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Female retail executives share their secrets to success

Two of the brightest female minds in the Australian retail industry, the founders of the Healthy Mummy and ModelCo, speak to Retailbiz about the secrets to success and being a finalist for the retail executive of the year awards.  

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Founder of the Healthy Mummy Rhian Allen and CEO of ModelCo Shelley Sullivan share the stories behind their rise to success and being retail executive finalists for the upcoming Executive of the Year Awards.

Disillusioned with the corporate lifestyle, eight years ago and 6 months pregnant, Rhian Allen quit her corporate job and founded Australian health and wellbeing empire The Healthy Mummy.

Now a mum of two, Allen juggles running a business with over 900,000 subscribers across Australia and recently launched in the UK and with plans to launch in the US in 2019.

Founded with the goal of helping to empower mothers to lead healthier lives, Allen has never measured her success in dollars. But with this focus on authenticity and creating a sense of community through her brand, she has created a $20 million global success story.

At 6 months pregnant, Allen realised there was no national, or even international business dedicated to a holistic vision of improving women’s health and wellbeing – a realisation which compelled her to sell her house to found the Healthy Mummy.

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Rhian Allen, founder of the Healthy Mummy

“When I was probably 8 months pregnant I launched the business and I could never have imagined how much it would resonate with mums and the fact it takes such a balanced approach to health and nutrition and takes into account what it’s like to be a busy mum.”

The Healthy Mummy takes a holistic approach to mother’s wellbeing – not only targeting women both prenatally and postnatally, but also older women. The business also offers a range of products – health foods created with a team of experts, workout regimens, fitness equipment and active wear and supplements.

The brand also offers a range of digital products including an app, website and blog with a dedicated editorial team.

Allen’s business has always been underpinned by a desire to help others – an ambition which has shone through in her businesses’ budget friendly, family friendly and holistic approach to mother’s wellbeing and which has ultimately resonated with thousands of women.

“I always wanted to do something good for other people whilst also being around for my kids,” Allen said.

It was this desire to help others has meant her business is always thinking about and prioritising what the customer wants. This is something that has really been the focus of the company’s forum for mother’s, moderated by four women every hour and a blog – which is managed by a dedicated editorial team.

“We’re customer and community focused which I think is crucial to us and that comes with enormous investment,” she said.

“Our objective is not to make every person buy our products but to empower women and mums to lead healthier lives.”

ModelCo: bringing catwalk products to every Australian

After owning a modelling agency at age 28 and listening to countless models talking about the dream products that they wanted but couldn’t find, ModelCo CEO Shelley Sullivan dreamed up a vision.

This vision of an affordable, quick-fix quality makeup line for women would ultimately lead to ModelCo –  the now multi-million-dollar global beauty product empire.

After creating a first-to-market heated lash curler in 2002 – an instant hit with models, celebrities and customers, selling out worldwide within months – Sullivan created ModelCo.

This success story would ultimately lead to Sullivan’s next beauty innovation – Tan Airbrush in A Can, the world’s first airbrush self-tanning spray – which yet again took the world by storm.

Soon some of the world’s biggest celebrities – from Dani Minogue to Elle Macpherson got behind the brand, as did New York’s Henry Bendel and premium department stores.

It was this focus on creating innovative, catwalk-quality and accessible products that would lead to the businesses’ global success.

Today, there are more than 250 products in the ModelCo range and the products are sold across 27 countries worldwide, and the business has grown 20 per cent year on year.

But Sullivan says it’s not just this focus on innovation that has led to the company’s success, but also the company’s focus on runway-worthy products.

“Look I think it wasn’t just product innovation it was also what the brand stood for and my background in the fashion business.”

ModelCo continues to leverage celebrity endorsement and brand ambassadors to boost brand appeal  with some of the world’s biggest celebrities like Elle Macpherson, Rosie-Huntington Whiteley and Hailey Baldwin acting as brand ambassadors.

And today the business continues its expansion by embracing digital content. Sullivan says the recent focus on creating beauty tutorials and other organic content really services their target audience.

“E-commerce and digital is a core part of our business and is now 30% of our business. For us it’s experiential so customers can come to the website and purchase products or learn about how to use products through tutorials so it’s almost a hub of information,” she said. “I think women these days want organic content.”