Ten years ago tomorrow I sent out a little message on Facebook (personal page – no business pages back then) with a link to my new blog/website and asking people to please subscribe. Maybe you were one of those people? Maybe you were one of my long-suffering friends or family members who I added to that email list? If that was you, I apologise in advance and thank you for sticking around (there are more than 20 thousand people receiving that weekly email today) and I now know about the legalities around spam and email lists! SORRY!
A bit like everything in my business over the past 10 years, I’ve been winging it. The highlights and the lowlights of the Styling You business story are many and varied (I’ve listed them below) but in 2008 I was a journalist, for goodness sake. I didn’t know how to run a business. What I did know was how to interview business people. Every step of the way, I’ve never been afraid to ask questions; to ask for help; or make it up as I go along. And I’m grateful for all those who did answer my questions.
So much has changed over the past 10 years, notably with technology. If you were reading this blog back in the early days it would have been on your computer. Your Nokia was only good for talking and texting. There was no Instagram; Twitter was but a pup.
What hasn’t changed over 10 years has been the reason why I started Styling You. I wanted to help everyday women like me find confidence through what they wore. I’m not one who’s led an overly stylish path in this life (if you’ve read my book you’ll know that!) but I strongly believe in the power of showing who we are in the world through what we choose to wear.
For me, and so, so many women out there, confidence does come from the outside in. It’s been a privilege to help women find that. We’re complex creatures and we go through so many stages in our lives, some planned, some not.
I get a lot of emails and messages from women who I didn’t realised (at the time) I’d helped. Some have said that I’ve helped them find the confidence to get a new job (Michelle, if you’re reading this, I’ll never forget that email you sent me all those years ago); to start their own business; to find themselves again after being in the trenches of early parenthood but it’s this email that I received just this week from Kylie that had me tearing up (warning: you will too).
I’ve wanted to write this for a while but life and kids have always got in the way and as it’s your 10th birthday, now is a good time to say … THANK YOU!
Four years ago, my daughter and first child, was stillborn at 30 weeks. In the weeks and months that followed, I hated my body for letting me down; at the time I needed it the most. I started wearing clothes that were to big and lots of black, to cover the body I no longer knew.
Whilst still on leave from work in the months that followed, I discovered your Instagram and then your book and it slowly brought me back to life. I had to recreate myself after “losing” the old me and you, your blogs and daily pictures, were a part of getting me there. My first purchase was a striped dress from Sussan, that I still have and wear often. It reminds me of the person I was then and how far I have come to be who I am now … the Mum to two beautiful healthy, happy boys.
So on your 10th birthday, thank you for helping me find a new me. Your business is not just about styling but SO much more.
There’s something in my eye AGAIN.
When I try to explain to people what I do and they can’t get beyond the fashion side of it, or I have a day/week/month where something happens to question what I’m doing and the path I’ve taken, I give myself a talking to and I read those emails – AGAIN (yes, I keep them in a file). I don’t do this as a way of stroking my ego. I do this as a reminder to stay on track with my aims and core values for Styling You.
Every woman, at every stage – NOT age – of their lives deserves to feel the best they can feel. And I want to help them feel that.
So, whether you’ve been here from the beginning or you joined this incredible community just this week, I thank YOU. Styling You is an incredible space for women of all ages, shapes and sizes to support other women without judgement. And that is my proudest achievement.
For those interested in the business side of things, I’ve listed out my highlight and lowlight (keeping it real) reel below.
The highlight reel
Booking my first personal styling client. Hello Sue! Not only was this such a kind thing for a friend to do to help support a start-up business, this one wardrobe edit session showed me that I was on the right track, that it was more than just about the clothes.
Getting great mentors. Shout out to the Sunshine Coast Business Women’s Network for the mentoring program I was able to access for free in my second year of business. The connections I made during that program – with mentors and mentorees – helped get this business happening.
Attending my first blogging conference. In early 2011 the first Aussie Mummy Bloggers conference was held. It was the first time in my career that I’d found “my people”. Women (and a few men) had travelled from all over Australia to meet and discuss blogging. I remember feeling like it all made sense, that there was a community around the industry I’d accidentally found myself in. I got to meet in real life people who I’d only previously chatted to via Twitter or in comments on the their blog. I’m still friends today with people I connected with at that event (hello BabyMac and Mrs Woog).
Winning Australia’s Best Blog award. Later that year I got a call from the Sydney Writers’ Centre (previously Sydney Writers’ Centre) telling me that I’d not only won the business category of their inaugural awards but also that I’d be judged the overall winner. Mind. Blown. Here I was working away in regional Queensland and my little blog suddenly had a national profile.
Nina Proudman. Ahh, Nina. When Offspring burst on to our screens and into our fashion hearts, I had a lot of people asking me about how to create the Nina Proudman look. So I wrote one blog post with tips and it went nuts. It was still receiving visits the following year, so when Offspring returned, I tried writing a post ever week to see if people were interested. And they were. This was before Channel Ten offered their own fashion re-caps. I’d stay up late each Wednesday night, watch the show and try and hunt down the exact pieces or similar that Nina was wearing and have on the blog for you. Through Nina, I connected with brands such as Binny, which I was loved bringing to a wider audience through my blog posts.
Stopping one-on-one styling sessions. This was a big call for me to make but make it I did in early 2012. By that time I’d worked with 150-plus women of all different ages, shapes and sizes but the work and income via my blog was surpassing that of my personal styling work and I knew I wanted to concentrate on growing this community. It was a scary thing to back myself but I’m glad that I did it because it gave me the time and space to create content here.
Covering Australian Fashion Week for Maybelline. I was lucky enough to work with Maybelline for two years running. Going behind the scenes at Australia’s biggest industry fashion event was huge. It was also an eye opener and provided many light bulb moments. For starters, I was crap at sitting in the front row. My legs are not built to cross neatly over each other and somehow I ended up sitting like an ungraceful chook next to Ruby Rose. Watching the industry on show like it was, made me also realise how disconnected it was from its customers. It made me determined to continue to champion real-world fashion and showcase clothes on everyday women.
Being signed by a blogging agency. What a heady, crazy, exciting time that was mid-2012. The Remarkables Group was the first dedicated blogging talent agency in Australia and, along with four of my original blogging friends; we took a leap of faith to join the start-up agency as a way to helps us better connect and work with brands. The nasty backlash that “the first five” received … from other bloggers … was not fun but seeing where this blogging business could go was.
Being sponsored to go to Blogher in New York. In 2012, I got to attend Blogher (then the biggest female blogging conference in the world) with the original five from The Remarkables. It was at a time when Australian blogging was taking off and we had been looking to US bloggers for a couple of years, seeing them ahead of where Australia was. On stage, we heard from the likes of Katie Couric and Martha Stewart. I even ended up at a side party on the Upper East Side, where some of the elite of US blogging had gathered for Gretchen Rubin’s book launch. It was all surreal but so much fun.
Starting the #everydaystyle hashtag on Instagram. I’d been on Instagram for a few years, jumping on every new shiny thing that smart phones were giving us access to. I think I knew all of two people when I started and I really only got on board for the filters. I couldn’t have predicted that it would have grown to become the social platform it’s become today. In late 2013, I was asked by a few readers to show more of the outfits I wore every day. I remember looking down at my outfit on one of those days and shaking my head. I worked from home, it wall pretty mundane. And I tended to wear the same kind of thing every day. But I love a challenge so, for one week, my then eight-year-old took my outfit photo and I posted it every day with the hashtag, #everydaystyle. By the end of that week quite a few other Australian women on Instagram were posting using the hashtag, so I kept going, and going. I didn’t miss a day until the end of last year. Now there have been more than 600K shares on Instagram using the hashtag. Not all are directly part of the #everydaystyle community (because once a hashtag becomes popular, it shows up in searches and people add it to their hashtag list) but so many Australian and New Zealand Instagrammers who started with the hashtag in those early days have gone on to build their own beautiful communities (with their own hashtags). The wonderful bonus here is that together we all offer such an incredibly diverse range of everyday women style inspiration.
Having my first book published. I’ll never forget the day when Hachette Australia contacted be, asking me to submit a proposal to have my then e-book, Unlock Your Style in 14 days, expanded and published as a book. It was every writer’s dream. I wrote the book in eight weeks, coordinated a three-day photo shoot and took it on tour everywhere from Brisbane, to Bowral, to Adelaide to Perth. Seeing women lining up at bookstores and events all over Australia, meeting women who I only knew as commenters on the blog or Facebook or Instagram, was an incredible privilege. I’m so grateful I was offered the opportunity to write the book. It’s still the cornerstone for all that I talk about here on the blog when it comes to style for the everyday woman.
Winning the 2015 Queensland Telstra Micro Business of the Year award. The number one question people ask me after they ask what I “do” is always, “how do you make money?” Sometimes people are upfront and quite blunt about it; other times, you can see they’re politely stepping around the subject and itching to ask. I get it. What I do is not a typical business (but what is typical these days?) but when I did win this award, it felt as if it legitimised not only my business but also that of my fellow bloggers/influencers (GAH … hate that word!). Entering these awards means sharing your business’ financials for scrutiny. That I more than passed was so bloody exciting.
Launching the Styling You Shop. Starting my online shop in 2015 seemed like a natural progression and a great way to diversify the main income stream that had been sponsorships. We started small and used to take orders and have our suppliers send them to our customers but for the past year and a half we’ve bought our stock and handle all the orders and pack them ourselves. I’m slowly taking over more and more of our home! We also started with just me modelling the clothes, now I’m joined by Jasmine (Pretty Chuffed) and Stacey (@stace_mcgregs).
Leaving a blogging agency. In 2016, I made the decision to leave The Remarkables Group. It wasn’t something I did without a lot of thought and consideration. My sponsorship work had reached the point that I was working directly with brands that I’d built strong relationships with. And brands were coming directly to me. I backed myself AGAIN and let go of the fears that sponsorships would disappear. They didn’t. Not long after my departure, the agency ceased representing bloggers. I’m glad I got to make the decision to leave for myself.
Starting the Everyday Style Facebook group. One thing that any business working with social media has to do is to always pivot, change and adapt because we only “rent” these channels and the “landlords” are always changing the terms of our lease. When I realised that it was becoming really tricky for Styling You Facebook followers to see any of my posts, I decided to launch a Facebook group in 2016 as a safe, supportive and judgement-free forum for our email subscribers to hang out and ask style questions. Eight thousand-plus members later, this group remains a vibrant and fun corner of the style Internet.
Launching the Ultimate Capsule Wardrobe online style program. My first program launched later in 2016 and we’ve now run five. It’s been an honour to get to know this group of women from the Styling You community. I love seeing the friendships between “Capsulers” grow, women bonding over style and meeting up in real life!
Working with incredible businesses. I would only have half a business without the amazing brands and companies that put their trust in me and include me in their business’ marketing and growth. I choose to work only with businesses that are aligned with me – and my community. Yes, that means I knock back offers but doing that has allowed me to build a sustainable business. It gives me such a thrill to learn from businesses I represent that I’ve been able to help boost their sales and help them grow.
Supporting independent Australian fashion labels. I’ve been fortunate to be in a position to support and champion some incredible independent labels, especially through my Model and Me blog post series, which I started in 2010. The fashion industry is not easy and without the creative working on these labels, we will eventually lose diversity in fashion – and therefore style. That will be a sad day indeed.
Building a beautiful team. As Styling You has grown, I’ve loved being in a position to need and be able to employ others to help support me. I started my own business to create a work option that was flexible around my then young family and it’s been rewarding to pass that flexible work option on to other women/mums looking for a side hustle to do the same.
Finding myself as a model at 50! Who knew? It’s not something I ever set out to do. Whether it’s being photographed in a swimsuit, underwear, fabulous shoes or miracle pants, I realised a few years ago that if I was going to talk the talk about championing greater diversity in fashion modelling, then I was going to have to walk it as well. But MY, the beauty maintenance! It’s extreme.
The lowlight reel
I’m not one to dwell on the negative but if I only shared the highlights you’d be mistaken in thinking that starting a business and running it is all smooth sailing. Spoiler alert: it’s not! The lowlights do suck but I’m a pick-myself-up-and-get-on-with-it type of girl and, as clichéd as it is, I’ve learned and grown from each of the lowlights.
Starting a business in 2008. HAH. Yes, three months after launching, the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) hit. As Yaz (1988 if you’re playing along) sang, “the only way is up”. And it was. It’s not like I’d reached any lofty heights before the time of the crash. I just had to get smarter and re-frame how I wanted my business to look.
Maintaining a lot of side hustles to pay the bills. Most people are encouraged to start a business while still working for someone. Me? I knew I had to leave my job because the workplace had become quite toxic to me, at the same time my husband had started a job that meant he was commuting and out the door at 6am each day; returning at 8pm at night. I needed to be the one on the ground, able to drop everything if the kids were sick or hurt. Before the blog grew to become the business and more than surpass my previous salary, I tutored at uni; did freelance writing; took on freelance PR contracts; consulted about social media to small businesses … all the while seeing personal styling clients and writing content for the blog.
Stuffing up monumentally when doing a side hustle that was so far from my core business idea that it was bound to fail. Together with two girlfriends, we had what we thought was a great idea to organise and host regular events. Our fashion events were easy – that was our thing. It was when we branched out into kids’ events, that we left ourselves open for errors. And what an error it was. We thought we’d booked the real Bob the Builder show for a sell-out convention centre event; turns out we’d booked a mini/shopping centre version that left our audience (rightly) feeling ripped off. Hell hath no fury like parents of unhappy, young Bob the Builder fans. Lesson very much learned – after a lot of refunds and loss of money. Stick to what you know and are aligned with.
Experiencing online attacks. Many will say that this comes with the territory. I live in a unicorn-filled world of positivity where I like to think everyone can get along and only say something if they’ve got something nice to say. HAH. I wish. I can’t control what people say about me online away from my channels (and there’s been A LOT of nastiness over the years) but I can simply and effectively control what’s said on my channels: block and delete. I do this to maintain a space where women feel safe to ask questions and post photos of themselves without fear of ridicule for their choices. It’s my party and I want my guests to all have a good time.
Working crazy hours. The flexibility of owning your own business means does not necessarily mean working fewer hours than paid employment – and that’s definitely the case for me. I work longer and more hours that I did in my former career but all the energy I put in is for MY bottom line, not someone else’s.
Now, if you’ve made it this far, I’m super impressed. The above was something I need to download, reflect and record – for my family and myself. My kids have grown up watching me do this thing on the Internet. I want them to know their mum took a leap of faith, backed herself and built a business that helps others every day.
My husband, Mr SY, deserves more than a medal. In those early years, when it was tough going, I only remember him once questioning whether it was all worth it. I told him then it was worth it and I tell him now it’s worth it because of YOU, dear reader. It’s all because of YOU. If you’ve ever read a post, commented, liked, shared or chatted with a friend about Styling You. THANK YOU.
Thanks so much for indulging me with this post. If you’ve got a favourite Styling You memory you’d like to share, please leave a comment below.