“Take the emotion out of it”: Julie Mathers on selling Flora & Fauna for $30m

“Take the emotion out of it”: Julie Mathers on selling Flora & Fauna for $30m

Flora & Fauna founder Julie Mathers.

After spending seven years building the foundations of vegan beauty and lifestyle retailer Flora & Fauna, Julie Mathers sold her business for around $30 million to natural products player BWX (ASX: BWS) last year.

A successful self-made businesswoman, Mathers tells Business News Australia she initially reached out to investors for capital, but was approached with an offer that forced her to assess the value of her thriving e-commerce brand and whether she was willing to keep it.

“Originally, I was looking for investment. We'd spoken to private equity players. BWX heard I was doing that and then approached me with the offer to buy us outright," says Mathers, who will share all the details of her journey at the intimate E2E Summit on 16-17 February at the ivy in Sydney.

“I think it's really important to be open-minded about the different options that could come your way. We ended up going down a really different path because of the conversations we had and the people we met.

“Another big point is to try and take the emotion out of it. Whatever you think your business is worth is very personal to you, but the market determines what it is worth.”

Based in Sydney, Flora & Fauna focuses on sourcing the best ethical, eco, organic and vegan products, offering a range of more than 9,000 products and 300 brands.

Set up with the help of Mathers’ husband Tom Abraham - who handled operations and finance - Flora & Fauna was entirely bootstrapped until the takeover, which saw 47 employees join the BWX business post-acquisition.

“We never took investment - not a cent. Neither of us comes from family money...I had put some of my savings into F&F and we worked out of our shed and did everything on a shoestring. We didn't pay ourselves for four years so we could invest any profit back into the business to grow it. It's so crucial to build the foundations as strong as you can," explains Mathers.

At the E2E Summit Mathers will give an overview of how to negotiate a successful business exit, as well as what it takes to build a purpose-driven business in a saturated digital market comprising millions of websites battling for consumer eyeballs.

Under her leadership, Flora & Fauna amassed 94,000-plus active consumers and offset all carbon emissions to achieve Certified B Corporation status in 2017 - meaning it meets the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.

“Community was a huge focus at Flora & Fauna. We weren't just a website selling stuff. We focused on solving problems and giving solutions through things like our recycling programs,” Mathers says.

At the event Mathers will also be sharing her views on the ever-changing e-commerce market.

“I've worked in retail now for 30 years - I absolutely love what you can do in it. I love the change. When I started there was no online, it was all stores. What drives me inside is driving change and building brands,” she says.

That passion is exactly what drove her to take on her latest venture - babywear brand Snuggle Hunny Kids, which Mathers acquired 10 months ago in partnership with Melbourne-based family office Arcus Partners for an undisclosed sum.

“The first thing I did was just ask our customers and our stockists: What do you love? And what could be improved? Let's not make assumptions about anything.”

This is just a sample of what Mathers will discuss in her E2E session and the questions she will be able to cover. In summary, her session will explore:

  1. How to build a successful purpose-driven business and stand out from the competition;
  2. How to navigate the evolving e-commerce market and negotiate a successful business exit; and
  3. The mistakes to avoid when running an online enterprise

So what are you waiting for? Click here to join us at this two-day summit where Mathers will be one of many amazing founders giving her insights to help rocket your business forward in 2023 and beyond.

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