Inspirational Women: Andrea Ferrari

May 23, 2014
career, career development, inspirational women, life, life advice, mentor, mentoring

Each week SHE‘SAID’ will feature an inspiring woman who has been kind enough to share her story with our readers. She might be a leader in her chosen field, someone still on their own path striving to make a difference or simply someone with a remarkable story to tell. But these women will contribute their own knowledge, expertise and life lessons in order to truly inspire others.

Name and role:

Andrea Ferrari, Founder, Espirit Magazine Australia

Tell us about your role? What is it? What do you do on a day-to-day basis?

As the owner and face of the business, my deepest interest is to drive the company’s key properties, Esprit Magazine Australia and EspritMagazineAustralia facebook activities, to engage with both readerships giving them relevant and inspiring content. 95 per cent of the business is Esprit Magazine – the quarterly, glossy, business publication for the retail beauty industry. I launched the business here in 2004 after emigrating from the UK where I had set up the magazine in 1987. As a start-up in 2004 proposing to deliver the retail beauty industry with their first-ever trade magazine, I grew my role as I listened to what the industry wanted. Rather than tell them what they were getting, I listened to what they wanted. Naturally, I want to exceed those expectations so I always make sure I am professionally and socially connected with the influencers, the leaders, the innovators as well as attending every media event and maximising every opportunity in order to have an ‘in-the-know’ understanding of the industry. I am responsible for both the commercial side of the business – building advertising revenues and magazine subscriptions – as well as the editorial content.

Early on in Esprit Magazine’s life, I began a highly valued collaboration with Elisabeth King, the best beauty business and lifestyle journalist in Australia, whose feature writing adds a depth to the magazine’s authority. The industry was hungry for this publication from the start and sought out partnerships with Esprit. These fruitful relationships include Accord – the regulatory body; The Cancer Patients’ Foundation whose Look Good… Feel Better program is recognised as the beauty industry’s key charity; Mike Fraser is our sales training expert with a column each issue; and the beauty e-tailer, adorebeauty.com.au’s founder, Kate Morris provides a trends-driven article each issue.

There is no typical day for me but a typical week will see me writing editorial content, interviewing local and visiting international industry members, meeting with advertising clients, attending press launches, always driving the magazine’s content and position in the market to be an engaging and entertaining read.

How/when did you know this what you wanted to do as a career?

I always thought I’d follow a career in fashion. It was my passion. I read British Vogue as a teenager, worked as a Saturday/holiday girl in my local city’s edgiest boutique, studied needlecraft for my A-levels (the UK’s HSC equivalent) and applied to uni to do an arts foundation course leading into a fashion design degree. Then I found out about the London College of Fashion. Flipping through the prospectus and seeing an array of courses in fashion design, my attention was caught by a course called fashion writing. I loved the idea of journalism and had trawled around Fleet Street (London’s newspaper hub) as a teenager breathing in draughts of scoops and blockbuster headlines but had not thought I could make a career actually writing about my other passion – fashion. There were a coveted 25 places on this fashion writing course. I went to the interview in central London, got a place, moved to a hostel room in London, and thrived on the course which put me out of my comfort zone on many occasions (18 years old and doing a vox pops in central London’s main shopping area, Oxford Street, was one such memorable exercise).

As a revered course industry sought its candidates from LCF’s graduates. I got a job as junior news reporter on the weekly hairdressing trade magazine, Hairdressers’ Journal. The staff included ex-Fleet Street writers and professional, experienced magazine journalists and provided me with the best learning experience and training scheme I could have asked for. They were tough and I had to hold my own, but also hilariously witty and we had such laughs. HJ celebrated its centenary during my 4½ year stint there. Some 10 years later and having worked on a consumer magazine and another beauty trade magazine and now craving the opportunity to run my own business, I was offered start-up funding to create a specialist trade magazine for the retail beauty industry. Such publications existed in Europe and the US but it was a new category for me to venture into in the UK. In a nutshell, I did it with a small but great team, and have done so ever since 1987 (1987-2003 in the UK and 2004-present in Australia).

Where do you find your inspiration?

I am driven. I love my job and enjoy the people I work with in the industry. I am curious and have news stories and leads on my ever-scanning radar. I believe passionately in giving Esprit Magazine’s readers interesting content and that they come away from reading the magazine with a smile and enthusiasm for their industry. Keeping my reader in mind inspires me to share with them what I learn and am exposed to in my privileged position as the head of Esprit Magazine. I gain so many insights into beauty retailing from the trade side, for example, from an Australian company selling a locally made goat’s milk soap to the international head office of a multinational, it’s inspiring for me to deliver all the nuggets and news I gather each quarter.

Did you have a mentor? Who/what helped you to get your career off the ground?

I gain guidance from the many business associates I have. The retail beauty business leaders are collaborative and enthusiastic about sharing and discussing ideas without there being anything necessarily in it for them. In the UK, it was my start-up funder who made is easier for me to establish my small publishing company and create Esprit Magazine. John, now retired, was MD of a fine fragrance distribution company in the UK and was a guiding light for me.

What were the stumbling blocks, initially getting started on your career path, and since then?

Getting started in business is bound to present challenges but rather than them being stumbling blocks they are learning curves. It’s the way you handle these ‘curves’, how they impact on you and your business that counts. There were challenging times with funding in the early days with a team that were on a salary, printers and magazine designers to pay, and the only funding coming from the advertising sales and subscription revenues of a brand new publication. Nike’s ‘Just Do It’ slogan comes into mind: hard work, commitment, 12-hour days and weekends working on the laptop picking up the phone and getting it done. This combined with starting a family through a series of 10 IVF procedures, having two healthy, happy, energetic babies and seeing those 12-hour days spread through early mornings and nights to ensure I was the hands-on mummy I so loved being. I continue with long working days and still being an involved mum to my 20-year-old daughter and 23-year-old son. They are both hard working young people who have evolved their lives and careers to satisfy their enthusiasm to get the most out of life and be valued members of the community they have thrived in for the last 10 years of their lives, since emigrating with me to Sydney.

What are your goals for the future?

Personal and professional goals are to maximise what I have achieved so far, aiming to give me and my close ones the best future. Professionally, I continue to build my business in the retail beauty publishing business. We’ve travelled through the GFC and the widespread interest in online publishing and come out stronger than ever with a honed view of how to run the business and focus on fulfilling the appetite of our ever- enthusiastic readership. In publishing, you have to deliver on the ‘what’s in it for me’ need that sifts the irrelevant read from the smart read. There’s so much information available today you have to respect the time your readers are spending with your publication by giving them something they cannot get anywhere else.

Personally, my goals are to make sure I slide through the pearly gates (in the very distant future, I hope) having loved and laughed; seen and experienced our beautiful world’s delights; sat in silence on a mountain top; swum in the clear blue waters; danced the Light Fantastic; enjoyed the mutual warmth of the best friendships – especially with my children and closest friends; been kind and compassionate, inspiring and grateful; having my priorities balanced well and choosing a cuddle with a loved one over answering that email that just came in – it will get done while the cuddle can’t wait.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow the same path as you?

I am not sure I’m advocate of the idea of “following the same path” – more to drive your own path. We all need the drive and passion to achieve our dreams and goals. It’s great to put it out to the universe – and I do – but I also then go to my desk, the telephone or an event, and make it happen. For me, looking out at the view from my home and seeing the big wide world and contemplating is a daily motivation for me. It inspires me when I ‘chat it through in my head’ and helps me find clarity about today’s tasks and the week’s targets – and my life’s direction.

To run your own small business you need to have the passion for whatever it is; you need to connect with the right people to help you set it up; you need to listen to whoever your potential audience is to ensure you are providing them with something that they desire and cannot get anywhere else; you need energy and a ‘can do’ approach that will carry you through the tougher times; don’t scrimp on the things that matter; work smart and hard and have fun; have a mentor or at least have people around you who have your best interests at heart; believe in yourself so that others can; sleep well so you wake up fresh and ready to conquer all.

If you feel successful, people believe you are successful and they want to be a part of your success. Not only listen to what people are saying – hear what they are saying. If your passion wanes and you cannot reboot it, move on to something that does make you smile again. Tough as that may sound, it’s harder to endure an unhappy life doing something that no longer feels good to you.

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