We sat down with the gorgeous Linda Weatherlake, founder of Neena, to chat about her entrepreneurial journey.
So Linda, Tell us a bit about you and your business.
I am a passionate vegan and have been for quite some time. A few years ago I felt rather restricted with the beauty products I was using and I was incredibly time poor, therefore I had no time to research alternative vegan friendly cosmetics. This left me in the very frustrating position of having a bathroom full of products that didn’t necessarily work for my skin.
I made the very scary decision to quit my 9-5 job (more like 8-7) to research vegan friendly products from around the world and develop a platform which allowed people to buy without having to question whether a product was vegan friendly or not. Neena launched in March 2016 with the aim of not only educating on the importance of vegan friendly products but to show everyone just how many amazing options we have and to make cruelty free shopping so easy!
When did you think about making Neena a thing and how far have you come since then?
The idea of Neena came about in December 2015 and launched in March 2016 with only about 10 brands on board all from Australia. We are now coming up to our 1st birthday and we are stocking almost 50 brands (and growing weekly) from all over the globe including USA, Germany, Latvia and the United Kingdom. We pride ourselves on only stocking products which we have tried and absolutely LOVE and we will never change this. I want to continue to be passionate about what I do and I can’t do that if I haven’t tried everything. I am not a sales person, I purely started Neena to help people make a transition to a more cruelty free lifestyle.
Sounds like the best reason to start a business....
As a consumer, I wanted to be exposed to more vegan friendly products which didn’t mean I had to sacrifice luxury. I wanted to be able to find a store which didn’t force me, as a vegan, to only be able to pick from the “herbal” remedies. In a way, my business was originally a selfish start up because it was everything I wanted and I was looking for however now I see that I was not the only one looking! I was often asked for advice on “whats the best vegan friendly tan” etc and I thought, Neena needs to happen, people are desperate for some guidance and a one stop shop and I am so glad i took the plunge and decided to start this business.
That's it - the problem and solution. That's how all the best businesses start. Was there a pivotal lightbulb moment or event that made you go, “I’m doing this. Now.”?
We had a stall at World Vegan Day 2016 and we were expecting big numbers however half way through the day when I realised I hadn’t eaten, had a drink, sat down or even used the bathroom, I thought “wow - this is really happening”. I got to chat to people, vegans and non vegans alike and share my knowledge and our beautiful products and to see people loving and appreciating Neena gave me real butterflies.
Now we're sure it didn't all come easy. Shed some light on the harder or more trying moments?
Having to learn that not being able to do EVERYTHING straight away has been a huge challenge for me. As a small business owner, you have this idea, then this, then you want to get this done, but how amazing if I could also get this done too.. Prioritising has been hard but extremely beneficial. I am the queen of list making now and I tell everyone that a simple action of writing lists can help so much.
OMG you are talking our jam (in particular, Tahli's - she has lists for her lists). What’s one thing that you didn’t expect to come along and that you’ve embraced?
I never really thought so many negative people existed. At the start of my business idea, I have never felt so belittled with what I was told on many occasions was an “O.K idea” “are you really going to be able to start your own business?”, I never thought that some people so close to me would try and pull the rug out from beneath me HOWEVER, this has really encouraged me to back myself and turn their negative energy into fuel for my fire. In saying that, my family, my partner and my amazing friends have all been just that - amazing.
So glad you can take the negative vibes and use them for good. Such a great way of looking at it. What’s your favourite thing about running your own business?
People usually say working from home, or being their own boss however, my favourite part is definitely how much passion I can put into this business and although there is no one to say “you did great at work today”, it’s the self satisfaction of “you did this” and “you got this”.
Definitely. What’s one thing you would tell your younger self to do differently?
I would most definitely tell myself to stop worrying about the future. As clichè as it sounds, enjoy the present because most of the time, you’ll end up where you are meant to be.
Very wise! We get that running your own biz can be all about the long hours and never ending emails. What’s your favourite way to unwind and how easy do you find it to “switch off”? Any tips for staying balanced?
To be honest, in the first year of running your own business, balance doesn’t exist - at all. However, I started my business and will continue to operate my business with so much passion and honesty that I love what I do so much that I don’t mind not switching off (except at 3am when ideas come to mind). I do love going out for vegan brunches so I consider that as my “unwind” time. I would tell people though that emails must stop at 6pm. This will ensure people don’t expect you to be working/responding after hours. This will also ensure you time is far more respected by those wanting it.
So true. Any advice for people just starting our or wanting to do their own thing but maybe not brave enough to take the leap?
There are SOOO many start ups in this world that if you are not passionate about what you are doing, you will not succeed (brutal - sorry!). If your desire to just make a “quick buck” is the only reason why you are doing your own thing, unfortunately, it won’t last. Find a few great people to bounce ideas off, listen to their feedback, listen to their questions and honestly, these will be scary but great supportive people will make the world of difference. Put your heart and soul into what you do and nothing will be able to stop you.
Love it - we couldn't agree more. Now down the serious business, what’s your favourite Golden Grind flavour and fav way of having it?
My Favourite has to be the Coconut and Cocao in my morning smoothie. It's so simple and delicious and I love knowing I'm getting that added health benefit to kick start my day.
Any parting words of wisdom to leave with our readers?
Treat your audience, customers or clients the way you want to be treated and never lose sight of your vision and passion, whatever it may be.