Play it safe on the corporate ladder or spot a hole in the market and have a red hot go at filling it? For Jess Hatzis and Bree Johnson, millennial co-founders of beauty business Frank Body, setting up a business had infinitely more appeal.
Inspired by other successful entrepreneurs early in her career, co-founder Jess Hatzis decided to strike out for herself at an age when many of her peers were still finding their feet in the workplace.
“I had a job with a music booking agency and I was fortunate to work directly under the two co-founders,” she says.
“One of them taught me the value of dreaming big and not being afraid to verbalise your ideas in front of others – quite a thing for someone like me, who’s inherently shy. The other co-founder was amazing at people management, leveraging the best in employees to grow the business – things they don’t teach you at uni.
“I loved working for them. I learnt so much from them and then one day, I woke up and realised, ‘I don’t want to work for you any more. I want to be you’.”
Hatzis and Johnson’s first foray into business came in 2011 when, along with university friend Erika Geraerts, they founded branding and communications agency Willow and Blake.
“We started that because we felt, when it came to brands, there was a real gap in the market for people focusing specifically on the written word,” Hatzis says.
“Being in that market for several years, we observed many of our clients were quite risk-averse – they wanted us to come up with crazy ideas but when it came to following through and executing them, they were apprehensive."
With plenty of their own business ideas, Hatzis and Johnson decided to act upon them.
“We wanted to put our money where our mouths were. And we knew, if we developed our own brand that was bold and fun and really saw it through from beginning to end, we could make something fantastic.”
Thus the idea for Frank Body, opens in new window was born. As their own target consumers, Hatzis and Johnson clocked the fact that for women in their early 20s, Instagram was where it was at - so this was where they started building a brand. Fewer businesses were exploiting the emergent platform five years ago and the pair seized the early-mover advantage.
“It wasn’t a done thing for brands to be playing in that space so we knew we could come in, in a way that felt very ‘un-corporate’, and have a one-on-one dialogue with customers,” Hatzis says.
Brewing up a storm
Five years on from launching Frank Body, the Melbourne start-up has created more than 20 coffee-based lines, including scrubs, face masks and cleansing oils. The range sells online and in upmarket retail outlets, including Mecca Maxima in Australia and Ulta Beauty in the US. The company employs 40 staff across three continents and turned over $20 million in 2017.
It was serendipity that led Hatzis and Johnson to experiment with the use of coffee grounds in their original products. The ingredient has been a core component of the Frank Body range ever since.
The duo were tossing around their own business ideas. Then Bree’s cafe-owner friend, Steve (who went on to become her husband), mentioned customers had begged him for the by-product to use as an exfoliant.
The pair subsequently tried their hand at making a batch and were blown away by the result.
“We mixed it up using ingredients in our kitchen and felt absolutely ridiculous when we got in the shower and covered ourselves in the stuff but the end result was really quite amazing,” Hatzis says.
“Our skin felt incredible, it was environmentally friendly and it was free of any parabens. We thought, ‘we can market this and keep it really affordable for people interested in natural beauty’. The whole thing started to come together from there.”
Partnering with NAB
Frank Body has been a NAB customer since start up.
“They were really quite ahead of their time when it came to facilitating transactions for online businesses,” Hatzis says.
“Having that support in place is one thing less to worry about when you’re an online start-up. That was one of the reasons we chose NAB and we’ve been with them ever since.”
Starting a successful business has a value that Frank Body’s founders say is well-nigh impossible to quantify.
“Both Bree and I have always valued freedom and flexibility – although we work more now than we ever have in our entire lives!” Hatzis says.
“We really love creating things and, as entrepreneurs, we get to do that.”
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