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4 business lessons you can learn from Elle Macpherson

These days, you’re not really a celebrity unless you’re launching an app, a fragrance, a cosmetics range, or an activewear brand. But former supermodel Elle Macpherson was one of the first Australian celebrities to successfully run several brands when she was off the catwalk, including lingerie line Elle Macpherson Intimates, skincare range The Body, suncare brand Invisible Zinc and now, wellness brand Welleco. In fact, Macpherson has been often called a pioneer in celebrity licenses for lingerie lines.

At a breakfast event with women’s networking organisation Business Chicks last week, Macpherson shared her best tips. Here they are:

Evolve and adapt 

“I am where I am today because I was willing to evolve and grow and I was open to opportunities. It might surprise a lot of you, but I wasn’t very comfortable in front of the camera and I knew I couldn’t model forever. So I started thinking about how I could evolve out of being in front of the camera every day and capitalise on an image that was growing.

I came across John Newcombe’s logo one day. He was a really famous Australian tennis player in the 70s and 780s with a handlebar moustache and I’d seen a tennis skirt with his logo on it and I thought, ‘Gosh, he’s a tennis player with a clothing line! When he’s not playing tennis, he’s making money selling clothes and that’s really cool!’

So I started to think that maybe I can get paid for the performance of a product through licensing as well as or instead of being only paid for my own performance on a day-to-day basis as a model. While it seems like normal thinking today, back in the 80s, I was 24 years old and branding and licensing wasn’t part of our vernacular, certainly not in fashion. There was no-one I could look up to. I had to take that risk myself and check out the business model. So I did and I ended up having a 25-year old license with a New Zealand company [Bendon] for lingerie.”

Be persistent

“Father Flynn was a great Austalian who set up the Flying Doctor Service. He wanted people in the outback to be brought together as a community and he had a vision he would use aviation as a means of doing it. It took him 10 years to set up the service, but he never lost sight. He was persistent. He then took it a step further and used those radios to set up a correspondent school for kids.

I really admire persistence, passion and people who have a willingness to make a difference like Father Flynn. What I learned was that if you can do something of service to the world, it’s important to have faith in what you’re doing and make a difference by doing something you love.”

Follow your instincts (and avoid mental masturbation)

“I love working in communities, working in a team, getting feedback, co-creation, collaboration, co-operation, I love bouncing ideas around. But decision-making has been something I’ve struggled with over time. I think a lot of people are inhibited by a sense of perfectionism. It’s a fear of making mistakes and I’ve often witnessed in myself. 

That sets off procrastination, then self-doubt and worry come and then you pick the situation apart – what’s the right way and what’s the wrong way. And by the time you’ve done all that mental masturbation, the opportunity that came up has passed because you wasted too much time thinking about doing it the right way. 

There’s no right or wrong way, just your way and when you make decisions based on what resonates with you at the time, with the best knowledge that you have, they’re the best decisions. 

I like to research everything and after I’ve done all that mental stuff, I get very quiet. I trust my intuition and I meditate, I ask for guidance and usually, when I think about a decision one way, I get a sense of calm and peace. Then I may get a sense of unease when I think about it another way. I always go with the decision that makes me feel calm.”

Focus on learning

“There have been highs and lows in my world, I’ve had some real doozies along the way. The biggest takeaway that I’ve had is if I can take the learning from an experience and apply it to other areas in my life, then whatever the experience is – good or bad or however I perceive it to – it has a much more powerful and wise implication in my life, so it’s really not about the circumstances, the ebbs and flows, the ups and downs. 

I’m a bit tired of the rollercoaster and I’m looking at finding things that are a bit more even-keeled. The way I deal with it is not to get caught in the high and lows, but think, ‘What did I learn from that experience?’ Often the gift is finding what the learning was. You can still get the highs that are all exciting, inspiring and energising, but if you take the wisdom away with you, that’s really long-lasting.”  

This story originally appeared on Inside Retail Australia.

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