Running a business without business experience

It doesn’t matter what your background or skill set is – growing a successful business requires hard work and a great product or service offering, as one prominent journalist discovered.

Sigourney Cantelo developed a core following as the beauty editor at Vogue Australia magazine, where she worked for close to six years, having dabbled across the worlds of media, acting and advertising in her career up to that point.

Yet it was during her time at Vogue that she uncovered a unique opportunity to branch out and start her own business.

Finding opportunity

“I could see what was happening in the digital space, and that there was just so much opportunity and it's such an exciting time for small businesses that start with digital,” Sigourney says.

“I felt that there wasn't a beauty website out there that really spoke to me, both from a content perspective but also in how well it was researched and edited. There were a lot of blogs, but not a lot being done by journalists that were credible and authoritative. So I wanted to create something that was trustworthy for the reader and credible.

“Another reason was I have a little boy, and I was looking for more flexibility and wanting to work from home ideally and be a bit more flexible in my hours. So I thought I would give it a crack.”Former Vogue beauty editor and founder of Beauticate, Sigourney Cantelo

And so in 2014 Beauticate was born – a site that, as the name suggests, combines beauty with education to deliver product reviews, information and profiles with the credibility of an experienced team of journalists.

Making the transition to business owner

Like many people who make the transition from employee to business owner, Sigourney tested the water with her idea before quitting her job.

“I actually launched it when I was still at Vogue, and just wanted to see how it would go. But it took off very quickly and I had to make a big decision, but it was a decision I am definitely glad I made,” she says.

A big factor for Sigourney was her existing network of contacts, as well as her profile as a journalist in the beauty industry – and it is this point of using your existing contacts and knowledge base that everyone in business should make a habit of, she emphasises.

Of course, there comes a tipping point when the aspiring business owner must take a leap of faith and quit their other role to run the business full-time. For Sigourney, this process took four months of weighing up the risks and benefits.

“I toyed with the idea for a long time, wrote lists of pros and cons, and I was terrified. It's scary,” she says.

“To be honest, I never really saw myself as running a business; I thought one day I might be a freelancer when I was a mum and I'd have a bit of flexibility, but I never thought I'd take on a fully fledged business with employees and an office and all that kind of thing, it never really sort of crossed my mind. So when the opportunity presented itself, it was pretty scary.

“But I just took the plunge, I thought 'I've been there six years' and I wanted to grow myself as well, I wanted to learn about digital, I saw the opportunity to upskill in all these different areas, so I bit the bullet and did it.”

“Digital is so two-sided, and I love being able to actually email [customers] back and I can hear exactly what they want.”

Keep the lines of communication open

For Sigourney, the power of digital communication means business owners can communicate better than ever with their customers and find out exactly what their pain points and needs are.

“For so many years in print [journalism], I'd be putting something out there and thinking 'Who is this reader and where are they and what do they think?', and now it's just so rewarding to get emails and comments on social media and hearing exactly what women are interested in, because it allows me to tailor my content and make sure that I give them what they want,” she explains.

“I have a great relationship with them now, particularly since digital is so two-sided, and I love being able to actually email them back and I can hear exactly what they want [to see] on the site, and that's been one of the most rewarding things, actually, in launching Beauticate, is being able to have that two-way conversation.”

Learning how to run a business

When you have no direct business experience, running a business can be a particularly daunting exercise.

“I'm not incredibly good at the numbers side of things, so I've definitely had to upskill in that area,” says Sigourney.

“I'm traditionally a word person and more of a creative person, so I find it very challenging to apply myself to the drier parts of the business.”

Sigourney says accounting software has “been my best friend”, and she is constantly looking to educate herself in business management.

“It's just things like that, invoicing ... managing all that kind of side of the business has been hard. I get a lot of advice from my husband, but he runs his own business, so he is very busy all the time, so I'm trying to learn more about that side of things,” she says.

Fast facts:

Name: Beauticate
Industry: Beauty/media
Established: 2014
Employees: Two plus a number of contractors
Location: Sydney

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