047: Largest vegan website in the world with 8,000 cruelty-free SKUs, quit corporate aged 38, started a business with a purpose in 2014. 2 FTE to 40+, sales from $60k to now $20m pa. Saved 30 tonnes of plastic with minimal packaging (Julie Mathers)

Presented by Troy Trewin

Troy has worked intimately with 26 businesses in 20 years. He knows their numbers, understands their growing pains and people issues and has helped with most financial aspects, as well as having coached on leadership and management.

October 22, 2020

In this episode, I interview Julie Mathers, the ethical Founder, and CEO of BCorp Certified Flora & Fauna, the world’s largest self-funded vegan and cruelty-free product website. She launched the business in late 2014, aged 38. Flora & Fauna has done more than 8,000 SKUs and they have a warehouse and small retail shop located in inland Sydney. Julie is very driven when it comes to our planet, animals, and making a difference. 

Describing their business as a platform for purpose to do good, one of their initiatives has saved more than 30 tonnes of plastic after their move to minimal packaging. Adding a personal touch by handwriting each order, they have now done it more than half a million times. The business grew from $60,000 in sales in their first year to now $20 Million per annum, growing almost 700% in the last three years, and more recently, 30% per annum. They mainly sell in Australia but a little to New Zealand, the UK, and the US. 

Julie and her husband started as the two full-time employees and they now have over 40 full-time employees. They got their funding from their initial savings and have sustained their growth from profits. Julie is very passionate about disability employment. She felt she had succeeded when she realized they were making a difference and when they employed the first people, bought a warehouse, and won the national Telstra business awards. 

Flora & Fauna was awarded the Top Sustainable Retailer in 2020, Best Small Retailer and Best Online Retailer 2018, and was shortlisted as a finalist for Responsible Retailer of the Year at the World Retail Awards 2017. Julie highlights that the hardest thing about growing a small business is keeping going and says that the one thing she would tell herself on day one of starting out in business is, Don’t give up, and stress less” If you’re an existing or aspiring small business owner, get ready to be inspired!

This Cast Covers:

  • The global impact phenomenon that is Flora and Fauna.
  • From a small entity in November 2014 to the huge platform for purpose that they are now.
  • Using their reach, engagement, and profits to make a difference.
  • The measurable results of how they save the environment with minimal packaging.
  • Starting out as a bakery worker at age 16 and how her immense love for retail-led her to where she is today.
  • Growing 699% over the last three years and sustaining a 30% growth over the last very challenging year.
  • Shipping all their products from Australia to the US, UK, and New Zealand by focusing more on the speed of shipping.
  • Expected turnover of over $20 Million in 2020, 6 years after their first year turnover of $60,000.
  • Their immense growth in terms of team members brought about by a continuous increase in the number of orders.
  • How the shed outside their house inspired her to start the business.
  • The surprise and emotion of winning in the national Telstra awards.
  • Seeing success in all the little moments of achievement in one’s small business.
  • Her passion for disability employment and making a difference through her business.
  • The importance of working out what you want to achieve with marketing before you invest in a marketing channel.
  • Owning 100% of the business from starting with her own money and growing it solely from cash flow.
  • The challenges in the skincare industry and the advice she has for anyone who wants to get into it.
  • Successfully managing their cash to achieve their business goals despite the stresses they had to overcome.
  • Growing the business by running her own race and focusing primarily on her plans.
  • The experience of moving from corporate to a small business.
  • The importance of a small business owner being relentless.
  • Lessons from their previous hiring blunders that enabled them to win at building a team that fits into their culture.
  • Learning to let go as an owner and founder to give team members the opportunity to do what they’re best at.
  • Working tirelessly hard to build Flora and Fauna, and focusing more on the flexibility that the business affords her rather than on the idea of work-life balance.
  • The difficulties she experiences when she tries to shut her mind off when she’s not working.
  • Investing in a lot of professional development and the impact it’s had on her as a small business owner.
  • The benefits of having a great network you can pull on rather than having a specific mentor.

Additional Resources:

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Quotes:

“You can create great products but without the cruelty” – Julie Mathers

“You’ve just gotta think a little bit differently about your business during a recession” – Julie Mathers

“I think success in business is all about the little moments when you give yourself a small pat on the back” – Julie Mathers

“Success is really based on making that difference” – Julie Mathers

“It’s better to make decisions that fail than to never make them and be left wondering” – Julie Mathers

“Listen to your customers. And one size does not fit all” – Julie Mathers

“The only people you are accountable to are your customers and your team” – Julie Mathers

“If something is not working, listen to your gut” – Julie Mathers

“As an owner and founder, LET GO!” – Julie Mathers

“It’s important to figure out how you learn” – Julie Mathers

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Music from https://filmmusic.io “Cold Funk” by Kevin MacLeod (https://incompetech.com). License: CC BY (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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