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What you need to grow a business

23 January 2018

Karen Gee grew up in a family business. Her parents owned and ran swim schools in North Queensland. She says the entrepreneurial experience provided her with the basic skills and determination to want to build something of her own. From a very young age she knew success required hard work, passion for what you’re doing and putting in the time. What she didn't know was what her niche would be and, not having a crystal ball, if her idea would succeed.

KAREN GEE25515 Edit

“Growing up in business there was always an expectation to work, to contribute and pay my own way and that meant owning my financial responsibilities and choices. I work hard to contribute to my financial goals, and be financially independent, and have a say.  If I had the choice of winning the Lotto or becoming financially independent through hard work, challenging times, and learning experiences, I would choose the latter – it is what makes me feel worthy and alive.

When I found my niche, which was in the fashion industry, I went in with no previous experience and, honestly, no idea about how to create a label. I had a clear vision about what I wanted to create but there were times I wanted to give it all up. (They pass.)

My passion, and it still is, is to design and produce pieces - no matter a woman’s shape or size - that fit and make them feel elegant (Karen Gee design above).

The brand is fashionable but not about being on trend and it caters to every woman.

From my beginnings about six years ago as a one-woman show with five basic designs and a very basic website I now work with an exceptional team of 21 people, have a brand new interactive online space, a flagship store in Sydney and more than 1000 designs.

The rapid growth is the result of some seriously hard work and a true passion for creation and my brand’s vision. I am not sure what success would look like if I didn’t have the talented and diligent team I have and the loving support of my family to come home to. Sharing your ups and downs with people you love is a truly special thing.

The core tool you need to succeed in creating your own business is passion. If you don't have passion, you have very little chance of convincing the market to believe in you. When I think about where my focus is now, it’s on networking, meeting inspiring women, sharing my personal story, and consistently working on strong fundamentals for the business. I run my own race; I don’t compare myself to others. I do what makes me feel happy and that’s knowing that I am not only doing what I love, but I am supporting women to love the skin they’re in.

As an entrepreneur, I know I’ve come across growth moments more than once in the course of building the business. They’ve been driven by my customers, both in growth in number and in demand for more designs.

One of our first growth moments came with our red carpet debut back in our early days. Shortly after launching our website, the actor Demi Harman attended the Logie Awards in a Karen Gee design. The debut literally crashed our server. There was so much interest in the brand following Demi’s appearance on the red carpet our server couldn’t keep up with enquiries and orders. I was frantic at the time to resolve the issue. Looking back, I can’t help but think about how far we’ve come. We’ve put money into more than just ensuring the server doesn’t fail. We’ve redesigned it to cater to a wider audience. We’ve added to our online experience, increasing our interactivity and ease of use, and we have created more designs to choose from. They were all growth decisions that required the addition of resources, including financial resources.

In April this year I’m attending a Harvard University course in Boston for which I was selected. This will be an incredible opportunity to network with inspirational people, as well as learn more about business. It also marks another growth opportunity for me and the business

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