Smart50 Awards 2014

29 Adore Beauty

Revenue

More than $7 million

Growth

78.53%

Founders

Kate Morris, 36

Head Office

Melbourne

Year Founded

2000

Employees

15

Industry

Online Retail

Website

www.adorebeauty.com.au

When Kate Morris and her business Adore Beauty first appeared on Smartcompany’s Smart 50 in 2009, online shopping was still largely viewed with suspicion.

Fast-forward five years and the perception of internet shopping has rapidly changed, and according to Morris, so too has online cosmetic company Adore Beauty.

“Internet years are like dog years,” laughs Morris. “It feels more like 30 years.”

She says the earlier adopters of internet shopping were all about prices and were just out to get a bargain.

These days, she says, customers recognise there are a lot of benefits to shopping online, including convenience, access to a broader range of products and freedom to choose on their own terms rather than high pressure sales environment.

Morris started her business at just 21, while still completing her Bachelor of Business at university.

A self-confessed beauty junkie, she had become increasingly frustrated by the limited access to beauty products in her home state of Tasmania.

Recognising an opening in the Australian online beauty market, Morris says she launched Adore with a goal of “matchmaking” consumers and brands.

Having started an e-commerce venture before the bricks-and-mortar competition came on to the online scene gave her a jump start on solving the problems omni-channel retailers are still struggling with.

“Having had 14 years, I’ve been able to solve all the basic problems of e-commerce. We sorted out all procedural issues and now we’re focusing on taking advantage of that head start.”

The business is now branching out into value-added incentives for customers, including free trial packs and the website’s social content.

Morris says her most difficult challenges have been overcoming the resistance of prestige cosmetic brands to supply their products to an independent online retailer, as well as a lack of access to capital.

Without owning any assets or property, she says she had difficulty getting banks to loan her money.

She started her business with $12,000 savings and has since funded all its growth through cash flow.

“I learned to be persistent. From the very start I have believed that the vision for Adore Beauty was a good one, and that belief has enabled me to bash away at it year after year,” she says.

“With limited capital, I have had to be pretty creative in developing ways to grow and run the business on the sniff of an oily rag. I was using social media such as forums and newsgroups before anyone had invented the idea of social media.”

Looking forward, Morris plans to continue Adore’s growth trajectory by steadily increasing customer awareness, look after her existing customers and continue to build her brand range.

When asked about big global entrants into the Australian beauty market, such as Sephora’s planned launch later in the year, Morris says she’s not concerned.

“It’s not that big a deal. As far as we’re concerned, it’s been global for us from the start.”

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