How $15 million business Adore Beauty plans to tackle the Chinese market

Laying down the law: Why Kate Morris chose to be an online entrepreneur instead of a lawyer

It’s been 16 years since Kate Morris founded Adore Beauty from her garage, but far from winding down, the successful entrepreneur is using the milestone to take her online cosmetics retailer to China to crack open a beauty market worth billions of dollars.

The expansion, which officially rolls out today, is being spearheaded through e-commerce platform Tmall, one of the brands owned by Chinese giant Alibaba.

Morris would not be drawn on any hard-and-fast targets she has set for the Chinese expansion, instead telling SmartCompany she will be taking a conservative approach and responding to customer demand instead of telling people what they want to buy.

Because of this, Adore Beauty will initially offer around six Australian brands to Chinese consumers through Tmall in order to “dip the toe in the market”.

The brands include Lanolips, Evo, Asap, Alpha-H, ELEVEN and Skinstitut.

“Let’s get China right first, it’s a big enough piece to bite off,” Morris says.

“But I certainly think if we can get China right, there’s plenty more potential in the APAC [Asia Pacific] region and that’s certainly where we would focus our attention. As we get some success in China, then we’ll expand our range.”

The initial product range will focus on high-quality, ethical haircare and skincare products in order to tap into the Chinese market’s appetite for all things Australian.

“It’s a small selection with each of the brands and we’re just going to try it out and see what works,” Morris says.

“A marketplace [like Tmall] is the no-brainer choice as far as China goes. If you do your own website over there, you’re definitely pushing a stone up a hill. We wanted to be where the beauty shoppers were shopping.”

For Morris, the Chinese expansion feels like coming “full circle again” given Adore Beauty started out largely exporting Australian beauty products before focusing heavily on the local market.

“China is the largest beauty market in the world,” Morris says.

“But we also recognise it’s not without its complications.”

Adore Beauty is on track to turn over around $15-16 million by the end of this financial year.

In May last year, Woolworths took a 25% stake in the business.


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