Podcast

Scaling Up [S1.E5]: ‘Grit and Hustle over Glitz and Glamour’ with Kate Morris, founder of Adore Beauty

This is an incredible story of grit and passion, leading to what would become Australia's largest online beauty retailer. In this episode, we speak with Kate Morris.

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Ed (00:49)
My guest today is Kate Morris, the founder of Australia’s largest online beauty retailer, Adore Beauty. This to me is the quintessential, heroic founding tale. It’s sent tingles down my spine the first time I heard it. In 2001 with online retailing in it’s infancy, Kate, with only $12,000 in borrowed money in her back pocket, set out with a mission of empowering women to make better beauty decisions. At this point, everything was against her. No experience, no money, no brands wanting to join her platform. Fast forward 20 years and Adore will this year have over a hundred million in revenue. 14,000 products across 200 of the world’s biggest beauty brands and over 160 employees. That is not to say it was always smooth sailing, as you’ll hear, this story is one of resilience and belief and grit and hustle. A real founder’s story wart and all. Not much glitz.

Not much glamour until perhaps recently, 19 years after starting, Kate and her business partner finally realized some kind of financial reward selling 60% of their business to a private equity fund. Kate is passionate about empowering more female founders and make some really pertinent points in regards to how and why the investment community needs to lift its game in supporting them. This was an incredibly insightful chat and more than that invigorated me or reminded me. In the world of entrepreneurship, anything is possible. A reminder, if you’re enjoying this podcast, please leave a review, tell your friends, spread the word. It’ll just allow more people to help discover it and hopefully maybe one day it might inspire someone to create their own business. Any questions or comments? Always email me. hello@tdmgrowth.com.

My guest today is Kate Morris, the founder of Adore Beauty, which is Australia’s number one online beauty retailer. It was the first online beauty retailer, wasn’t it?

Kate (02:49)
Correct. It was the first, yes. Many many years ago

Ed (02:52)
And now, I mean, you’re an e-commerce platform, really.

Kate (02:57)
Yep

Ed (02:58)
Incredible. And what inspires me a lot about founders is hearing the genesis of their story. Sure. And I’d love you to wind the clock back to 1999. While many 21 year olds are probably on the dance floor listening to who knows what

Kate (03:13)
I decided to do something more fun. Yeah, no, look, I was still a student. I was studying. I did law for a whole week at Monash Uni and it didn’t really take, so I was just kind of floating around in an arts degree and working part-time just to pay the rent. I was working on the Clarins counter which I loved. To me it was just the funnest job ever getting to work in beauty. I always loved beauty products and it was really just the very, very early days of online shopping. And I don’t know if any of your listeners will remember D Store or Wishlist or those really, really early ones around in that day. And to me, I guess I’d always seen the way so many of the customers that I was serving in department stores the way that they felt about that experience and how awful it was generally considered to be and really widely considered to be awful people like, oh yeah, it’s awful going in there.

There’s all these scary women with too much makeup on trying to jump down your throat and sell you all of these things. And I thought, well, that really doesn’t make any sense for beauty because the whole point of beauty is that it’s supposed to make you feel really good. And if the shopping experience is not making you feel that way, then something is kind of fundamentally wrong. And to me it was just, well, it was a no-brainer that someone would do this for beauty, that someone would start selling beauty online. Cause I thought, oh there’ll be heaps of people that would prefer to shop that way and in their own time and without any hard sell. And I kind of waited for somebody to do it and bored all my friends stupid with talking about it all of the time. And then in the end it was my boyfriend turned around and said to me, he said, look, are you going to do this or what?

And I thought, oh, and I never considered starting a business before. That was not a path in my family. You were supposed to go to uni and get a good job and then do that until you retire. So yeah, I just started looking up the Yellow Pages to try and find someone who could build me a website, which was certainly not as easy as it is now, as everything from scratch and started approaching all these beauty brands to get them to give me permission to revolutionize their entire method of distribution, which they were understandably, fairly reticent to do.

Ed (05:41)
I can only imagine. I think it’s worth giving the context there. There’s no smartphones, there’s no Facebook.

Kate (05:50)
No Broadband. That was on Dial-up.

Ed (05:52)
You know, were using the yellow pages to look for someone to build your website. No Shopify just a plug and play. Oh no. So times were tough to even think about being an online retailer. it was a slug from

Kate (06:09)
It’d kind of trying to go into the wild West. You really did have to be a pioneer to try and work out how to even do any of this stuff. Even to try and find a bank that would let you take credit cards online. Impossible. There was only one in the whole country that would let you do it.

Ed (06:30)
Incredible to think in those early days, how did you build trust with your customers or Amazon had only just really started selling books online, but particularly cosmetics where people want to feel it and see it. How did you connect with those customers initially? Early?

Kate (06:48)
It wasn’t easy. It was a thing that was just a bit of a slog back then. There wasn’t Facebook, there wasn’t Instagram, but there was news net, news groups. So there was this one called Alta Fashion. It was just like all text-based sort of bulletin board kind of thing. And I guess I just hung out there a lot trying to contribute to conversation, trying to help people out with their skincare questions or their makeup questions. Not in a sort of selling way or anything like that, but it was okay to do that provided you were contributing to the conversation and not just trying to sell products. And so I guess to try and build a little bit of trust that way. There were a lot of things that I tried to do with the website to make it very transparent. It doesn’t sound particularly revolutionary, but actually listing the ingredients of a product and talking about what was in things like that’s for the beauty industry that was revolutionary. Unheard of to actually reduce a product to the components of what was actually in it and talk about what ingredients do what and which things work. And it did take a long time. And to be honest, I mean consumers weren’t really ready to embrace online shopping back then, so we’re actually, well look, I think the business is probably 10 years too early. Really.

Ed (08:12)
I’d agree with that. So just to sort of fast forward a little bit, you, you’ve at this stage fallen into entrepreneurship. You’ve borrowed $12,000 from your boyfriend’s parents.

Kate (08:24)
Yes

Ed (08:25)
And the website is up and going. You’ve convinced two brands. So fast forwarding it was sort of seven years, let’s say, to the million dollar mark.

Kate (08:38)
Slow going. It was, I don’t know. The question I get asked a lot is what was the moment when you knew it was really all going to work? It was never that moment. Yeah. It was just every day you got a couple more sales than you did yesterday and just on, on for years. I think, well, let me see. By around 2000, 2007, 2008, I would’ve had maybe, I don’t know, maybe seven or eight staff I guess. So a couple people packing orders, a couple people doing customer service and bit of this and bit of that. But still very small

Ed (09:13)
And you are still a jack of all trades at this moment. Marking officer are probably still picking and packing

Kate (09:19)
Absolutely. That’s the thing you kind of get good at is an entrepreneur is being able to do lots of things a bit good or good enough

Ed (09:27)
You helped code the first website?

Kate (09:29)
I did. Yeah. I’m not allowed to do that anymore. But yes, it was more just as I didn’t have any money left over after building my website. I hadn’t kind of really thought about the fact that, oh, well you might actually want to change the homepage. Didn’t have a content management system or anything like that where you could do it? So I was just like, righteo I’m going to have to figure this out. Borrow a book out of the library

Ed (09:51)
And now you are dangerous enough, well know enough to, we’d be dangerous enough well I guess know enough

Kate (09:57)
Yes. I’m not allowed to anywhere near any of that kind of stuff.

Ed (10:02)
The business is growing another five years till the 2 million mark all of a sudden, little bit of a hockey stick. Three years to get to 10, another two years to get to 30. You’re building a very big business at this point in time. What were the moments upon reflection or the decisions that you took that created those step changes?

Kate (10:21)
So the business, we got about 3 million in revenue by 2010/2011. But that was the point where it had kind of started to flatten off and instead of getting sort of 50% growth year on year, we were getting 10%. And I just sort of thought to myself, look, if this is all going to be then I don’t know if I’m really keen to go on with this. I don’t just want to run a small business. I mean, my boyfriend’s parents ran a motel and it’s a good little small business, but wasn’t what I wanted. And I didn’t know how to get it to be more than that. And I sort of thought, well, maybe it’s my inexperience. Do I need to go and hire an experienced CEO that knows what they’re doing? So I was very conscious that I didn’t, is this just the limit of it and maybe I should just sell it.

I’m going to do something else. I don’t know. And I actually went and saw a business coach, which was probably the best money I ever spent, and she asked me a lot of really good questions. And at the end of the session she said, look, what I want you to do is to go away and write a letter to yourself from 10 years in the future and describe your business and what it does and how it works and your role in it and what your life’s like and all this kind of thing. And I thought, well, that sounds like great. That was a waste of money. But I thought, no, no, no, I’ll go and do. I’ll do it. I’ll do it. And actually doing that, I guess the process was vision setting, resetting the vision. All I’d ever really imagined was trying to build a business and get it to work, and I had to achieve that.

And so I needed to set a new vision. And once I did that, it was like, whoa, all the lights going back on. Well suddenly I realized what I needed to do. And so it was a lot of the things that I needed to do meant that I was going to have to take some risks with our margin. So things like offering free shipping. People were used to that with strawberry.net and whatever, and we thought, well look, if we’re going to compete, we are just going to have to do that to try and get to the scale where that makes sense. Had to completely replatform and rebuild the website. We were stuck on this kind of hulking, legacy Frankensite of a thing that wasn’t really going to offer the interactive consumer led vision that I knew that we needed to build, had to go out and get all of the brands that we were still missing because there was still a lot that were holding back.

And I think I just, I’d kind of got a bit exhausted of hearing no all the time. And so I guess I’d taken my foot off the pedal and I realized it’s like, no, no, no, it’s got to be done. Whatever it takes, whatever it takes, I have to do it. And look, we needed to relocate to a new warehouse because I knew I couldn’t actually drive any further growth in the space that we were in. If all of a sudden we got a new brand in, I would have nowhere to put it. So all of these things were going to cost money. And so remortgaged the house to get the last little bit out of it that I could get. But had to start on that journey of trying to get the fast growth to be able to attract an investor because no one’s going to invest in an e-commerce businesses growing 10% a year. Like that’s lame. So had to get the hockey stick first to show to show an investor that we could do it but you know, need the money to do that. And so that was really quite terrifying.

Ed (13:56)
It’s an incredible story to hear. You’ve bootstrapped this business, you’ve remortgaged a house, everything’s on the line. You’re not making capital allocation decisions with other people’s money.

Kate (14:10)
This is every single cent I had.

Ed (14:11)
You are making a decision about marketing

Kate (14:15)
No backup. There’s no sense that, oh, well that’s fine. I’ve still got my little nest egg put aside or whatever it was. There’s no backup, there’s no safety net, there’s, this is go hard or go home.

Ed (14:28)
It’s in incredible and mind blowing really. I guess that has made you very savvy and you’ve become an expert in probably what I’d call the direct to consumer playbook. And you’ve seen it play out over 20 years. The market is very different now. There is a lot of software and tools that will play this out for you, but even attracting customers to the top of your funnel before they purchase, before you can even try to retain them and reengage for sure them. How have you thought strategically over time about that sort of cycle and your customer life cycle?

Kate (15:06)
Look, I guess the tools that businesses have available to them these days is certainly more than anything I ever had to start out. Which I guess is why our growth or our liftoff was so slow and the only way to do it back then was to burn heaps of cash, which I didn’t have anyway. So that was fine. That wasn’t really an option. Our business got very good very early at that really sort of performance led marketing closer to the bottom of the funnel. So if you were searching for a product that we stocked, guaranteed, we would connect with you at that point because that’s the stuff where you get your really good ROI, right? That’s where you’re getting 10 times, 11 times, 12 times return on ad spin. And so we got very, very good at that. There’s a certain point where that becomes challenging to profitably scale because you need to start to get more volume, you need to start moving further up the funnel.

And I guess that’s the point that we’ve started to get really good at content. So creating ways to connect with our consumer before they even know they want to buy something to just be part of their journey of learning about beauty or learning about skincare. So things like our podcast, which launched only recently and has been incredibly successful. Our blog, Beauty IQ, which we’ve had for must be three or four years now. I feel like we are really getting into our groove with that and understanding what sort of content our customer is looking for, what they’ll find useful, what drives a sale. Because it’s one thing to write content that’s drives eyeballs, but it’s still an e-commerce business, and that’s how our business model works. So eyeballs are great, but I need people to buy something at some point. So to be able to create content that converts is a big challenge.

And I think that’s where the big evolution is over time. I mean, you still see businesses like Amazon for instance. I mean the whole thing is if you know what you want to buy, then they have it. But if you rock up there going, Hey, I’ve got really dry skin and I feel like I need a new moisturizer or a serum or something, there’s nowhere it, they can’t help you with that. I mean, we’ve got a hugely trained staff sitting there on live chat through till 9/10 PM every night that are completely brand agnostic and not on any kind of sales commission and that they would love to help you with that. So part of it’s the onsite service offering as well. I mean, it’s one thing to drive traffic to the site, but then what do you do with the customer once they get there? Particularly if they pitch up in the moisturizers category that’s got 900 different products in there to be able to provide the tools and the customizations and the service to help connect people with the product that they’re really going to like.

Ed (18:01)
And that’s why I mentioned at the top of the interview, you have built this e-commerce platform. It’s no longer a channel just to sell it. You’ve gone full platform and I think in this day and age, that’s a must

Kate (18:13)
Yeah. I think you end up being almost like an integrated media business, but instead of selling the page views, well the point of driving the people there in the end is to help connect them to the products that they’re going to love. And I think that’s really what makes sense then. And for the beauty industry actually where the big disruption is. Because previously the way that the industry worked is that, well, the big brands would advertise in the magazines and hope that at some point that would drive a person into the store up to a particular counter to go and consider the product. But it’s not a very consumer-centric way of doing things. It doesn’t really help the consumer to mean armed with a Vogue magazine and the Beauty Hall of David Jones, how are you supposed to find the best combination of skincare products for your skin? The information that you need, isn’t there?

Ed (19:08)
Yeah, just listening to talk about that, you’ve built such a durable business and your competitive advantage would have shifted over time. I mean initially it was convenience.

Kate (19:18)
Well, it was initially the fact that we sold online and everybody else didn’t.

Ed (19:22)
Now it’s shifting again. And you probably as a founder need to be thinking, what does my competitive advantage look five years from now?

Kate (19:29)
Look, I think the thing that has enabled us to evolve is that the vision was never sell beauty products on the internet. The vision was I want my customers to feel empowered and feel confident and fabulous when they walk out the door every morning. And so it’s becomes less than about what the channel is or about how you do it. What feeling do you want your customers to have? One of the things that I often talk about is that most women still have this kind of beauty graveyard of products under the sink that they’ve bought. And they’re like, yeah, someone talked me into buying this and it’s not that great or it doesn’t work for me, but you can’t throw it out because it was expensive. And so it just kind of lives there under the sink. It makes you feel guilty every time you see it. And so for us, while that beauty graveyard still exists and we feel like we still have work to do and how we do it then can obviously evolve over time as a technology changes and as the tools change.

Ed (20:33)
Was that the mission day one?

Kate (20:35)
Day one

Ed (20:36)
And it still holds today?

Kate (20:36)
I found my original business plan such as it was, it was pretty rough. And the reason doing it is still exactly the same, which really surprised me because obviously it’s so long ago. I can’t remember what was in my head at the start of that. I was really quite surprised and pleased to see that vision is one that held true then and holds true now. And that’s your North Star really.

Ed (21:11)
It’s probably got you out of bed on a few days when you didn’t feel like it.

Kate (21:15)
Oh, absolutely. And then when you get lovely emails and things from customers going, what? I listen to your podcast, it’s fantastic. I feel like it’s, I’m talking with my best friends and I feel like I’m learning so much. And I mean that’s tremendous. That’s tremendous. That’s why we are doing it

Ed (21:55)
If you are looking to the future and the omni-channel retailer is now becoming more present, the bricks and mortars have started to really work out that Online is where it’s at. And traditionally, you almost there digital arm. How do you think about how your business will evolve in the next five, 10 years?

Kate (22:14)
Look for me, I think it’s still about keeping the consumer promise at the front of your mind and whatever ends up being the best way to do that is how it will go about it. So it’s less about pinning ourselves to being an online retailer, it’s more about what is the best way for us to continue to deliver that to our customers. I actually feel like the online channel offers so much that’s really hard to get in a store. I mean, the amount of data that we have to be able to personalize and curate the individual consumer experience online. I feel like every time you go into a store, your journey is really restricted by how well trained or educated is that single person that’s serving you. Whereas we have 19 years worth of consumer data and 19 years worth of everybody who’s ever worked here is knowledge about all of the different products that we have. And I feel like that’s such a hard thing to actually do in the store.

Ed (23:24)
It does feel like artificial intelligence will create this great personalization experience for your customers.

Kate (23:29)
I think so. I think so. And look, I do still see the store channel or the professional channels as being symbiotic with what we are doing online. One of the things we can’t do online is we can’t give somebody a facial. We can’t give them laser treatment. We can’t cut their hair yet. Not yet. Not yet. No. Well that’s right. Yeah. Not with that attitude. So look, there’s always going to be things that they can’t necessarily get from the online channel, but I think there’s a lot more room to grow when we are

Ed (24:01)
No doubt. One throw I do want to go into, I know that you are heavily values driven and this business is deeply rooted in values. How is the culture of this business scaled over time? It was obviously you and your partner who styled the business was two of you. All of a sudden there’s six, there’s 10 now. There’s 130 across warehouses across head office now.

Kate (24:25)
About 175 soon. That was a piece of work that we did. I’m trying to work out exactly what year it was, but there was a year where we went from 12 employees to about 25 now. It was a year that everything broke and we made a couple of hasty hires and there ended up being some personality clashes in the office that just made it a really horrible and kind of toxic place to work for about six months, which is an awful thing, particularly because it had always been such a lovely and positive place. And to me it had always felt like family and for it to not feel like that was just horrendous. Anyway, it ended badly and a few people left the company and I guess those of us that were left kind of sat down together and went, right, none of us ever want this to happen again.

How can we avoid that happening again? And so we all work together on putting together a list of cultural values, which basically represented when things are great here, when things are going really well, what behaviors are we seeing what are the consistent threads of the things that make it good to be here or make this a good company or I and a high performing company as well. And to work together on that list of values that we then have ever since used as the fundamental pieces of recruitment of performance management. When you ask everybody here, we bang on about the values all of the time because we expect everybody to be able to use those key values as decision making tools on a day-to-day basis. So they relate back to everything. So one of the cool ones is doing the right thing, and that means doing the right thing by our customers, by our suppliers, and by each other here in the workplace.

And the way that that manifests is, for instance, okay, well let’s say accounts team, oh, we’re a bit tight on cash flow which has certainly happened during the many years that we’ve tried to scale up. Oh, we’ll just push our payments out by a week. And that’s not the way that we would do things here. It’s like, okay, well if you need to pay somebody late or you need to ask for an extension, then you phone them up and you ask, everybody else has bills to pay too. So you would never do things that way. Owning up to your mistakes and it being okay also to make mistakes to say, Hey, yeah, I’m really sorry I didn’t handle that very well. I would like to have done it better. I’m really sorry. Just things like that. Just being honest, like

Ed (27:10)
Integrity.

Kate (27:11)
Exactly. And with our customers, if we’ve done the wrong thing by them and we’ve let them down, we will make it up to them. Hey, we promised you we would ship your order by three o’clock today and we haven’t been able to do that, so we’re really sorry, $10 store credit, your order’s going to be a day later. I hope that’s okay. So many retailers just don’t even do that. It’s just living up to your promises and all of these kinds of areas. These key cultural values is I think what has enabled us to scale from 25 people through to, 160 odd without the wheels falling off. And it also gives you a really good tool if there’s any hires where you, you’re sort of going, oh, seeing some behaviors. It gives you a talk to have actually have that conversation. Hey, actually one of our core values is having a positive approach. Do you think that, you know, were making generous assumptions in that instance. Do you think that you came with solutions and not with just problems all that kind of stuff.

Ed (28:13)
It seems like you invested ahead of the curve in a sense, in that values proposition because so many founders that I’ve been lucky enough to deal with, it becomes an issue. 300 people and then it can really accelerate the business for 20. It felt like you saw the light early, the little red flag and you fixed it.

Kate (28:33)
Yeah, it felt like a big red flag at the time. But yeah, I think in every business it comes for every business. If you don’t work it out, you’re going to have to work it out at some point. It’s not a thing that you can put off forever. I go, okay, I know we don’t need to do that. Or we’ve written some values and they’re on the wall somewhere. This is a bill that you have to pay at some point.

Ed (28:57)
Absolutely. I love your mental model of having values at the center culture sort of sits around that is a living, breathing organism that will move regardless of what you can do sometimes as CEO. But if the decisions and the behaviors are being driven by those values, that culture will move in the right direction.

Kate (29:17)
Correct, yes. That, that’s been my experience so far. But hey, maybe ask me again. When we get to 300 people

Ed (29:24)
While on culture and values, I’d love to peel back a layer to your work life balance. Oh yeah. You co-founded the business with your partner and now co-founded a family with your partner, which is probably just as a great achievement as this incredible business. But how has that relationship been managed over 20 years of the business? Obviously stressful times.

Kate (29:49)
Look, I think we’ve always generally found it less stressful to have each other to lean on. I think we are very lucky that I talked to a lot of people who were like, oh gosh, I could never work with my partner. We would kill each other. I was like, really? How do you parent? If you can parent, you can run a business together. You have to respect that each person has maybe slightly different ideas about things, but provided that you are on the same page in terms of what your goals are and what your values are, then the small differences of opinion stay relatively small. If you’ve got someone that your values aligned with, then there’s generally not any major issues. And I think one of the things that benefit us early on was to sort of delineate which areas are each person’s responsibilities. So we went stepping on each other’s toes all the time. For instance, it’s a PR decision. That’s my decision. And he can absolutely have input into that. But in the end, it’s my call. So just to divide up those areas so that you are not challenging each other all the time.

Ed (31:04)
What about the overlay of bringing up a family together as well while scaling a business dramatically?

Kate (31:12)
Look, there were challenging times. I won’t say that there weren’t particularly when you’d trying to not let the business go broke and then also wrangling a two year old, that’s fun. It doesn’t really feel like there’s a lot of breaks sometimes. But look, I guess on the upside it has allowed us to arrange our parenting arrangements however we want. And to model that too for the other team members, that’s actually been a really positive thing. So we decided always from the get go that we wanted it to be 50 50 on the parenting front, aside from the fact that men find it difficult generally to actually ingest date. That was something that I did have to do. But then after that, I think I had, oh, with the first kid, maybe six weeks, maternity leave with the second one, I had three. And then after that we split it and we did, we live near the office and we just did half days. So I’ll go in and work in the mornings and then switch over at lunchtime and go in the afternoons and it meant that we both got to have a shot at doing both. And I think it’s kind of worked out really well.

Ed (32:23)
There aren’t enough female founders in the world. And I know you are inspired to ensure that there are more in the future. What advice would you give to a female founder who did want it or did want a family, did want a great business?

Kate (32:37)
My advice is that, I mean, it can absolutely be done. You’ll have to probably challenge other people’s preconceptions of how it should be done. But who gives a stuff, what everybody else thinks. So what’s it I think honestly the biggest thing that you can do is to decide to build a family with someone that generally has your back and wants you to succeed in your career and wants to do half of it. Otherwise you know what it’s going to be. It’s going to be really difficult.

Ed (33:08)
What are other friction points for female founders?

Kate (33:12)
So I work with and mentor quite a few. And I see there are challenges with confidence because a lot of people equate confidence with competence and they’re not necessarily the same thing. But I think women get conditioned kind of their whole lives to actually not be too overtly confident and they’re generally negative consequences. So speaking as someone who got fired from half the jobs I had before I started my own business, it’s you’re a confident woman. It doesn’t generally work out well for you from a career perspective or often I see them often with lesser or smaller or lesser quality networks. I get so many male founders introduced to me by other males who they have this habit of extending their networks and helping people out. And women don’t get the benefit of that often. So they have to do it. They have to do everything themselves.

I found female founders to succeed have to be extraordinary. I mean the access to funding is also really challenging. Cause I find too, female founders will often start a business accidentally, I guess as I did, because they want to solve a problem. They have a problem in their own lives or a problem that they see with their friends that they want to solve. And it’s not necessarily often sort of a sexy tech business that the VCs are crawl all over themselves for. And so there ends up being this really big funding gap, particularly between, you know, can get a little bit of angel money maybe. But once you get to the point where you need a million dollars or 2 million, if you have a business that is a product business or a consumer business, where are you going to get that money? It’s really hard. Yeah, it’s fine. Once you get up to private equity is not so bad. If you need $10 million or 20 million, you can get that.

Ed (35:06)
Hopefully got a 50 million business by that stage

Kate (35:08)
Correct, yes. But at the VC funding round for consumer or product-led businesses, there’s a real gap

Ed (35:16)
And hopefully that’s moving in the right direction. There are so many great women in VC now that are, I think are trying to solve this problem that maybe this generation of female founders might have a better than the last.

Kate (35:27)
Yeah, maybe. I think we probably need to see a bit more of a fundamental shift in sort of the VC business model because it really is built around placing a lot of small bets, hoping that one of them ends up being a unicorn. And I mean, there’s nobody sort of investing in businesses going, Hey will this right now it’s a 5 million business, but we think it could be a hundred million dollar business for vc. They’d be like, man, it’s not enough. So that’s a difference in thinking, I think required there.

Ed (35:56)
That’s an interesting point. You mentioned that you wrote a letter to the business coach suggested that you write this letter to yourself in 10 years time to have this vision of what your business Yeah. Would become. What would Kate Morris write to her 20 year old self now for advice?

Kate (36:17)
I don’t actually regret any of the mistakes that I made because I feel like all of them added up to where I am now. And I feel like where I am now is actually pretty great. So I don’t know, I if I’d give me any hints. Maybe you just have to, maybe it’s just a journey and you’ve just got to go through it. I think obviously there’s a lot that I’ve learned that I would do differently next time. I mean, I think the timing thing is the biggest thing. I think the thing that I probably didn’t understand back then is how not ready the market was for this and that if you are going to be the very first one to do something, like it’s going to be a slog. Yeah, it’s going to be a slog. And there was no way of speeding it up, I don’t think. And the businesses that tried to do that, to raise a lot of money to try and speed things up, they just burnt through all the cash because it’s still, the market wasn’t ready. So the timing’s the kicker I think

Ed (37:09)
It might have been just big block letters, keep it going

Kate (37:13)
Just hang in there. Yeah.

Ed (37:15)
Incredible resilience when sitting on the other side of the table here to hear your story, to show that belief and resilience is rare.

Kate (37:26)
I don’t know that it is. I don’t know that it is. I see so many founders with it who slog it through all the really hard years and it’s not necessarily the bit that you read about. Everybody likes the sort of overnight success aspect. And I think the slog is really the making of any entrepreneur.

Ed (37:49)
I think anyone

Kate (37:50)
That’s it. To really to have a vision and to really give it everything for however many years. I was having dinner with a couple of my mentees last night actually, and I just said to them, I said, look, here’s to another year that we all survived and next year will be even better. But to pay my kind of respects to them because I said, nobody who hasn’t done this, who hasn’t been a founder and started from scratch, nobody will ever understand what you’ve put into this. You give it everything.

Ed (38:29)
Amazing. One last question. As a true high performer, I’m always interested in how you recharge your mental health battery. Where do you get time for yourself in amongst two kids, A partner, a business,

Kate (38:44)
You have to make time for it. You kind of have to schedule it in. So exercise for instance, it is definitely a scheduled thing. Yeah. It’s not just, oh, go to the gym when I have time because otherwise then you never have time. So it’s a scheduled thing. I do love taking myself to the movies. That’s kind of my favorite thing because it’s like, okay, you get to pick the movie and for the next two hours you have to talk to anybody. Nobody can call you, nobody can text you, nobody can email you. You get to actually just sort of fully be present and engage with nothing, with no distractions. And that’s always heaven. I kind of wish that flights didn’t have wifi anymore. I mean it’s good, it’s handy, you know, can get stuff done. But also it used to be a really nice time for just kind of sitting there and zoning out cause he couldn’t do anything else.

Ed (39:28)
I interviewed Bruce Buchanan who said his time out was to fly and I thought, oh, but with wifi now on flights. He said, no, I fly. As in I fly the plane. It’s the only time I can disconnect. If I’m not concentrating I die

Kate (39:43)
Yeah, well that’s the thing. You do have to carve out those moments, even if they’re just little moments. And my pat and I try and do that for each other on the weekend where it’s like, Hey, I’m just, I’m going to go and sneak upstairs to my bedroom and just close the door and read for half an hour and he’ll be like, okay, great. Go. I’ll put a movie on for the kids. So you just got to carve out those little moments, even if they’re not very long.

Ed (40:06)
Amazing. Okay. Morris, thank you so much for being on Australia. An incredible inspiration to me and many others and really appreciate your time.

Kate (40:14)
Oh, you’re welcome Ed.

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