What inspired you to start a business?
Each of my businesses has started by identifying a consumer issue and opportunity. I never set out to simply start a business, more that I find myself trying to provide a solution that I think might be attractive to many. That has been the case with my property business (making the house buying process easier), Handbag.com (great fashion, beauty & lifestyle info and inspiration for women – when very little was available) and MyShowcase (a Personal Beauty Shopping Service that helps customers make smart beauty choices, enables women, our Stylists, to work flexibly and independent brands to find a route to market). Finding the right partners that share the vision and passion to provide a disruptive solution is also key to deciding to launch a business. Kate Shapland (beauty expert), Olivier Beau de Lomenie (engineer) and Rodrigo Dauster (data expert) were a major factor in launching MyShowcase, as we pooled our various skills and came together to build our Personal Beauty Shopping Service.
What is the greatest challenge and the greatest reward in being your own boss?
The greatest challenge is maintaining clarity and focus, as there is always more on the ‘to do’ list than is feasibly possible to achieve. Getting the right people focused on the right tasks (& accountable for results) is imperative. The greatest reward is the enormous satisfaction that comes when you start to see results from your team’s activities and you can share these milestones together. Relentless determination, vision and energy are required every day to keep the wheels turning in the right direction, even when not everything goes to plan.
What motivational tips can you give to our members about goal setting and managing both successes and failures
Attitude is everything and plays a big part in how I believe you can manage success and failure every day. You can set out huge audacious goals so long as you also break down milestones along the way and celebrate each of these milestones that will take you towards achieving the bigger goal. It’s important to set out how every individual’s contribution plays a part in a company goal, and to empower each member of the team to be accountable to deliver their part. Similarly, you have to be pragmatic about things not going to plan. Failure must be about what you learn and how you adapt to make things better, more productive, towards your goal. Things inevitably will happen that are not as we would have planned or expected, that’s life and a regular feature of building a new business. Culturally, I think it’s vital to share ‘failure’ caross the team and what we learned from it. Making it ok to try and fail is part of our culture, alongside sharing what we learned and how we plan to adapt accordingly.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced as a business owner?
The biggest challenge is always around talent, getting the right peple in the right roles at the right moment in any business. If you have the right colleagues, operating effectively, you are always going to be best equipped to succeed. What are the indicators that you have found the right person in my business? Attitude is key, I truly believe that positive things happen to positive people; skill set is important, does that individual have the skills required to execute effectively (or the attitude to stay calm and equip themselves with the skills needed at that moment in time); the ability to be accountable and goal focused, taking control of targets and tracking/adapting relentlessly against them; and the energy, drive, shared passion and determination to deliver. Collaboration and clear communication is prized at MyShowcase, how each member of our team delivers their part but even more so, it’s about how we each work with our colleagues to make our whole community successful.
How have you benefited from mentoring or coaching?
I have two important mentors in MyShowcase, our Chairman Susan Taylor, who led Elizabeth Arden in Europe for 20+ years, and business mentor, Angela Wade, who had many successes in direct selling over a 30+ year career. They are outstanding sounding boards and they can be relied on to clarify my thinking by asking the difficult and important questions along the way. They challenge and support in equal measure and I trust their judgement. That’s key, if you are going to find a business mentor (or two), you need to find the right match and experience for your business or skill set. These women give me invaluable insights into the beauty and direct selling industries, where we operate our disruptive model.
What advice can you give about the benefits of networking?
Networking with purpose can be incredibly valuable for me personally and for my business, but the purpose part is important. Networking for the sake of it can take up a lot of time and not deliver results. If I am networking, I think about who I need to meet in terms of what skills, businesses or experiences do I need to learn about (or whose radar do I need to get myself or my business on) – and how am I going to make it easy for the people I am meeting to help me on my journey. How do I quickly and easily ask for insights to be shared and what can I offer in return? The best networking is no doubt a barter arrangement, where both parties gain a valuable insight or experience from the connection. I really value anyone who asks me for help in a simple, straightforward manner. I try to be respectful of anyone’s time when I am making connections or asking for insights/introductions. My advice is to try to be really clear about what you would like to get from the interaction and to outline the insight or experience that one can share in return.
What are your tips for scaling a business and how do you plan for and manage growth?
To scale a business successfully, you have to first understand the unit economics of your business and its duplicatability. Can you establish a blueprint that can easily scale and maintain momentum? That’s what we obsess about at MyShowcase. How can I join as a Stylist, make money by building a sustainable Personal Beauty Shopping client base whilst working flexibly, and easily enable others to join my team and do the same? We have worked hard to refine this and continue to do so. We have to make this attractive, easy and for the unit economics to be attractive to all participants (Stylists, brand, MyShowcase & our clients). Understanding the key drivers in the business is really important. For us, it’s the scale and engagement of our Stylist network, as these vital people acquire our customer base and retain them. There are many moving parts to manage alongside this; making sure that the best brands are part of our network and that relationships are managed accordingly; ensuring that the appropriate stock is available to sell, managing customer service and logistics seamlessly, making sure that our customer experience and marketing programme is appealing and engaging; and that all of our communications are clear for every member of our community. If you can establish your blueprint, get the right talent on board to execute, supportive shareholders who share your vision and the funding to enable you to scale…then you’re in with a fighting chance!
What does the future hold for you?
I want to build a scale business with MyShowcase, to offer our Personal Beauty Shopping Service in every village, town and city across the UK and then to expand it (with local adaptions, where appropriate) to other markets around the world. Our mission is to positively change the lives of all of the women in our community. That might be extra income, skills development, inspiration or building a large business for our Stylists; offering our clients an incredibly savvy and convenient beauty shopping experience (saving money, making great investments into products that make you feel confident and look great by giving access to products that are really tailored and relevant to each client); and providing an exciting route to market for our incredible independent brand partners. Simple!
Nancy is a serial technology entrepreneur & Beauty junkie.
She is the Founder of MyShowcase, a fresh and contemporary Beauty retailer, enabled by smart technology. MyShowcase is a Personal Beauty Shopping service, available nationwide via MyShowcase.com and a network of Stylists. MyShowcase retails 45+ independent brands, selected by award-winning Beauty expert & Editor, Kate Shapland (Nancy’s co-Founder). Think Avon meets Space NK or Airbnb for women who want to start their own beauty business! The business offers its customers a highly personal and tailored beauty recommendation and shoppingservice, that’s fun, social and navigates them through what can seem like overwhelming choice in the beauty industry. MyShowcase delivers to its Stylists & Brand partners the opportunity to establish & develop a vibrant, flexible & rewarding independent business.
Nancy also holds a Non-Executive Director role at OnMobile, a mobile technology platform listed in Bangalore. She chairs the Nomination and Compensation committee and is a member of the Risk & CSR committees. Until recently, Nancy was a board member at TelecityGroup [FTSE 250], one of Europe’s most successful technologies companies, with data centres in 14 European markets. The business was sold to Equinix for £2.35bn in January 2016.
Nancy has worked in the digital industry for almost 20 years, including launching Conde Nast online in 1996, overseeing Telegraph Media Group’s Digital business and Founding the Fashion & Beauty market leader, Handbag.com, in 2000, leading to a successful sale to Hearst Corporation in 2006.
Nancy lives in London and Devon with her husband, Jim and two daughters.