Nancy Cruickshank, wife, mother, serial entrepreneur and self confessed beauty junkie. She has previously led Telegraph Media Group (TMG) where she spent two years focusing on growing TMG’s digital propositions and revenues organically. This included Telegraph.co.uk which today attracts over 50 million users a month! Nancy has worked in the digital industry for over 20 years in a range of high profile and senior roles. Including Managing Director at Hearst Digital and CEO & Founder of Handbag.com. Under her leadership the ‘Handbag’ audience grew to over 1.3 million. In 2011 MyShowcase was conceived by Nancy and Co-Founders Kate Shapland (beauty editor for the Telegraph), Rodrigo Dauster & Olivier Beau de Lomenie. MyShowcase offers a brand new concept in Beauty retail. We at Those London Chicks were incredibly excited to have the opportunity to have a chat with Nancy about MyShowcase and the woman behind it.
You are clearly no stranger to enterprise. What do you think are the most important aspects of building a successful business?
Talent. The right people, fully committed, passionate about what they do and working really hard to bring something to market – this is my critical ingredient required to build a successful business. Of course, having the right concept is important, enabling technology to scale and support…all of these are vital too but without the best talent, I believe that the chances of success are dramatically diminished (and it’s also a lot less fun!).
Having worked in variety of roles over the years. What was the most valuable piece of advice you were given that you still live by?
There is no substitute for passion, determination & giving something a go! Creating a business from scratch, taking a risk, operating across areas of business that might not be your personal vertical areas of expertise and finding the energy and time required to build your own successful business is demanding. There is no doubt about that…but for me, the satisfaction of seeing something develop and succeed is a great pleasure and source of satisfaction.
Fear can be crippling to potential entrepreneurs, were you at any point through your varied career scared, that being the case how did you conquer it?
The fear of failure is cited as the reason why many people, women particularly, do NOT launch their own businesses. I think we need to look to Silicon Valley for inspiration on this point. Failure in the US is regarded as something of a badge of honour. You tried and failed, but you gave it a go! I have definitely been scared – that I wouldn’t raise enough money to fuel a business’ growth, that timing & luck would not be on my side and more. I conquer these fears by not allowing the fear to conquer me.
What do you consider your biggest highlight to date?
Definitely the launch of MyShowcase in May 2012. It was the culmination of many months of hard work with some of the most talented and creative people that I have ever had the pleasure to work with. That includes my amazing business partners, our Stylists and Brand partners. Also in January of this year, our inaugural Stylist conference fell on the same day that we launched our new digital campaign on the Piccadilly Circus “curve”. Our Stylists, HQ team, Rodrigo, Olivier, Kate and I all went to Piccadilly where we took photos in front of the billboard, and caused a stir among passers-by.
What gave you the idea for MyShowcase?
In 2000, I founded a business called Handbag.com. It became the no.1 Fashion & Beauty site in the UK in the noughties. 1.5m women visited the site every month and 400k of these chatted in our discussion areas. I discovered that women between the ages of 25 and 55 talked regularly about a desire to launch their own business and find a flexible way to work whilst bringing up a family or fulfilling other life goals. Yet there seemed to be many barriers to making this possible and not enough great opportunities to succeed in a supported manner. At the same time, I sat on the Beauty industry trade board, Cosmetic Executive Women. I saw so much innovation, passion and great products from new beauty brands, but they often found it challenging to build distribution in the traditional department stores up against larger global beauty players. These two fascinating conundrums brewed in my mind over the years.
As I conceived the idea for MyShowcase, I began to discuss it with my long-time industry friends, Rodrigo Dauster (ex-Visual DNA, Gekko, Imagini), Kate Shapland (Telegraph Beauty Editor) and Olivier Beau de Lomenie (who built the technology platform at Ocado). They loved the idea and joined me as co-founders.
When I began discussing the idea of MyShowcase with one of my co-Founders, Rodrigo, we both noticed that I kept talking about ‘showcasing’ stuff – entrepreneurial talents, new brands etc. The word seemed critical to so many elements of our business, so I researched buying the URL, MyShowcase.com as the ‘my’ represented a completely individual, personal & flexible approach to represent the many different ways that women might get involved with MyShowcase. The name was not available but I managed to buy it after a few rounds of negotiating. And we were off…!
We at Those London Chicks think the concept of MyShowcase is genius. It appears to be a cross between Avon and SpaceNK. But for those who are unfamiliar, tell us how MyShowcase works?
MyShowcase is passionate about supporting female entrepreneurs in making beauty their business.
MyShowcase sells 35+ different beauty brands via our network of female Stylists. These brands are not widely available on the UK high street but each has an amazing story to tell. Some of them are well known– James Read Tan, Neom, Legology and others like Beatitude, Ruth Mastenbroek and Jane Scrivner have smaller profiles. Our Stylists are women (most of them have no background whatsoever in Beauty) who want to work, but flexibly. They organise showcases (largely in homes, but occasionally in offices too) where they showcase our brands. Customers can buy at our events and also via our website – www.myshowcase.com.
Since starting MyShowcase how has the business grown and developed?
Well, we started with 9 brands and 6 founding Stylists, and the HQ team working out of my basement. We currently stand at 36 brands and over 350 Stylists, and we are almost growing out of our large office and warehouse in Fulham. My goal is to reach 1000 Stylists by Christmas 2015. It’s been amazing seeing the development of some of our individual Stylists and brands as well. Aurelia Probiotic Skincare launched with us and have become one of our bestselling brands and are loved by beauty editors.
Where there any challenges along the way, if so how did you overcome them?
There are always challenges. Everyday. Many of them are part of a rapidly scaling business – operational challenges that are hugely welcome such as having larger numbers of orders to pack every day, having hundreds of Stylists to train & engage ongoing, having more shareholders to keep informed & so on. We take every day as it comes, planning for the bigger events that we can see brewing. Regular and transparent communication across our team eases any challenges most of the time, as everyone knows which issue to crack first and how to support each other & our customers.
For working mothers it’s always a challenge ‘juggling’, as a mother of two girls how have you managed to maintain a healthy work/life balance?
Launching a business offers loads of challenges, especially when you have a young family and you are constantly juggling your time. When I am with my children, I don’t feel guilty about what I am not doing in business and vice versa. You have to get organised and I try really hard to make my time in each environment count! Of course there are moments when that falls apart but I am always really transparent on both sides to try to make this work. My daughters know a lot about what I do and why and I think that they like the fact that I share this with them. I want to offer them a positive role model that tells them that they can do whatever they want in life – be that in business, sport, the arts, science, having a family. It’s doesn’t have to be single dimensional in my view but you do need to set your own and everyone else’s expectations about what that means. I don’t make it to every sports match at school but I never miss anything that they tell me matters dearly to them.
I think that women are good at collaborating and sharing. This is a vital skill in business today in my view and never more so than when you are juggling family and business life so find ways to get support to be able to juggle both aspects of your life! This is a fundamental part of what inspired me to launch MyShowcase. There are so many incredibly talented women who would like to launch their own business, but perhaps require some flexibility, additional support and mentoring to get a business off the ground. MyShowcase allows you to work flexibly to suit your needs and takes the administrative part of setting-up a business away from entrepreneurs who want to launch their own MyShowcase business (as a full-time career or alongside another job) and allows them to focus on building the business and seeing it thrive. We also place enormous emphasis on training and mentoring with our Stylist community, providing our Stylists with the tools that they require to succeed, as well as being members of a thriving community of like-minded entrepreneurs.
Nancy what do you do to De-Stress in your downtime?
We are lucky enough to own a home in Devon, where my family and I escape to from London at least once, sometimes twice, each month. We have owned our little house on the beach for 8 years. It has the most breath-taking views, the water laps up the house at high tide, it is nestled in a beautiful village and represents really vital & participative family time to me. When we are there, we walk every day with our two dogs – on many different stunning beaches and on Dartmoor.
The ethos/ main objective for the brand is to support female business owners, was that a priority from the start?
Definitely. It’s what inspired me to start MyShowcase. We’re on a mission to enable tens of thousands of women around the globe to launch their own flexible & sustainable beauty businesses. That’s the heart of the business – no glass ceilings, absolute control for our Stylists, you get out what you put in. Simple as that, which is the ultimate empowerment in my mind.
What can we expect from MyShowcase in 2015?
My aim is to steer MyShowcase and our Stylists into achieving their full potential in the UK and new markets around the world. In the UK alone, I want to see successful Stylists in every town and village! At least 1,000 Stylists by Christmas is our goal!
Thank you Nancy
Interview by Karen Bryson xx