Jackie Maxted is the Managing Director of Directories Group Pty Ltd, digital publisher of beautydirectory.com.au and beautyheaven.com.au. As our Special Guest Blogger, Jackie gives her personal take on how she built a successful online business, the challenges she faced and how she overcame them.
The idea of building a website from scratch, and to our specifications for features and a rough design, was really exciting. It was 1999, and web developing was a new industry with cool and clever people in it. We were naïve about what was involved – I don’t think we realised quite how much we were asking for. We wanted a multi-faceted website without really understanding the enormity of the task.
Looking back ten years later, those early years gave us so much. We had the huge benefit of making early mistakes before too many were around to notice. But building a new business and making it work is all about making mistakes. The key is to learn from them – and quickly. Having a plan, an outline of where you are heading is great, but be prepared to be flexible. Understand that you are putting the business idea out there to the market, and be ready to adapt to what the market actually wants – it may not be what you initially thought.
It’s tough being a ‘first’ and a ‘new to market’ venture. When we went out to present the idea behind beautydirectory.com.au (a beauty media information website) the response from the beauty industry was really positive. Most thought it was a fabulous idea, but new ideas take time to actually sell-through. One of the key factors in our success is that we didn’t give up! While some brands immediately jumped in and joined up, others have taken a lot longer – even now, ten years later, we are still converting some of the sales that started in 1999! Being persistent but always maintaining positive relationships with all your potential customers is critical.
Building an online business is, in essence, similar to building any other kind of business. The key difference is probably that because the online world is relatively new, a major factor in the selling process is in educating the market. We have spent a lot of time and resources in this – from seminars, to information packs, to video footage – using all the tools available to explain the business proposition. Over and above this, the critical factor in our success has been having an incredibly passionate team who believe in what they do and who do it really well.
In your considerations and plans for starting up an online business there are two vital challenges to overcome – how is this business monetised and how will I attract an online audience?
When we started, our first venture was to create a website that had a highly targeted, niche audience of beauty editors. Because we already had an established relationship with this group, we worked closely with them to develop the site we knew they wanted. So the audience part was already covered. Secondly, we developed a database business with a business model driven by annual fees – such a model provides a solid secure base for future growth.
In considering the viability of an online business, both these areas really need to be well thought out. We took the learnings from the development of beautydirectory.com.au to start another online business – beautyheaven.com.au.
This was really a natural extension to the beautydirectory.com.au business. By 2005 we had became online experts in the field of beauty and a base of more than 120 beauty customers who were delighted and confident about the services we provide. Beautyheaven.com.au now has 100,000 women per month visiting to chat about beauty.
I can’t say it’s been an easy ride – but it has been worthwhile. I’m still learning new things everyday and using those learnings to help further both our businesses and hopefully we will still be learning and developing long-term into the future!
ABOUT JACKIE MAXTED
Launched in 1999, beautydirectory.com.au was a world-first online media resource, providing constantly updated information for beauty journalists in Australia and New Zealand. Its cutting-edge premise and information-delivery systems were recognised on the international digital stage when the site was awarded an Honoree commendation in the Webby Awards of 2007.
beautyheaven.com.au, a consumer version of beautydirectory, was launched as a non-commercial test site in 2005 and was relaunched as a commercial vehicle in 2007. It is now the most highly visited independent beauty-specific website in Australia and has a highly active community who visit daily to chat in forums or comment on fresh, daily content.
Via beautyheaven and beautydirectory, Jackie has become a highly visible innovator in the Australian beauty industry, with the establishment of Beauty Directory’s Star Awards, 5 years ago, which celebrate beauty journalism and PR; the introduction of regular seminars for the beauty industry on online developments relevant to its future business; and acting as a consultant to the industry on issues specific to growth in the digital domain.
She was recently invited to become a member of Australia’s ‘Online Divas’ and was also proposed as one of the country’s 50 most influential women in the digital media industry. As Managing Director of Directories Group, Jackie leads and mentors a team of 14 talented women, all committed to supplying the best that the web has to offer to the beauty industry.