ON BEGINNINGS, TURNING POINTS AND GROWTH: CHATS WITH TLSE FOUNDER, HEIDI
Heidi Albertiri. If you know TLSE at ALL, you should be very familiar with that name. Our lady boss, our wonder woman, our kickass chick at the helm of the (sometimes crazy) ride that is The Life Style Edit.
It often comes as a surprise to many people we meet that TLSE is still only a baby business. Yes, we're only a few years old and a small team of 9 (and counting, though)! We've grown and changed like, a TONNE, up until now and we're still at it. Every business and every brand has its own story, its own series of learnings and teachings, its turning points, challenges and wins. From the mouth of the ever-fabulous Heids, here are ours.
Every business stems from a personal story or a journey of discovery - tell us yours.
TLSE was started because my contract finished at my job as Style Editor for a Home Beautiful Magazine (may she R.I.P ) and suddenly I found myself without a job in my 40s with no idea what was next. It took some time to get clear on what would be my next step and for me, clarity always comes when I give myself quiet time to let things bubble to the surface. TLSE came to me on a holiday in Bali. I remembered that I had registered a business name some time back and couldn't remember what it was, and when I went to search for it, lo and behold, it was The Life Style Edit. I thought “yep that's relevant, I can work with that!"
I knew I had to utilise the contacts and skills I had established over the years, I just needed to fine tune them to find a place for myself in the world again. I knew digital was just starting to make its mark and that was it. I basically worked backwards like I always do. I look at the end game and then I work out what I need to do to get there. So TLSE started as a blog and shooting content and it evolved with me and the brands and clients we attracted. We grew, ebbed and flowed, and just went with it. I said yes, intending to work out the details later, and that is how we have been able to grow the way we have.
What was your first ever business? From it, did you ever imagine that this path would be the one you would travel - if not, what were your dreams or what was your end goal at the time?
I bought my first business - a flower shop - at 19 years old. I borrowed money from a bank and threw caution to the wind. I had no idea what I was doing and somehow that worked. I operate on instinct and that is still how I face the world and business today. I had no idea I ever wanted to be a florist, I wanted to be a teacher. I stumbled upon working for myself, it was never something that I had even thought of, but somehow it managed to fit. Looking back, it seems fitting that I would follow my own path so evolving my skills with each business I take on has been a natural progression and ultimately got me to where I am today.
What was TLSE in its first conceptual phase? What made you really start to take it seriously and realise it could be far more than just a passing notion?
I think I have a lot of gusto when taking on anything, whether it's a task in my day or a new business venture. I always look for potential and a gap and I take it from there.
I never approach anything with the mindset that it could fail; I look at the risks, weigh them up, and give it a red hot go - failing with TLSE was never an option.
It was touch and go for a while, but that's what makes you think outside the box and look at alternate ways to get things done. That's why we have worked, because I got in and got it done. There's always that tipping point in any business, in the beginning I did everything myself, then eventually I needed help, then more help and more again. Now I am extraordinarily lucky to be surrounded by an awesome team but it still takes time to build and grow it. Slow and steady wins the race!
What were the first steps you took once you decided to dive in head first and really give TLSE a shot?
I looked at the business as a whole, trying to gage what the possibilities were, and then I started one thing at a time to work towards it. I've learned first hand that having a strategy for your business is so important. It gets you clear and outlines what you have to do to get you where you want to be. Having owned a business before I had a rough idea of what to do, but I was heading into an industry that I had no idea about with no training. So I did what I thought was the right thing to do... and it worked, and it's kept working. Then when I employed staff I made sure that they were really good at things I didn't want to do, I surrounded myself with clever people who could carry out my vision with me and by having them to do what I needed them to do I could be left to run the business and connect with clients. I just worked to my strengths and allowed my staff to do the same.
How did you know it was time to take the next step in transforming TLSE from a studio / styling and photography business to an agency?
The signs are always there if you choose to see them. Like life, we need to take time to step back and look at it as a whole. When you take time to see the reality, it leads you to the next steps without too much trouble. When there is alignment, things flow, so I saw that within my business, I went with it. In any industry though you need to know where you fit and work out where you want to be and who you want to align with. TLSE has always been unique in our offering, not one brand offers everything we do at the standard that we do - there are stylists, designers, content creators, strategists, and marketers everywhere, but business these days needs all these things. We do all this for ourselves and we do it for brands too, which means we know the reality of running a business, in lots of different areas. I never thought of us being an agency, but people like to define things and as it happened, everyone else chose what we were and we just worked on refining it a bit more so people could wrap their heads around us.
Many still hold the (untrue) perception that TLSE is a big corporation, but what’s the reality?
The reality is, we all start somewhere, and it’s not always easy to work for yourself. TLSE started in my lounge room by myself and I worked at it every single day until I couldn't do it any more by myself. People often say “oh but you have so much help!” reality is though, it wasn't always that way - and honestly, we're still just a teeny team of 6! At the end of the day our awesome team are all women who are really good at what they do, working together for the greater good of the clients we work with, and hopefully we will continue to grow and evolve even more over time.
In your eyes, what's special about your business? What drives you to do what you do?
I say this all the time but what's special about everyone's business is them. There will be copycats and people who think they know better, but TLSE is what it is because I had a vision and I wanted to see if it could work. It’s even more special now because I am surrounded by my team who understand my vision and are prepared to come on the ride with me to see it out. I’m driven by success, by watching the girls come up with ideas, by helping brands and business get to the next level and by ultimately loving what we do.
In an ideal world, where do you see TLSE going from here? I want more. Everyday.
I want to create a space for women to fully express themselves in their work life, to create a space where they can be pushed to their limits in a supportive, empowering environment, that we can take on brands and run with them together.
I want more clients, more staff, and more laughter and then someone can come along, buy the business and leave me alone to ponder what's next….
Leave us with a piece of advice from a seasoned business owner… What have you learned along the way and what do you wish you’d known at the start?
Surround yourself with people who get you and your business and love and nurture them. They are the ones that build you up and stand by your side when the going gets tough. You have to like them - you spend every minute of the day with them. Don't just employ people who are good at what they do, make sure they are good people too, you want your people to work with you, not take from you and drain you. Look after them, reward them and nurture, value them and give them an opportunity to shine, they need to enjoy their job too.
WORDS | Heidi Albertiri, Lucy Francis, TLSE