Australia
Lee Broomhall, Workpower Incorporated, Western Australia.
Interview with Kate Morris
Question: What made you decide to turn your passion for cosmetics into a career?
Kate Morris: I'd planned to be a lawyer, but after studying law for an entire week (!) I knew I wasn't going to enjoy it. Life's too short to do something you're not passionate about. I'd always loved cosmetics, so I got a part time job working on the department store counters while at university; and then the idea for Adorebeauty.com.au as a way of making beauty accessible to women all over Australia came to me, and I knew I had to do it. When I decided to start Adorebeauty.com.au I transferred into a Bachelor of Business.
Question: How hard was it beginning your business at 21?
Kate Morris: In some ways it's tough starting a business at a young age - you have no experience, no access to money, and people don't take you seriously. It does have one big advantage though: when you're young, you have less fear and nothing to lose, so there's nothing stopping you from taking a big leap of faith.
Question: You had no money, at 21, how did you go about starting your business?
Kate Morris: I managed to borrow about $12,000 from my boyfriend's parents. This was enough to get the website up and running and to buy a little bit of stock. I ran the business from home for the first four years to minimise overheads, and just got used to being very frugal!
Question: Can you talk about how technology originally made it difficult to begin your online store?
Kate Morris: When I started Adorebeauty.com.au, back in 1999, there was no such thing as open source shopping carts or do-it-yourself online stores. Everything had to be coded from scratch, and not many web developers in Australia had much experience with e-commerce. Not to mention there was no such thing as broadband - I had a dial-up modem and had to unplug the phone to check my email! It really is amazing how far things have come in just 10 years.
Question: What suggestions do you have for other business owners in how to run a successful online business?
Kate Morris: I think the most important thing to understand is that an online business is still a business. You need to approach it just as you would any other business - make a business plan, crunch the numbers, understand your target market, work on your customer service, and build systems that deliver a consistent experience.
Question: How have you seen adorebeauty.com.au change over the years?
Kate Morris: Adorebeauty.com.au has grown from two brands to 107 brands; from zero website traffic to 1.1 million visits a year; from just me and my cat in my garage, to 10 staff and a store and warehouse. It's been an amazing journey!
Question: You have survived through more than 10 years of business, what is your secret to success?
Kate Morris: First and foremost, it would have to be persistence. If I'd just accepted it every time someone said "no", I'd never have made it past the first couple of months. When someone closes a door to me, I start looking for a window! I also think it's extremely important to always conduct business with honesty, integrity and respect, and to never be rude.
Question: How do you use social media to benefit your business?
Kate Morris: We started a customer forum back in 2006, before "social media" became a buzzword. I think that when it comes to beauty, consumers really value word-of-mouth and the opinions of other consumers, so we wanted to create an easy way for them to get together and discuss hints, tips, tricks and products. The forum at adorebeauty.com.au now has nearly 13,000 beauty-addicted members, so it's a fabulous place to come and learn more from your fellow beauty junkies.
Question: Do you have a timeless beauty tip you could provide our readers?
Kate Morris: Wear sunscreen. Every day.
Not a very exciting-sounding tip perhaps, but I promise you'll thank me for it - sun damage is responsible for most of the signs of premature ageing, so if you wear a broad-spectrum SPF30+ every day, you'll end up looking much younger than you really are.
Question: If you could only use five beauty products, what would you choose?
Kate Morris: You know this is my worst nightmare, right?
Well, sunscreen, obviously - I'd make it a tinted one, such as Invisible Zinc Tinted Daywear. I'd also pick a good cleanser like Aesop Fabulous Face Cleanser; and a moisturiser that could be used day and night, such as Ultraceuticals Ultra Moisturiser Cream. I'd also go for a cream blush (too many people neglect blush! Blush is your best friend!) - probably BECCA's Creme Blush in Turkish Rose. Finally, mascara - I really couldn't live without mascara. I have many favourites, but I often come back to BECCA The Ultimate Mascara.
And then I'd realise I didn't have any lip balm or under-eye concealer, and would have a complete nervous breakdown.