In the latest installment of Bold Moves, we sit down with the dynamic duo behind cult swimwear label ELCE.
A brand that both the founder; Laura and director; Tara has said to have lived many lives in its short 12 years.
From rebranding and surviving the economic downturn of COVID – it becomes apparent that these girls know a thing or two when it comes to making bold decisions and backing themselves in times of uncertainty.
Fast forward to today, ELCE has become a multi-million-dollar business, and at the helm both Laura and Tara reflect on their career journeys, learnings and of course, the importance of revolutionizing and running a nimble business into the future.
A conversation where insight is delivered in spades, we hope you enjoy this Bold Moves partnership..
As the founder, director, and creative minds behind Elce how have you turned a small start-up into a thriving multimillion-dollar business, can you please tell me about the journey?
Laura: “ELCE has had so many lives in its short 12 years. I started the brand in Bali 12 years ago with just one small store in Seminyak. Fast forward to today and we now have 7 flagship stores, an Ecomm platform and we have very recently signed with an exclusive international wholesaler which we are so excited about. I started the company, formerly known as Wanderlust Swim, in Bali when I was 20 years old, and it was a quiet little island bustling with tourists. I quickly opened five more stores and then six years ago I met my husband and was ready to move back to Sydney. It was here that I met Tara, and we launched the brand online and began the journey of taking ELCE global.”
Hard work and determination where no doubt a contributor to your success, how did you manage the exponential growth, where there any setbacks?
Tara: “Laura and I have always been very mindful in ensuring we run a lean and nimble business. We have kept our team super small, which has provided so much opportunity to grow and make quick changes to adapt and stay reactive. This was a godsend during COVID and the ever-changing landscape that the fashion industry has been privy too since. We have made a lot of mistakes along the way, and like any business I think this is where you do your best learning.”
In order to overcome those setbacks, you would have had to make bold decisions/ moves personally and professionally – how did you manage this?
Laura: “The fashion industry has faced so many challenges both economically and socially that we have had to make a conscious effort to step away from what we traditionally knew and revolutionise the way we run our business. Tara and I sat down and we re-structured everything. We took the time to re-learn all of the roles that were otherwise managed by our employees, and we have been able to identify pain points and opportunities that we would have never otherwise been able to.
On a personal level, we also had some big discussions around what we wanted in our lives and how to create a balance between our business and our families as our time with our boys is so important to us. We are feeling aligned in our goals, and we have never been more confident in our growth and direction.”
Elce is a true representation of sustainable and thoughtful design pieces, with each creation boasting high quality materials and a guiding principle of buy better, keep forever – where did you get the idea?
Tara: “2020 marked the beginning of a monumental shift in the fashion industry. Events in the world redefined us and inspired our team to pause, reflect and rethink our ambitions for the future. Guided by both consumer expectations and our own values, we recognised our responsibility to evolve at the same pace as the world around us. We have a long way to go, but we are excited by what the future holds and cannot wait to continue sharing our vision and efforts.”
In order to build yourself up successfully you would have had to create a supportive tribe around you, how did you go about that?
Laura: “First and foremost, we have one another. We are so lucky we have been able to lean on each other and our skill sets perfectly intertwine. We are friends first and business wives second and we always know we have the other person's love and support both personally and professionally.
My husband is also wonderful. He is very hands-on with the kids, and we ultimately share the load and allow each other the flexibility week in and out to focus our time where it is most needed, whether that be home or work.
& a special call-out to our staff. We have built the most incredible little team this year with many new faces. I feel so lucky to have so many amazing women supporting and growing my baby.”
With that in mind, what would be your pieces of advice be to women wanting to step up and make a bold move?
Tara: “Learn from those who have come before you. I have had some incredible mentors over the course of my career. My first ever role was picking and packing orders, I then progressed to in-house marketing and wholesale for brands like Zulu & Zephyr and SIR. When I was 26, I opened my own Brand Management Agency, Elever and that was where I met Laura and started partnering with brands such as POSSE, The Bali Tailor & Love Isabelle. I was lucky enough throughout the course of my career to wear so many different hats that I came to understand the mechanics of running a business and the only way I could have ever done so was learning from incredible people that took their time to challenge and support me.”
“We are in a new digital age, and it has never been more advantageous to start learning new skill sets and building the life you want. I would prefer to have said I tried and failed than to look back and wonder otherwise.”
Speaking of Bold Moves, do you think it is important to share your losses as much as your wins?
Laura: “Absolutely. Running a business is like riding a rollercoaster that never quite seems to steady. We spend our lives now watching people's highlight reels and I don’t want anyone to think that there aren’t moments of a lot of self-doubt and sacrifice. The highs are high and the lows and hard, but so long as you are doing what is right for you then you will humbly see it through.”
What are your three key habits to maintain success?
- A lot of passion
- & sheer, often dumb, determination.
Everybody is working at 100 miles per hour these days, do you ever get the feeling that you have bitten off more than you can chew?
Laura: “Always and never. I love a good project and I thrive when I am working toward something. This is both in my business and personal life. My husband and I love buying and renovating homes and I have been lucky enough to find a nice balance between my professional and personal goals. Life is beautifully chaotic, there are real burn out moments but for the most part I just feel grateful for the opportunities I have thanks to my business and my wonderful family.“
How do you overcome this feeling?
Tara: “My partner and I sit down every Sunday, and we map out our week. Tom is a Fireman/ shift worker, so his roster is ever changing making it difficult to have any set routine. We discuss what we both have coming up for the week; our workdays, the days we are with the kids and any socials and exercise we want to sneak in. I find this almost meditative, as I am able to compartmentalise my time so that when I am with my boys, they have 110% of me, and the days I work I can be there for my team. We make a conscious effort to ensure we are both getting our ‘me time’ and some special time together. Having two kids under two and both of us are juggling full-time work, this system has been so wonderful in ensuring neither of us feel overwhelmed and it plays as a constant reminder that we are on the same team.”
In the beginning, you had a vision and a story – what gave you the courage to own your story to the level you needed to?
Laura: “When I started the company in Bali all those years ago, I was so young that I never gave too much thought as to the direction, but I always knew I wanted to take the business global. When I moved from Bali to Sydney it was during the golden years of Instagram, so there was no better time to launch our Ecomm platform. I always knew that I wanted to work for myself, so this was a key motivator when starting the business and making any big moves. Upon reflection there was never one a-ha moment, but a number of little decisions and big opportunities that has gotten ELCE to where it is today.”
How do you pivot your mindset to form creative collaborations with businesses around you?
Tara: “This is one of my favourite parts of business; nothing makes me happier than to see people owning their space. I am a big believer in building people up, listening to their advice and supporting one another. If the past few years have taught us anything, it’s that we need each other and who better to call in a crisis than someone who innately understands what you are facing.”
What’s next for Elce?
Laura: “We have some exciting collaborations with some big names in the next month. Whilst we can’t yet release the details it involves a hotel and a major international wholesaler. These partnerships have been months in the making and with our international growth trajectory these will be a really big pinch me moment for us.”
What would be one piece of advice you could give to someone that wants to live their life boldly and authentically?
Tara: “Look at your life holistically and don’t be afraid to dream big. Life isn’t black and white and there are so many areas that one can find success. I personally look at four different aspects and I set goals for each: financial, professional, personal, spiritual. My girlfriend once had me make a mood-board of these that I taped to my bedroom cupboard so that I would look at each morning to keep me honest. Everything in your life is a season, so trust that failures and challenges are there to help you grow and develop, not to stop you from becoming the person you are meant to be.”