IN CONVERSATION WITH: JACQUI BRADLER AND ALEXANDRA PEEK, BONDI SANDS FEMTREPRENEURS
As women in a male dominated world and as women doing it for themselves in the business world, we will happily take any opportunity that presents itself to share in the wins of fellow business women.
Aussie brand Bondi Sands hit the scene back in 2012, founded by mates Shaun Wilson & Blair James. Now a global household name, to say that the business has seriously flourished would be an understatement. But as a team of women ourselves, we firmly believe that every business benefits from a team of awesome, strong business women.
So, we sat down with Jacqui Bradler, Bondi Sands Chief People Officer and Alexandra Peek, CMO, to ask some hard hitting questions around career journeys, navigating male dominated industries, flourishing amidst COVID, sustainability and the importance of empowering young women.
[TLSE] Tell us about your journey to Bondi Sands - what is it about working with the brand that inspires you?
[Jacqui] I had predominately worked in big corporate organisations before starting my own HR consultancy biz to help small businesses and was lucky enough to get the opportunity to assist Bondi Sands early on in their journey with building their team. Eventually I realised that 99% of my time, not to mention my heart & soul, was invested in the business and people in it, that I knew I had to be a part of the team myself. Opportunities to be a part of a company riding a huge wave of global growth don’t come around often, and there’s just so many learning experiences and ways that you can have an impact that make it a passion project more than a job.
[Alexandra] I joined Bondi Sands just under 5 years ago and at that time we were a very small team of 4 including the 2 co-founders. Since then, the brand has experienced incredible growth both locally and internationally and we are now a team of over 45 across 3 offices in Melbourne, London and Los Angeles. For me, being on that journey keeps me inspired and motivated every day. Reflecting on where we came from, where we are now and where we plan on going in the future makes me excited and energised for work everyday. The business is led by our 2 co-founders (Shaun Wilson & Blair James), who are both very driven and inspirational leaders and having the opportunity to work alongside them is such a unique and valuable experience. They are both very involved with the brand and learning from two young, successful leaders really inspires me.
What challenges have you had to overcome on your career path - especially navigating male dominated industries? [Jacqui] I would have to say that working in these environments has been more character building than challenging. I quickly learnt to navigate such industries by building resilience and developing a more ‘masculine’ work style required in these cultures and characteristic of last decade/s so as to earn respect for my work. This was however to the detriment of being true to myself and being feminine, which thankfully women don’t have to subscribe to anymore. Men predominately holding most of the leadership roles when I started in corporate over 2-decades ago really forged my passion for supporting women in the workplace and championing the need for organisations to create an environment that is conducive to this. To work for a company like Bondi Sands where we have 80% women is reflective of just how far we have come as a society.
[Alexandra] The most challenging part of my career has been being patient and trusting the journey to finding my dream role. As a graduate, I was struggling to find a marketing role in an industry or company I was interested in and ended up taking a sales role just to get started (and out of retail at Christmas time!). I didn’t enjoy that though and quickly started looking for a marketing role again. A few months later, I did secure a marketing assistant position and I was there for just under 12 months when I made redundant due to the company losing a big account myself and others were working on. This was a huge shock to my system and really rattled my confidence. At the time, I felt like I would never get into a beauty specific marketing role like I had dreamt of and felt really stuck and frustrated. However, within a few months through a contact, I was recommended for a marketing role at Bondi Sands and haven’t looked back since! Looking back now, I know everything always works out the way it’s supposed to and had it never been for that redundancy, I wouldn’t be sitting in my dream role now.
It's been a rollercoaster year (to say the least!) what have you learned on both a personal level and from a business perspective?
[Jacqui] Definitely a rollercoaster year, especially for my fellow Melbournians! It’s taken working-parent to a whole new level as we navigated it all under one roof. I have definitely learnt to slow down with the family and get creative with our time by enjoying the simple pleasures in life like playing board games, baking cakes, and taking long walks together – hobbies that I hope will continue. From a business perspective, I’ve learnt that being adaptable and embracing change is a critical attribute of a successful business today if you want to survive. We moved our entire workforce to home working like many others and digitally transformed relatively seamlessly, allowing us to work seamlessly and most importantly, stay connected via video technology. I feel this has all been something that will change the nature of our office and home/work environment forever.
[Alexandra] From a business perspective, we have been faced with many challenges this year and being agile and adaptable has become more important than ever. We have turned our plans completely upside down to adjust to the unpredictability of the current climate and have managed to do so quickly which has put us in a good position. From a leadership perspective, maintaining connection with my team as best I can remotely and ensuring everyone has a sense of clarity and comfort with the change in direction has been critical. I am always mindful that people adjust differently to change so checking in regularly and providing support is always at the forefront of my mind.
Personally, I have learnt the importance of work life balance. It is very easy to do long hours and not switch off when you’re working from home as the temptation to send just one more email is always there. I make a conscious effort to do something for myself each day, which generally starts with a morning walk. Learning to relax and go with the flow has certainly been a change for me as I thrive on structure, planning and typically travel a lot internationally for work so staying put for a long period of time has taken some adjustment. This year has been quite grounding as all these restrictions have made me grateful for the more simple things in life!
What can we expect from Bondi Sands to meet consumer demands of transparency and sustainability?
[Jacqui] Our brand prides itself on listening to the customer, which steers towards the Gen Z & millennial age group who are leading the way on these demands. As a vegan-friendly and cruelty-free brand, we are only just starting to advertise these product features out now for the purpose of transparency. When it comes to sustainability, our consumer is a big advocate for the environment and we have a responsibility to not just them, but our planet, to make sure we are playing our part as a consumer goods business by using sustainable packaging. We are also in the process of digitally transforming our internal processes to avoid the use of paper and create a ‘green’ culture in the office.
[Alexandra] We have some really exciting plans over the next 12 months in relation to both transparency and sustainability. We are always listening to our community and we know there is an appetite for this. We have sustainable business practices in place currently and pride ourselves on being certified cruelty free and vegan*, we offer a reef friendly sun care range and many of our products both existing and soon to launch in market are made from recyclable materials however we are excited to provide even more transparency for our customers in the coming months. I can’t reveal too much just yet but sustainability is a strategic business priority so watch this space. (*excluding sun care containing natural beeswax)
As women, you would be well aware that we are faced with and are constantly consuming a lot of information and misinformation surrounding body image via traditional and social media. How have you approached this? Is this something that has informed the way you, or Bondi Sands as a brand, acts and reacts within the industry?
[Jacqui] Body image has been an enduring issue faced by women for decades through advertising platforms and social media just gave it a 24/7 platform accessible to young teenagers, which brings an enormous responsibility to brands targeting women. I am proud that Bondi Sands promotes diversity with its choice of models and range of product. Our mission is to help our consumer feel confident by using our products and the team work hard to ensure they deliver on this.
[Alexandra] As a brand, we understand the responsibility we have to our incredible community and brand voice. We are mindful of body image and aim to create positive spaces, conversation and experiences with our brand where our customers feel supported, represented and confident. As a core brand value, ‘confidence’ underpins what we do and the feeling we seek to bring to our customers everyday. One example of how we bring this to life is through our ‘Babes who Bondi’ Facebook group which is a private group that allows members of our community to have open conversations with each other, share photos, reviews, feedback, and advice. We are extremely proud to facilitate and nurture our incredibly positive and supportive community.
What would your advice be to young women just starting out their careers with big dreams of growth and opportunity?
[Jacqui] Dream big; as the world is your oyster. You are free to be whatever and whoever you want to be and don’t let anyone tell you different. You just have to be willing to work hard, go above and beyond in your role to standout, always be open to learning, and say yes to opportunities - as you never know where they will take you. Remember, you make your own luck.
[Alexandra] My advice is to be patient, always try and go that extra mile for your team and take something positive from each role you find yourself in. Not every job will be your dream role however it is important to be present, learn skills that are adaptable for future roles and work hard to stand out with a great work ethic and positive attitude. From my experience, a great attitude and a willingness to help out and be a team player will get you noticed and you never know when someone might think of you for a position or recommend you to someone based on a positive experience with you.
What are your top three mindfulness and self-care tips for young women out there?
Exercise: find a few different physical exercises that you like and get moving. It helps you get out of your head after working all day and release all those good endorphins.
Music: I find this lifts my mood incredibly and is a form of meditation to me. Possibly not to others when I sing.
Phone a friend: girlfriends just know how to lift you up and give you a laugh.
Sleep: Getting enough sleep and allowing your body to recharge is so important. If you are exhausted and run down you can’t give 100% to anything you are doing, so prioritising sleep is number one for me.
Move: Exercise is an essential part of my life and I set myself up for the day by going for a morning walk. This time alone allows me to clear my head and prepare myself mentally for the day. Exercise is also great for stress relief, so anytime I feel overwhelmed I to go to the gym or do a home workout (even if I don’t feel like it) and I always feel so much better for it.
Relax: Take the pressure and expectations off yourself. We are our own worst critics and often feel that we should be doing more or in a different place in our lives by a certain age. Everyone has their own journey and own unique timeline. One of my favourite quotes is ‘comparison is the thief of joy’ by Theodore Roosevelt. Looking at what others are achieving doesn’t take away from who you are or what you are doing, so it is important to focus on what you want and be proud of where you are at.
WORDS | Lucy Francis, TLSE
INTERVIEWEES | Jacqui Bradler, Chief People Officer and Alexandra Peek, CMO
IMAGES | Supplied, Bondi Sands