INTERVIEW | ANNA CAMPBELL
Creating and building a business is probably one of the hardest things to do. The fear and self doubt, hours and hours of work for what seems like very small progress. The main reason for our girl boss series was to inspire other women but it has actually been amazingly motivating for me.
Today, we sit down with the talented Anna Campbell.
Name: Anna Campbell Thompson
Current Title / Company: Creative Director of ANNA CAMPBELL
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB OUT OF UNIVERSITY & HOW DID YOU LAND THAT POSITION?
I didn’t complete University, so I will instead say that my first job out of high school was at Boost Juice!
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO CREATE YOUR BUSINESS?
I think that I had always wanted to do my own thing, I just wasn’t really sure what that was. I knew that I loved being creative, and working with my hands, so I started making headpieces, which eventually led to creating bridal dresses a few years later.
TAKE US THROUGH A DAY IN THE LIFE OF YOUR BUSINESS
It really depends what time of year we are talking about! At the moment, we are six days out from shooting our new collection, so my days are filled with perfecting and finalising each and every element of the dresses and accessories that will make up the range, and working our Brand Manager to plan the launch party, campaign imagery, and our trip to New York, LA and London to showcase the collection.
HAS ANYTHING SURPRISED YOU ABOUT THE JOURNEY TO CREATE YOUR BUSINESS?
Yes – I am continually surprised by how much I love running a business! I started ANNA CAMPBELL so that I could be a designer, and I still adore the designing part of my role, however I could chat to you for hours about spreadsheets, projections, HR structures, and marketing strategies! I get bored really quickly, so the way my role works is incredible, as I lead a team of amazing women, who head up each individual part of our company. I get to work closely with them on everything from production, design, marketing and brand management, sales, and of course with our bride.
OBVIOUSLY, YOUR BUSINESS HAS GROWN! SO, LET'S TALK MONEY. TELL US ABOUT THE INTIMIDATING PROCESS OF FINDING FUNDING FOR YOUR BUSINESS.
ANY ADVICE FOR WOMEN WHO NEED TO FIND FUNDING FOR THEIR OWN STARTUP?
My best advice here would be to be prepared to live off baked beans, and give up any form of a social life for a minimum of the first five years, you won’t be able to afford the time or the cost!
I have always been pretty much self-funded, my grandmother left me around $5,000 when I was eighteen, and my little sister lent me around $3,000, and that combined with my savings from waitressing through high school and parents who bailed me out a couple of times when I was really broke was the foundation of our funding! I balanced waitressing and ANNA CAMPBELL for the first few years so that I had some kind of income to live from.
The hardest part of being a startup is that you need to take any opportunity given to you, so having high end Australian boutiques wanting to stock our brand was incredible, however I would be waitressing to pay for the fabrics to make the orders, and they wouldn’t pay for the collection for months and months. When you are starting out, you are the bottom of the food chain, you need them far more than they need you, and they certainly know that! There are plenty of other designers they actually need in-store who will get paid first. I remember at one point I had about $20 in my bank account, but was owed about $250,000 which, shockingly, is really common for young designers. I drove into the city to meet with my Dad, and my Uncle to come up with a plan of how we could get these buyers to pay, and I got a parking ticket! I just felt so exasperated, I couldn’t stop crying, the lady parking inspector felt so bad for me that she gave me a hug and cancelled my ticket, I will never forget her!
YOUR BUSINESS HAS DEVELOPED QUITE A FOLLOWING. CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT MARKETING YOUR BUSINESS? HOW DID YOU SPREAD THE WORD?
I would love to take credit for this and say it was because of my marketing degree, or my well thought out marketing plan, but I certainly don’t have any experience or degree in marketing and there was no such thing as a sophisticated marketing plan! I think if I had to accredit anything to our initial following then perhaps it was timing.
I started ANNA CAMPBELL during the time of Myspace, which pushed us to buyers and customers around Australia, then I created our first bridal collection in 2012, right when Pinterest started taking off. A few magazines and bloggers added the images to their Pinterest boards, and I literally woke up one morning to around 50 emails from brides in the U.S desperate for one of our dresses, I wasn’t even sure what Pinterest was at that point! That was the driving force behind our entry into the U.S market.
We now work so much harder and invest so much more towards our marketing, with a dedicated Brand Manager who I work really closely with to develop marketing plans, international promotional trips, shoots, launches, website makeovers etc.! As you grow, the stakes are higher I guess. Initially, no-one would notice a bad shoot, or a typo on an Instagram post, now-days every tiny little element of the brand has to be consistently perfect, from our social media accounts, each element of every shoot, the collections, the look and feel of our boutiques, right through to the way we answer the phone or respond to emails!
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE KEY TO THE SUCCESS OF YOUR BUSINESS?
I think there are a few! The first would be that you have to be die-hard about what you want to do – interested or passionate won’t be enough. You have to love what you do, and want it so badly, that you will sacrifice everything to get there.
Second would be staffing, the right staff will make a business, the wrong staff will break it. So much of my work revolves around HR, making sure everyone plays their part, are passionate, and contribute to the culture we are trying to create. My staff are incredible, putting this team together, then keeping it going is much more work than designing collections.
The third would be family and support. My entire family have played a huge part in the success of ANNA CAMPBELL, my little sister was the first person I ever hired while she was on a break from her Med degree, my Mum has always been there emotionally for me, and even worked in production for me for a while, my older sister did a huge amount of our PR while we were getting going, my Dad is the business manager dealing with all of the tricky stuff like superannuation, taxation and accounting, and my Husband now works for me full time too!
Best advice you ever received? To listen to everyone, being open to all opinions and ideas, keep some, discard some, then make your decisions without hesitation.
I wish I knew how to... sit on a beach and do nothing, I am terrible at relaxing.
What is your coffee order? I am maturing from a weak latte to a standard latte, sometimes I need extra milk on the side though still!
TV show do you wish was still on the air? I didn’t watch that much TV growing up, so this question is tricky, there is literally nothing that I miss! I am though a huge The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones fan so I wish the seasons would come out quicker!
Next travel destination? To release the collection, we are travelling to LA, New York and London this October, then will finally catch our breaths, and my husband and I will enjoy a belated honeymoon for ten days in Italy at the end of the work trip, we can’t wait!
What advice would you give your 23 year old self? Stop wasting your time with nasty boys, and go a bit easier on the bronzer!
Follow Anna Campbell on INSTAGRAM
Inspired by Anna? Then continue to be inspired by wedding dress designers Moira Hughes & Carla of Made With Love Bridal