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Digital diva

by fatweb

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There’s one Kiwi businesswoman who knows which buttons to press when it comes to mobile technology based solutions. In fact, she thrives on the constant evolution of the online sphere, giving people what they want, when they want it.
Davina Richards talks to Jenene Crossan about her new business model which literally gives women power in the palm of their hand.
 
Shooting for the stars
Jenene had me at “I had never created anything”. Of course, everyone has to start somewhere, but I’m amazed how this woman has solidified herself as a beacon for women in business, despite being a high school drop out, who never sat an exam in her life and admits she “makes it up” as she goes along.
Speaking at the New Zealand Fashion Festival in 2012, Jenene talked about her first ever business, nzgirl.co.nz (one of the largest social magazines in the country and of which Jenene is still a director and shareholder of), which was brought to life using a second hand computer when she was 20.
“I had never run my own business before… Facebook hadn’t even been invented… I’d never sold advertising, I’d never managed staff or written anything at all. I basically just made it up as I went along, which I reckon I’m still doing today.”
Yet here she stands with more than 20 years’ experience in the digital landscape and is responsible for some of New Zealand’s most well-known digital brands including Flossie Concierge, nzgirl and Bloggersclub. She was also a finalist for the Westpac Women of Influence Award 2014 and a finalist for NEXT Women of the Year 2014.
“I’m not afraid to give something new or not yet trialled, a go. I love new projects and love bringing concepts to life. I can inspire a team to come with me on the journey and think about the customer experience from the very first conversation. Everything is about how we can ‘fix the pain’, how do we make life easier for people,” Jenene says.
I ask her, ‘what do you know now that you wish you had known at 20?’ “Everything and nothing, of course. As my mother always told me, ‘tis better to journey, than it is to arrive’. I wouldn’t be half the person I am today without having experienced the bumps along the way that I have so far. That said, I would probably have taken a faster crash course in financial management and data mining… of course it is rather hard to tell that to a 20 year old.
“Oh and don’t get married quite so quickly, but that’s another story, or two,” she adds.
“I liken starting a business at 20 to kids who are skiing, flying past the adults at a million miles an hour, completely free of fear of falling over. I never had apprehension, as I just wasn’t plagued by self-doubt. My mother said to me after I showed her the first business plan (my very first ever), ‘but do you think you can do it, Jenene? Yes. Well then, what are you waiting for?’
“As I’ve got older and started businesses, the fear is less in the getting started mode as it is in the delivery of growth. Our targets aren’t just huge – they’re astronomical. They’re totally outrageous. But I think we can do it. I have to. Mediocre isn’t what we’re shooting for.”
 
Empowering generation ‘now’
Jenene’s timeline highlights some of her most important breakthroughs in both her personal life and career.
She was engaged at 18 and bought her first home at 19. She married at 20 and launched her second business, 18 Ltd at 24 and sold it to Research International when she turned 26. She set up Actual Dialogue Pty Ltd at 27, remarried aged 28 and was single again aged 32.
At 30 she established her fifth business, Flossie.com, initially launched as a last minute hair and beauty appointments website in early 2012. In September 2014 the mobile app Flossie Concierge was introduced, enabling women to request, book and pay for hair and beauty services at tried and tested spas and salons; a convenience for women with busy lives and a saviour for high-end salons who want to fill empty seats.
It offers a personal service which eliminates the hassle of calling around to secure an appointment and instead allows the user to make a request using the mobile app. You’re guaranteed a fast response and usually with a variation of the standard price.
Users can shop around by comparing prices in less than 20 seconds and make suggestions and recommendations to help improve the service. This is beauty at your fingertips.
“We undertook an enormous pivot at the two year mark for Flossie.com and introduced a new business model called Flossie Concierge. We re-imagined the whole proposition for how women are making bookings.
“We knew that we’ve all become very ‘last minute’ and not booking in advance any longer. We wanted to give women the power, as powerful consumers, to easily put their hand up and say, ‘I want, who wants me?’ The Flossie Concierge service is the easiest way for women to get what they want, when they want it.  Request, book and pay for hair and beauty services very simply through your smart phone.”
Flossie Concierge now has 12,000 women with the service on their phone. “We are growing 500 new customers per week, we have more than 300 salons on board and have launched in Wellington, Queenstown and Auckland.”
Now expanding into Christchurch and Tauranga, and having the likes of tech entrepreneur Scott Gilmour, property guru Peter Cooper and Theresa Gattung investing in the company, 2015 looks likely to be a huge growth year.
“We want Flossie Concierge to be the premiere service provider for hair and beauty in New Zealand. Personally, I’m looking to achieve a great balance of family, work and friends. Stay fit, be happy, have fun.”
Firmly rooted in the hair and beauty industry which is worth more than $7 billion per annum across New Zealand and Australia, Flossie.com is backed by investors including the co-founders of Hell Pizza, the team behind Sonar6 and Rob Campbell.
Jenene says that challenges are a daily ritual in any businesswomen’s life. “The entire remit in my job is about removing obstacles to drive us forward. Some of the bigger operational challenges are around recruitment (ensuring you get the right fit – which is easier said than done) and accurate forecasting to ensure cashflow management (so that you can do what you said you could do without running out of money!).
“Finally I’d say for me it’s been about the commercial market keeping up with the consumer one. Our businesses have always been market leading consumer tech plays that are first to market, and yet those with the chequebooks haven’t been quite as adoptive. Educating markets has been key.”
 
Reflection
Jenene doesn’t believe “can’t” is a word, so it seems there is simply no stopping her when it comes down to business, except maybe in the moments of self-reflection and awareness of accomplishments.
“Over the last 16 years there have been so many moments of launches, sealed deals and wins. But if I’m honest with myself, the best moments are really the gratifying ones where you realise that the thing you dreamed of, that you brought to life and made a reality, actually works and people want it and use it. That’s pretty special and very motivating, and somewhat addictive,” she says.
Jenene is one of us. No matter what career path we have chosen, what binds us all together is that we’re all human, simply trying to start somewhere and get somewhere. Knowledge, experience and a bit of luck enable us to push forward, and it is people like Jenene who are helping others to reach their dreams too.
“I like to think constantly. I never turn down a request to talk (though I can’t always do face to face) and I’m happy to be as candid as possible on the realities of it all. It’s not all fun and fearlessness. It’s also very stressful and it impacts every part of your life – dedication is key.
“I over-share as frequently as possible to whoever wants to listen. I do a lot of public speaking and blog writing. I expect in the future I’ll sit on a lot of boards and help those getting started have great experiences like I did.
“I have been very fortunate to be afforded the opportunities I have and have been allowed to make mistakes a long the way – they are a reality of start-up life. The key is to be the kind of person who gets right back up and keeps going. As a previous director of my business said to me, ‘your greatest strength and greatness weakness is your inability to let go’. I think that rather says it all.”
 
Just the beginning
Jenene is equipped, so to speak, to improve the lives of others through mobile technology, and the feel-good factor she gets from this is like no other. She is living proof that success can be achieved whether or not you have experience, knowledge or even qualifications.
She wills herself to do well and to do better without hesitation because there are far better things ahead than anything we leave behind. And it makes me wonder if we’re all too busy fretting over what is and what isn’t. We don’t need to have it all figured out to move forward.
Jenene Crossan is making it up as she goes along and she’s doing it extremely well. “If you’d said to me five years ago that I’d have three kids, be living in Greenhithe and working in mobile technology, I would have laughed at you.”
 
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