To be an entrepreneur means taking on a road that can be anything but easy. Taking on seemingly insurmountable obstacles in order to be one’s own boss on one’s own career path isn’t something everyone wants to attempt, but those eyeing the entrepreneurial dream need only look at individuals such as Karen Gee for some clarity.
A mother of five and former Mrs Australia Globe, Karen has made a name for herself as not only a successful entrepreneur, taking her self-titled fashion label to towering success in just two short years, but as a philanthropist aiming to instill the drive in others to reach the business success they so desire.
It was two years ago that Karen launched Karen Gee, a label she says came from always having a passion to make something special, unique, and that could use the input of other women.
“Society has always presented beauty as a very obscure concept, and I wanted to break that mould,” Karen tells Dynamic Business.
“I think all women are beautiful and this comes from within. Beauty is a feeling, not an appearance, and I wanted to promote that idea and reflect it in my designs. I had gone through a period of time where I did not feel so great about myself, so I understand and I can empathise. I took the steps to better myself, and then I took the steps to help others do the same.”
As a label, Karen Gee now has a worldwide following and dresses high-profile Australian women, including Margie Abbott and Melissa Doyle. The brand has seen huge growth in two years, a feat that Karen says is only possible with the willingness to consider failure as a risk worthy of taking.
“Like most other successful businesses, I began with a real clear and strong vision of what I wanted to create. I think this thirst to make a difference and to achieve is the strongest foundation to have in any business,” Karen explains.
“I never once decided that failure wouldn’t be worth the risk, and took a leap that has well and truly paid off. There’s no such thing as competitors when you maintain the point of difference in your offering. I think my brand is one that celebrates the female form in every shape and size and really aspires to make women feel their best – a concept that women resonate with and relate to.”
Karen says part of the brand’s success has been in approaching customers as family, using its custom made service to forge relationships while tailoring to shape, taste and style.
Interestingly, Karen says she hasn’t stuck by a rigid business plan focusing on financial or numerical goals; they are “only a set up for failure”.
“Success can’t always be measured by numbers and hard targets. I’ve seen my brand grow at an astonishing rate thanks to passion and taking opportunities that are presented, rather than following a strict, inflexible business plan.”
It’s no secret there is a worryingly high number of small businesses that fail in their first attempts. Karen Gee says this can often come down to not being able to cover every base and firmly believes that having full control of how one’s brand is being perceived is highly important during early stages.
“I think that starting out as a small business you need to present your brand and values and connect with your clientele. The saying goes ‘any press is good press,’ but I do not agree. You need to have a strong vision of what and who you are, and what your brand is saying and putting out there.
“The core values of the KG Brands are tied into everything we do, and I think this presents a united and polished front. Small businesses need to do much research and put in the long hours and hard work. When it comes down to it, your success will be based on how much you want it – how dedicated you can be. It isn’t a race or a competition, its just about evolving and building something special.”
It’s imperative that businesses ensure they remain consistent with their brand’s message. Karen says she had her tag line, ‘Simply, Elegance, Timeless,’ prior to even launching the brand and believes that it’s in holding the message behind every business move that enables a brand to be recognised over time.
Nevertheless, failure does occur. Eventual success, as with many things in life, comes down to perseverance and how one approaches misfortune.
“Your mistakes might not lead you down the path you had originally planned but they might just send you down one that is far better and much more suited to your goals,” Karen says.
“Don’t underestimate yourself – failure is a good thing. It means you tried and you didn’t give in – a truly wonderful quality to have. Also, watch how you respond in the situation. It might be frustrating or disheartening, but always be kind and humble. It is not how we act in the face of success, but how we act when we have been knocked down that says much more about our character.”