Some of the biggest life decisions are made when young. Our career path’s are often decided before we’ve even taken our first step into the ‘real world.’ Then – just when we think we’re set – we walk into the ‘university of life’ where we continue to mature, learn and enrich our experiences. It can take a number of years after we first set foot in the working world before we realise our true character. At that point – just like Leonie Henzell – many of us to stop to reflect.
At the age of 12, Leonie spent considerable time caring for her grandfather who was dying of metastatic bone cancer. Seeing the comfort that she brought to her grandfather, Leonie said “he was definitely a guiding inspiration to me.
“Helping people and selflessly contributing to someone else’s day feels innate to me. Physiotherapy was a great channel for this.”
Leonie practiced physiotherapy for 10 years but after moving from Brisbane to Melbourne, something had to change.
“With so many changes to my life moving away from my family and friends, it felt right to really try and figure out what I was going to do to make a difference in my life,” Leonie said.
“I kept working as a Physiotherapist but I studied Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Swinburne to help give me some level of business confidence; still not really knowing what I was going to do.”
Leonie commented that she had some “crazy” ideas. None were perhaps more crazy than the ‘lipstick esky’ she designed to prevent lipstick from melting while on the run.
“A funny idea with fatal flaws,” Leonie said.
But then in 2004, the real idea came. And it certainly made a difference to her life. Spotting a gap in the market, much wider then than it is now, Leonie founded Bockers & Pony, the online luxury gift retailer.
“I was solving my own problem of being able to send quality gifts. Online retail was in it infancy in 2004, but it seemed obvious. Bockers & Pony has always been about quality gifting, because that is what I wanted to send to my family and friends.”
Since 2004, the business that started in her spare room now has national headquarters in Melbourne and delivers over 15,000 hampers and gifts each year. By focussing on brand exposure and staying abreast of technological changes to improve customer experiences, each year’s growth has been better than the last.
So after eleven years – was this the career change Leonie needed? And has she made the difference she was looking to make?
Recognising that business takes a special kind of fortitude in comparison to her previous career, Leonie commented that she has experienced plenty of failure on her new path. But developing and embracing the right attitudes to deal with that failure is perhaps the most enriching aspect of her career change.
“I’m getting quite good at failing after 11 years in business. I see failure more as an analytical opportunity than an emotional state. I’m trying to build resilience and foster this thinking in my staff.”
The good comes with the bad. By failing enough times, Leonie has learned. And from learning, she has “created a beautiful brand.” Leonie said:
“I love what I do everyday.”