Phoebe Simmonds is the founder of The Blow, a hairdressing concept boutique in Melbourne that specialises in a menu of quick blow dry services for busy, professional women.
The Melbourne-based entrepreneur is also the co-founder of the memo, an e-commerce site dedicated to products for new mums and their babies.
Having navigated the enormous challenges facing the hairdressing industry during COVID-19 — and landed a partnership with global beauty retailer Sephora to open ‘on-the-go’ boutiques inside Sephora stores in Melbourne and Sydney at the same time — Simmonds knows a thing or two about what it takes to launch, and build, a business.
She reflects on some of what’s she’s learnt below.
Three things I would tell a new entrepreneur who is launching a business for the first time
1. Don’t think you can do it all
Lean into your strengths and then lean on experts for everything else.
Cashflow will always be tight, but trying to code a new website if you’ve never written HTML in your life isn’t the best use of your time.
Bring in brand partners who are aligned with your mission. They’re experts for a reason and will do a much better job than you could when starting from scratch.
It might cost you more in the early stages, but it will ensure you have a strong foundation for the future, and means you can focus on the areas where you will add the most value to your business when it matters most.
2. Dig deep into community
You have a bigger network than you think.
When establishing your business, reach out far and wide and hustle hard to raise your brand’s voice. By building a strong community of supportive brand partners who share your mission, you will have access to a broader customer base and greater brand awareness.
Say yes to opportunities, as you’ll never know where they might lead.
And don’t be afraid to ask to partner with like-minded brands.
You might be small at the start, but always consider what will they get out of working with you.
From a giveaway, to an event, to a cross-promotional offer, be strategic about how they will benefit from a partnership and deliver it to them to pave the way for a long term relationship that benefits all.
3. Public relations is not the same as marketing
Working with a strong expert in media management is an invaluable way to grow brand awareness.
There’s a science to writing a press release and working with media every day, and investing in a publicist who can work efficiently with journalists and influencers to represent your brand message could lead to an article that could double your business overnight.
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Three lessons I’ve learned since launching The Blow
1. Action is better than in-action
In this uncertain time in retail, it can be difficult to plan future growth and activities while managing constant changes to government mandates and health and safety regulations.
In early-March 2020, I along with a lot of other business founders in my network felt a huge sense of unease as COVID-19 started to spread across Australia amid a lack of consistent government guidance.
I decided to act and make a decision to close the business temporarily even before the government announced mandatory closures.
Sitting in uncertainty and waiting for things to happen to you can feel incredibly unsettling.
As leaders, we have to lead, and do what we feel is right. We can’t just wait for life to happen to us.
A previous boss once told me, “hope is not a strategy”.
2. Take it personally and then don’t
Your brand and your business will be an extension of yourself and it will preoccupy you 24/7, particularly early on.
You will feel the rush of the highs but also the blow of the lows as you put all your energy into making the business successful.
It’s important to feel it all and listen to the feedback so you can learn, adapt and grow as a business, but it’s unsustainable and unhelpful to take things on at a personal level.
When it comes to business, everything is professional and nothing should be personal.
Find the lesson and move on.
3. Only spend what you need
There’s nice to haves, and then there’s absolute essentials.
Cashflow is king in those first few months, and while branded umbrellas sound like a great idea, they’re unlikely to make a huge difference to the success of your business.
Save your money where you can and invest it in the real dial turners: think brand awareness and some seriously compelling call to actions.
My top tips for getting a new business off the ground
It all comes back to the DNA.
Customers connect with a brand, not a product.
In a crowded space where unique products are becoming rare, customers buy on feeling — how it makes them feel, the social capital it generates and the community it connects them to. New and exciting products come and go (and can become redundant overnight thanks to global pandemics), but a positive feeling towards a brand can’t be bottled.
An emotional connection can’t be paid for, and will never go out of style.
To build a brand from scratch, it’s important that you establish a very clear DNA and unique point of view that can be expressed across all your marketing changes to stand out.
How will your brand uses its voice and offering to cut through a crowded space in an impactful way? Consider who and what the brand represents, it’s tone and personality, values and heritage.
Create a document that clearly maps this DNA. This can be shared with employees, designers, builders, other brand partners who you get on board to help you express your brand and help guide you in every decision you make.
The qualities successful entrepreneurs need
The ability to communicate a clear vision.