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Kate Morris on Success: “It’s Supposed to be Hard”
From a department store assistant to a legend in the Australian e-commerce industry, Kate Morris has come a long way. We sat down and discussed her learnings from her career, and the advice she would give to her younger self.
Before Co-Founding Adore Beauty, Kate Morris started out with a job was working on the Clarin’s counter, as she studied at university. “I saw from the customers that I was serving in department stores, was that many found that experience unpleasant,” she told Power Retail.
Growing up in Tasmania, Kate was a self-described ‘experienced beauty junkie’, but was unable to access the products she wanted. “To me, it was a no-brainer that there needed to be an online beauty store, but there wasn’t one,” she explained. “So I thought ‘why not?’.”
Starting and running a business is no easy feat, as Kate understands. Before the first dotcom bust, and despite having ‘very little money’ to start Adore Beauty, Kate began with a Capital C raise (i.e. a $20,000 loan from her boyfriend’s parents), she could see in the market that other businesses were raising money.
“I didn’t know anybody, or even how I would go about that,” she said. “So I went ahead in a very capital-light way, so I could just make do with the money that I had.”
The small amount of funding she had may have actually been a blessing in disguise, she explained. “All of the businesses that raised money to go large at that point failed because the market wasn’t ready at that time,” she told Power Retail. “So I guess that worked out well in the end.”
In fact, staying in the garage for a little while ended up a ‘good idea’ for Kate. Over 20 years, she and her team made decisions that helped shape the business to where it is today.
“All of the decisions that you make and the lessons you learn the way are a part of the journey,” she told Power Retail. “I’m pretty happy where things are now, so I don’t think I would trade any of it.”
If there was something that Kate wished she did throughout her career, it would be investing more time in building networks. Networking with like-minded people may not have helped fuel the business much, Kate told us, but it may have offered a bit of extra support along the way. “Once I started [networking], I definitely felt the benefits of it,” she said.
Although in this day and age, appearing on the screen as if everything is perfect all the time is not a viable option. Everyone has their ups and downs, so how does she keep herself motivated when times get tough?
“It really depends what motivates you,” she explained. “For me, there certainly were days where I was like ‘I don’t want to do this anymore, I just want to crawl under the doona and hide!’, but I think because I was very much motivated to solve this problem for my customers and be given a better experience.”
According to Kate, those days where she wasn’t feeling motivated always seemed to have a silver lining. “Somehow always on those days, I would get an email from a customer who would say something like ‘This is the first time I’ve ever ordered anything online; this is so much better!’ and ‘Please stock all of my favourite brands, so I never have to go into a store again!’ – it’s when you get that kind of feedback from customers is what kept me going,” she told us.
For those who are planning to start their own business, there are plenty of misconceptions that float around. Living in a social media-obsessed world has its benefits, but also can play a detrimental role in a young business.
For Kate, it’s important to remember that even though many businesses (Adore Beauty included) are presented as a success story, they often take years of hard work to reach that title.
“I think what you see on social media, or even in the papers and things like that – Adore is presented very much as a success story, and it is, but it took a very long time for it to get there! There was a lot of fog in between,” she said.
Something that Kate says to like-minded people is: “It is supposed to be hard, and you should expect it to be hard. And anything you see on social where people appear to be having a glamourous time, all the time, that’s not the truth of it. It has to be hard, because if it isn’t hard then you have no competitive advantage!”