Entrepreneur Leonie Henzell of Beauty’s Got Soul was the guest speaker at Matthews Steer’s quarterly Women In Business breakfast in June, inspiring attendees with her message of proactive positivity.
What do you do when you move interstate and can’t find quality gifts to send back home to your loved ones? If you’re Leonie Henzell, you establish your own online hamper business.
A physiotherapist for 10 years in Brisbane, Leonie always knew she wanted to start her own business, and she had no shortage of kooky ideas, including the ‘lipstick esky’ she designed to prevent her lipsticks melting when she was on the go.
Deciding to “shake things up”, Leonie, her husband and children moved from Brisbane to Melbourne, and Leonie started studying a Masters in Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Swinburne University, which she didn’t complete. “Basically, I bought some confidence,” she says of her Masters experience.
In 2004 (the year Facebook came into being) she launched online luxury gifting company Bockers and Pony, initially operating out of her spare room. “I solved my own problem. There were a few hamper businesses, but they weren’t selling things I’d want to send people I loved, or even liked!
“E-commerce didn’t exist back then,” says Leonie. “We operated for a year without a
shopping cart on our website. Many businesses didn’t even have websites. Peter Alexander
had a fax form for customers who wanted to order PJs online!”
Initially Leonie partnered with a friend, Nicole, and as the business grew they set up operations in another friend’s Toorak home. “They had a huge dining room, which became our packing room. We had to take great care of their dining table,” says Leonie.
With Nicole’s young family growing, Leonie took the decision to buy her out of the business.
“It was my first experience of negotiating out a business partner, and while it wasn’t a lot, it was a lot of effort to generate the money to make that payout when the business wasn’t worth anything, and in fact probably owed us money.”
Leonie spent years working at the coalface of her business packing hampers and distributing them to customers. “It was exhaustingly hard work and it took a long time for us to crack the $1 million turn over mark,” she says. But slowly and surely Bockers and Pony grew to the point where they were distributing 15,000 hampers a year.
After selling Bockers & Pony in 2016, she spent some time traveling in search of her next purpose. One such trip to Toronto she was shocked by the number of homeless people on the snowy streets.
“It was very upsetting to me, and I decided I want to do something to help homeless people inn Australia,” she says.
Learning that on any given night there are 8,200 people sleeping rough in Australia, Leonie discovered Sleep Bus; a charity that converts buses into safe, temporary overnight accommodation to get people off the street. Sleep Bus offers rough sleepers a secure, climate controlled, sleep pod in a bus, with under-bus storage, pet pods for companion animals and overnight security. Each Sleep Bus houses 22 pods that provide 8030 safe sleeps a year. Australia needs 300 sleep busses to tackle our nation’s rough sleeping crisis. Leonie had found her purpose, and set up two new businesses ‘Beauty’s Got Soul’ and ‘Soul Baby Gifts,’ each of which donates 5% of sales to Sleep Bus.
“It’s not about solving the problem of homelessness, it’s about people having a good sleep, it’s about building a band aid,” says Leonie. “If we get to $5million in sales that’s $250,000 which is two-and-a-half busses. I’m not sure how it’s going to go, or how fast we are going to get there, but I’m a kid giving it a red-hot shot.”
Leonie says she set up two businesses the second time around as a hedging tactic. “After selling my first business I wanted to make sure I would never be out of business again,” she said. “I can cross-promote the two brands; babies get born every day so people have a defined reason to buy from me.”
Leonie has no regrets about the time she spent as a physiotherapist saying: “Spending 10 years doing something before you figure out what you want to do, isn’t a waste. I used it as springboard.”
A recurring theme in Leonie’s story, positivity could well be the secret to her success. She credits her husband and children for supporting her in her entrepreneurial endeavours and – unsurprisingly – she curates her home and work environment carefully to keep negative forces at bay.
“I live a routine-based life,” she says. I get up at 6am and do Pilates or go for a walk. I am a pescatarian, I drink the most disgusting green smoothies you ever did see, and I have a sleep alarm so I’m in bed asleep by 10pm. I give myself a pep talk every morning to set myself up, tell myself how the day is going to
be and how I’m going to be. I don’t let anyone mess with my positivity, it impacts my confidence.”
If you’re interested in attending Matthews Steer’s Women in Business events please email firstname.lastname@example.org