“Making it” in business can be tough. Luckily, here at the Australian Businesswomen’s Network, we are surrounded by many successful entrepreneurs who have “made it” in business. Jane Cay is one of these entrepreneurs. She shared her story of the road to success with us and gave some valuable advice. At an early age, Jane committed herself to being part of the online revolution. In 1996, the year the internet was becoming mainstream, Jane began her commerce degree at the University of New South Wales, which completely captured her imagination. On completing university, Jane had a high-flying corporate career as an e-business consultant with IBM when life took an unexpected turn. “I fell in love with a farmer, ended up in a country town, and I said, ‘What am I going to do with myself?’” Cay and her husband bought an existing retail store in the main street of Cooma, a town five hours south of Sydney with a population of 8,000. It was a career shift that took Cay a while to get her head around. “I was never into fashion. I thought, ‘How am I going to cope coming from the corporate world to the shop floor?’” In a side project that she started working on after-hours with a software engineering student, Cay established Birdsnest – a unique online retail store for women that has proved being independent and in a regional location is no obstacle to online success. Jane loves to live in the slow lane, and work in the fast lane. Her home on the working farm is a 130km round trip for a litre of milk. Since its launch in 2008, Birdsnest has experienced double-digit growth; it is within the top 40 most visited apparel sites in Australia and employs over 90 ‘birds’. Working with women on the shop floor, Jane discovered that the notion of retail therapy was real and became passionate about ‘inspiring confidence’ in all her customers. It must be translating, with a big 70% of all Birdsnest revenue coming from return customers.
Birdsnest has grown faster than Jane could have imagined, and she admits that she has made lots of mistakes along the way. Yet, these mistakes have proved to be her best lessons. Jane understands the importance of creating a positive work environment with a strong team culture. She ensures that every new team member understands that they can be generous and have fun with customers, which is something that you have to invest time in. “If the birds in the nest are happy, then every touch point with our customers becomes a happy one. This philosophy is shared amongst our team on a daily basis – it is the small things we do each day to help each other feel good that make a difference – saying ‘thank you’, telling someone they look gorgeous when they do, throwing spontaneous celebrations for small milestones and turning the music up to have a team boogie.” Jane has some advice for “making it” in business as well: Start by surrounding yourself with the right people who share the dream and compliment your skills (it is even better if they are smarter than you!). Employ mentors – find moments to plan logically, be flexible, surround yourself with the right people. It is great if you can all think big together