Creating a niche for your new business can be potentially highly lucrative, but, as Adore Beauty found out, you must be prepared to deal with painful rejection.
Adore Beauty is an online beauty store, offering up a smorgasboard of products in addition to news, reviews and an interactive forum.
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The business was founded in 2000 by Kate Morris and James Height, and is now considered a one-stop-shop for all things beauty. But despite its glossy finish, Adore Beauty wasn’t always so picture-perfect.
Co-founder Kate Morris was just 21 when she started the business, armed with nothing but her idea.
According to Morris, Adore Beauty didn’t experience any near-death experiences – more a “deathly slow start”.
“At the time I started, there weren’t any businesses operating online. I saw a gap in the market where we could make beauty products accessible to customers who couldn’t or didn’t want to visit a store,” she says.
“We encountered an extraordinary amount of industry resistance to our idea. At first, we could only find two companies who were prepared to sell to us.”
“The rest simply slammed doors in our faces – one even told us our idea was ridiculous and that we would never succeed.”
“I worked from home for the first three years and it was incredibly isolating, not to mention very depressing when the business didn’t seem to be going anywhere.”
Kate says despite the hardship, she never doubted that her idea would work because she was convinced there were customers who wanted to shop for beauty products online.
“That said, certainly the degree of industry resistance sometimes gave me cause to doubt whether I’d ever manage to create an online store with the right products,” she says.
So how did the business survive? According to Morris, it all came down to persistance, creativity and resourcefulness.
“There was no point persisting with the same approach if it wasn’t working, so I would try and be creative to think of other ways around a problem,” she says.
“Resourcefulness also helps in the early stages of a business when there’s not a lot of money around… We learnt to keep a tight rein on the purse strings or we would never have survived.”
Ten years on, Morris is a much wiser woman in business and in life.
“I started the business at the age of 21 with no experience at all, so to say that I’ve learned a lot would be an understatement,” she says.
“I think one of the key lessons was to view everything as an opportunity – and that includes mistakes, setbacks, knockbacks and failures.”
“If you can take something that seems like a negative experience and make it into something useful, it does help to take away a lot of the fear of flying blind into the unknown that comes with starting a business.”
Rather than shy away from a challenge, Morris says start-ups should embrace the unknown, particularly if they have conviction in their idea.
“Anything worth doing is going to be terrifying. Feel the fear and do it anyway – at least you’ll know you gave it a shot,” she says.