BASED IN: AUSTRALIA
I am the founder of French Navy, a boutique stationery and etiquette company catering to corporate, retail and private clients. I am also the co-founder of The Happiness at Work Program, a 30-day program devised to improve personal happiness and positively impact workplace productivity.
French Navy is all about making people feel welcome. Thank you notes and etiquette training are an extension of that.
When the opportunity to partner in The Happiness at Work Program came about, it was a natural and easy fit to my existing business. What could be more welcoming that your employer wanting to you to be happy at work?
My belief and what drives me every day is that if people feel welcome and appreciated, they will perform better at work and in life.
Did you live "another life" before stepping into entrepreneurship? What inspired the transition?
My background is in advertising, which I loved and still do. However, after living abroad for few years I was unsettled when I came back to Australia. I was ready for a change.
I had always loved making people feel welcome and this lead to the development and launch of French Navy and the The Happiness at Work Program partnership.
How did your past experiences help you get to where you are today?
Every life experience has led me to be the person I am today.
It’s strange when you look back upon experiences and how they have shaped you and your life and how at the time you are blissfully unaware of what an impact they have on your future:
As a small chilled I LOVED writing thank you notes
My parents always ensured all guests were made to feel welcome – and taught me to do the same
My introduction to retail was a brief stint at T&CO (I was the MD’s PA)
My work in advertising helped understand how to bring an idea to life
And the list goes on …..
What are some ways of motivating yourself in times of doubt? Do you ever feel like giving up? Why do you keep going?
Time has been the best teacher in how to motivate myself in times of doubt. Whereas before I could be rendered paralyzed by a bad phone call or conversation, I now have more experience and realize that everything happens for a reason. I also understand that I have the ability to control how things affect me.
I’m definitely not perfect and I’m not immune to having a bad day, however I’m now much better at not letting the bad times distract me. Lack of productivity after a bad day is often times worse than what caused the day to unravel in the first place.
Everyone feels like giving up. Why haven’t I? Honestly? I’m simply too stubborn to give in.
Do you think you want to start other businesses in the future or do you want to keep growing this one as long as possible? What is the dream?
At present, the plan is to keep growing my current business to include new areas that are true to the core proposition of French Navy – making people feel welcome, such as The Happiness at Work Program.
Well, that’s the plan at this point in time anyway.
What part of your personality helped you the most with your entrepreneurial journey?
While I have always been a happy person, I made a conscious effort many years ago to be happy. It takes practice and work (and I don’t always feel like doing it) however being upbeat and positive has made the world of difference to how I react to and take on what life throws at me. Entrepreneurship is most definitely not for the faint hearted.
This is also one of the reasons why, when approached to be a partner in The Happiness at Work Program, I was thrilled to do so. Practicing happiness (and the associated practice of positivity and gratitude) has had a larger impact on my life than I could have ever imagined. Helping other people to unlock their potential by simply being happy and the benefits that it can bring is heart warming.
Did you look for funding in the past?
I have looked for funding in the past, however after doing due diligence on the on the area of my business that I was looking to expand, I decided that it wasn’t the right move for me at the time.
It was a very good learning curve. It made me realize the idea isn’t enough. The financials have to add up too – which seems simple enough, however you can often think that if the idea is good enough the financials will sort themselves out, when that’s not always the case.
Why do you think that female owned businesses are a VERY small percentage (that has not been growing) of businesses that get funded by venture capital? What can we do to change that?
Finance is known as a man’s world and when pitching a female centric business idea to get backing, it can be hard to be taken seriously when pitching it to men. Who doesn’t remember the story of the Net-a-Porter team pitching for their initial funding and being told by the men at the bank that no woman would pay the amount they were suggesting their items would retail for (the price of handbags were discussed in detail) in an online environment.
It took me a long time to understand that you can be feminine and empowered financially. The two aren’t mutually exclusive.