Known for its sustainable consumption and ethical practices, Flora & Fauna is proud of the steps it takes to make the industry greener, with every click. We caught up with the CEO and Founder of Flora & Fauna, to discuss the ups and downs of running a business, the power to stay positive, and how she came close to starting a juice business.
Ethical CEO Julie Mathers accepted the award for best sustainable retailer at the 2021 All Star Bash, an award that was well deserved. The day before, Flora & Fauna received their 91 B Corp certification, up from 87 points in 2017 – this could be the highest figure in Australian retailing.
After launching Flora & Fauna in 2014, Julie Mathers has worked tirelessly to combine her passion for sustainable practices with retail. So how has she gotten better and better in the few years since launching the business?
Let’s start from the beginning. What is the main reason that prompted you to launch Flora & Fauna?
There were several things that all lined up at the same time. I had worked in retail for a long time and really wanted to start a better business, and I had a really big itch that I wanted to scratch when it came to starting my own business. Link this to my passion for our planet and animal welfare, and Flora & Fauna was born. I make this sound very simple, but it really wasn’t; I almost started a juice business (thank goodness I didn’t) – I was horrible at making juice!
Many people entering the retail industry believe they can make a profit right out of the box. How long did it take before I started seeing a return on investment for Flora & Fauna?
You can make a profit very quickly if you don’t want to grow taller! For the first few years, we didn’t pay ourselves the salaries and reinvested all profits back into the business for growth. We’re still in that mindset – I’d rather the profits go to the company.
What does your average working day look like?
Every day is really different. We have two baby boys who are amazing sleepers so I get up at a fairly reasonable 7 / 730ish time. I then go for a run before work and my workday can be at home, in the office or elsewhere. I work on everything from P&L to marketing, talking to product suppliers and working with the team. I am very, very practical and, probably annoyingly, I approve of every bit of communication.
It is the piece that I am very close to because it is our brand, our purpose and our values and is at the heart of our business. I’m constantly finding new ideas and working on those, and I’m a night owl too, so I might not be going to bed until 2 or 3 in the morning. I don’t have a balance, but I have flexibility in my day, so Tom and I take our babies for a swim on a Thursday, and it’s our time with them.
When you’re not working, what do you like to do in your spare time?
I love to run and go out in nature. I also love skiing and diving, although I haven’t been in a while due to COVID and the kids!
Creativity is not something that comes easily to everyone. How do you harness your creative side and what helps you come up with new ideas for flora and fauna?
I’m a very creative person, and this is something that really took off since I was out of business – the blinders are off! I find that talking to people, listening to our clients, listening to podcasts, and reading are the ways to get me thinking and to come up with leftist ideas. I also brainstorm with Tom, and that has resulted in some interesting ideas over the years.
There will always be better days than others. How did you stay motivated at a time when you felt like giving up?
I’m a naturally positive person who helps, and if I’m having a bad day I just focus and not wallow in the negative but focus on achieving goals (no matter how small) then I feel like I’m heading in the right direction. A long walk in the bush to clear my head helps too!
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