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LVLY Co-Founder Hannah Spilva discusses the biggest challenges entrepreneurial women face



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By Loren Webb

LVLY is an Australian start up that has become the Uber of gift giving since it was founded by Hannah Spilva and Verity Tuck only 4 years ago.

In 2015, Hannah and Verity saw a gap in the market when they themselves found that they weren’t easily and conveniently able to send gifts quickly to loved ones in other parts of the country.

LVLY is the only personalised gift giving service with a national presence now across Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. The business is going from strength to strength with an expected $3.5m in sales in this financial year alone.

One of the co-founders and director, Hannah Spilva, has shared her insights into the biggest challenges faced with building the start-up and also highlights specific obstacles that women in business are seeing right now.

She also talks to us about how LVLY started, how to balance parenting whilst building a well-known national brand and where their business is headed in the future.

How did the idea for LVLY start? 

We were both living away from home (in Sydney) and were struggling to find ways of spoiling/ connecting /reaching out to our family and friends across states or even countries. It wasn’t just the birthdays or the big-ticket occasions, it was when your best friend had a bad day or your brother had a massive win at work – those moments that you’d usually be present to share with them, share a glass of wine and hug or high five.

Without being physically present, how could we send them something to let them know they mattered to us and that we were still ‘there’ even though we weren’t. That’s when the idea emerged for an affordable gift delivery service that could get some fun, beautiful gifts to recipient’s ‘just because’. After working in advertising for ten years, we were ready for a fresh challenge and excited by idea of building a brand from the ground up.

What have been or are the biggest challenges faced so far generally and as a businesswoman)?

Generally: Looking back over the last four years there’s been so many challenges. Cash is always a big challenge when you’re boot strapping a company and getting the tech right is a challenge we’re still working on.

But I’d say logistics has always been the biggest challenge facing LVLY. As one of the first companies in Australia to offer customers same-day delivery, we were making big promises and taking big risks in a logistics and delivery, an area neither of us had any experience with.

When we started LVLY in 2014, same-day delivery was a new concept and we struggled to find a courier business that would support us, so we began delivering the gifts ourselves which we knew we couldn’t do forever. We had to wait about 12 months for the logistics industry to catch up before we could outsource deliveries to a trusted partner.

As we enter our next phase of growth there will be a whole new set of challenges we have to navigate, like raising capital for the first time! But it’s all these things that keep us excited and energised. 

As a female: As a female founder you’re definitely outnumbered by the guys and you’re statistically less likely to get funding. Couple that with the fact that women typically minimise their achievements and often don’t recognise the true value of their experience and strengths. It’s a tough gig.

Having said that I actually think it’s a great time to be a female entrepreneur, there’s a sharp spotlight on the gender imbalance that exists when it comes to women on boards, women getting funding and women in CEO roles. Personally, I feel really energised about being able to help shift that imbalance and be part of the solution.

What are your best tips for parents with young children that are wanting to start a business?

Finding balance between baby and business is hard but it’s definitely possible because ultimately, you’re in control of defining work hours and setting boundaries. My business partner and I place a big emphasis on outcomes over hours.

That means we’re clear about what outcomes we want to achieve by when and as long as we hit them it doesn’t matter when the work gets done. That means you’re not bound by conventional work hours.

I’m often working late into the evening and over the weekend but I also spend every Friday with my son instead of being at work. The beauty of running your own business is you can write your own rules.

What is the future plan for LVLY?

Ultimately our goal is to build a global business but right now our focus is on making LVLY a household name in Australia. Currently we provide same-day delivery in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, as well as a national next day service.

We’ve got plans to roll out our same-day offering to Perth and Adelaide and we’re assessing a potential international test market.Our business is driven by the purpose of making people’s day and we’ll never move away from that. We’ve got a strong, value led culture and maintaining that as we scale and grow is hugely important to us.