Sarah Donges is the serially entrepreneurial Founder of two businesses, Box for Monkeys and The Beauty Tutor. A finalist in the ORIAS awards (Online Retailer Association) for best new online retailer in 2016, Sarah was also recently named as a Remodista Women2Watch in Retail Disruption Honoree for 2017.
The Beauty Tutor provides personal stylists, personal shoppers, makeup artists and hair stylists for individuals, weddings and groups. Through this business, Sarah has personally styled some of Australia’s top CEOs and corporate high fliers. Box for Monkeys is a clever subscription service delivering fun boxes of kids activities, including things to cook, read, make, create and explore, to help make parenting easier.
The core of both businesses springs from the passion Sarah has for helping others, something she says has always felt since choosing to do her Year 10 work experience stint at her local Ambulance station.
You were a retail buyer for David Jones in Australia and T.M.Lewin in London. Why did you leave in 2006 to create The Beauty Tutor?
One thing about buying for a large retailer is that you rarely meet your customer. All you have are sales figures to gauge people’s happiness with a product. I was also tired of the yearly routine of buy, sell, mark-down.
I always wanted to have my own business as my parents did and still do. Whilst working in buying I studied colour and design which is a passion. I wasn’t sure how I could use the skills I learnt and drive my passion.
Whilst working in cosmetics buying at David Jones, I noticed a huge gap where we did not have a single baby bath or body product. There were actually no stand out brands on the market. I spent a few months on this as a business, all the way to product samples. After months of product development, I realised I didn’t have enough money for it. In hindsight, creating a business just to fill a gap will never be long-term, as you need passion too.
A few friends encouraged me to start The Beauty Tutor and from the moment I started I not only loved it, but I had clients. Ten years on, I still look after my original clients.
How do you balance being the owner of two businesses, The Beauty Tutor and Box for Monkeys?
When I started Box For Monkeys I was working on it one day a week and The Beauty Tutor three days. Now I just look after existing clients and word of mouth referrals with The Beauty Tutor and focus mainly on Box for Monkeys.
The Box For Monkeys business was also designed around my phone. What can I do whilst at the park, at night, in anytime I had.
What are the benefits to owning two completely different businesses?
It certainly is diverse! In one I am a glamorous stylist and in the other I can be packing orders in a warehouse, which is fun. I learnt a lot from The Beauty Tutor. Meeting and helping people while they have their guard down is a privilege.
You’ve said your main passion is making people feel good about themselves and this is why you started both your businesses. Was there a particular moment you realised this was your passion and you needed to find a way to do it on a daily basis?
Both businesses beat with the same heart, to help people . Either with building confidence, or to help parents by making parenting easier. When I look back, it’s just the way I am. I’ve always wanted to work with people and help them.
What’s been your biggest challenge?
This changes all the time. Starting Box For Monkeys, it was finding a distribution partner, deciding on a website platform, finding a subscription platform that allowed for recurring billing, and choosing a payment gateway.
What’s your proudest moment?
Being a finalist in the ORIAS awards (Online Retailer Association) for best new online retailer in 2016. That blew me away.
What’s one piece of advice for future female leaders?
To have a go. Lots of ladies say, I would love to have my own business and I always answer, well do it! For me, there is more fear in not having a go.
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