I Failed At My First Business But Still Became A Millionaire Before 30!

James Graham


Mar 08, 2017

Seventeen of Australia’s top female business trailblazers were inducted into the HerBusiness 2017 Businesswomen’s Hall of Fame this month.

This year’s entrepreneurs, below, came from all walks of business; fashion, health, charity, agriculture, farming and construction, all with stories that will inspire us all to be bold and confident in business.

business success tips

Fashion was well represented, with international jewellery designer Samantha Wills, shoe queen Jodie Fox, co-founder of Shoes of Prey and the very funny and savvy Jane Lu from the online fashion empire ShowPo flying the flag.

The young entrepreneur, who lied to her parents for months after quitting her corporate finance job to start Showpo in 2010 from their garage, now owns a $30 million company, ships to 45 countries, its social media sites boast over 1.6 million followers, having won a bucket load of awards along the way.

Jane’s success has, however, survived some substantial road bumps, with her first business an “utter failure”, leaving her with nearly $60,000 debt, and burning a couple of business partners along the way.

These valuable lessons fuelled Jane’s passion to promote entrepreneurship and women in business. She co-founded the group Like Minded Bitches Drinking Wine, with over 30,000 members and rising daily, which promotes and encourages women bosses around the world.

We spent five minutes with Jane to glean some of the secrets to her incredible success.

What would you say was your turning point in business?

A massive hurdle I had to deal with was that I didn’t have any funding at all to start the business and knew nothing about seeking out capital. I also didn’t have a great track record given that my first business spectacularly failed. Instead, I hustled – I bought the stock on consignment, which meant that I didn’t have to pay for it until it was sold, I built the website by myself by googling HTML, and I built up the brand using social media.

My biggest obstacle, however, was convincing myself that I wasn’t crazy and that this was actually going to go somewhere… day after day, especially on those days where you feel like you’re going backwards.

The majority of business owners have suffered from the ‘Imposter Syndrome’ at some point, but do you think it’s accurate to say that it’s more common for women than men?

I think women question themselves and their decisions much more than men do. We are constantly apologising where men have so much more confidence. Where a woman will run into a meeting two minutes late, frantically saying ‘so sorry I’m late’, a man will stride in and thank everyone for waiting. It’s all about how we perceive ourselves and the value we put in our contribution. I try and instill this in all of my employees, both female and male.

What tips or advice do you have for busy women business owners on how they can be more productive with their time without burning out?

Block out periods of time in your calendar to get stuff done. I will set aside a few hours every day to answer Facebook messages, LinkedIn messages and emails. Hire the right people so you’re not micro-managing and trust them to do the job you’ve hired them for. It’s just stressful trying to be everywhere and do everything. And have fun! Regular nights out and weekends away keep me happy and relaxed. Oh and lastly, CAFFEINE!

What are your strategies for success?

Know your numbers – stats might not seem that exciting, but you need to understand what’s going on in your business.

Hire the right people and trust that they can do what you’ve hired them for.

Social media should take up a large portion of your time and marketing budget – it’s the best form of (somewhat) free advertising!

Know who your customers are and what they want because there’s no point selling something if you have no idea what your target market thinks, wants and loves.

And finally, back yourself, work hard and play hard – give everything you’ve got, always. If I can succeed with no retail or fashion experience, you can too!

By Suzi Dafnis, CEO of HerBusiness and curator of the Australian Businesswomen’s Hall of Fame.


By James Graham


With over 20 years as a journalist and TV producer, James Graham has a wealth of experience covering the full media spectrum. James has a formidable reputation as a talented media veteran and worked as a reporter, script writer and as the producer of the TV documentary The Road To Athens. He has worked across newspapers, radio and the biggest flagship magazine brands in Australia and New Zealand. Previously, James was the News Director at Woman's Day and New Idea. Whether filing celebrity exclusives, or some of the biggest real-life splashes of recent years, James’ career has always been at the frontline of mainstream media. When not writing, you’ll find him at Royal Randwick, his beloved Long Reef Golf Club on the Northern Beaches – or visiting his mum in his native New Zealand.



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