“Are you sure this is a good idea?” That was, by far, the most common response I received when first telling family, friends and colleagues that I’d decided to take a leap and join a little known app by the name of Her Black Book. A sceptical, raised eyebrow would often follow, with a curious, “So, what exactly is it?”
“It’s a shopping app!” I’d reply with excitement, and while the tone I’d present that statement with would suggest otherwise, that’s pretty much the only thing I knew about it when accepting the role. Of course, I knew the basics, that it was an app intended to help people save time and money, a new way of shopping that didn’t yet exist. But the other details — what it would look like, how it would all work, what exactly my role would entail, those were specifics I’d only come to know once diving in.
Odd right? But if how I got the job told me anything early on, it was that unconventional was a trademark of start-up life, especially one being helmed by the powerhouse, twin dynamo pairing of Sal and Julie (the very same, as many will know, behind athleisure giant Stylerunner).
My journey with HBB really began when not one, but two friends sent me an Instagram post, which featured a billboard emblazoned with the Her Black Book logo. Intrigued, already. Sal was on the hunt for someone who could take on a “BIG ROLE” at her soon-to-launch app.
A few Insta DM’s later, we scheduled in time to meet at a local Surry Hills cafe. If our unintentional matching outfits were anything to go by from that first meeting — both of us dressed in identical blue jeans, white tees, black blazers and boots — it was meant to be.
In what I’ve now learnt is typical fashion for HBB too, the job interview wasn’t exactly conventional, because the product only partially existed. Besides a few images that showed what I now know as a very basic look at the product, it was up to my imagination to fill in the blanks. A little nerve wracking to say the least when deciding on a career jump.
Shopping, made easy, that was the vision. I was hooked. Which, if you’ve ever met Sal or Julie, or have followed their journey since the early days of Stylerunner, you’ll know that one thing the two are exceptional at, is ideas that break moulds. I wanted in on the HBB dream.
Fast forward to my first day, I was excited, nervous, and with not a clue of what to expect. I’d also learnt in the weeks prior to starting, that start-ups don’t have the greatest of reputations, regularly being told horror stories by those who had entered into them, usually fit with tales of deranged bosses and long gruelling hours. Luckily, it didn’t take long to realise that wouldn’t be my experience at all.
The months that followed saw our tiny team build out that original vision. It was clear from the start, people wanted it — and they wanted it now. Our waitlist grew daily, we shot a campaign, got iconic brands, both local and global, to become early adopters, and even, once restrictions began to ease during the pandemic, launched IRL with the help of Samsung. Serious pinch us moment!
If that wasn’t enough to tell us we were onto something, it was nothing compared to launch day. Gathering at Julie’s house so we could send the app live together, we each took to my notes app to take a guess as to how many people would have downloaded it by the time we finished dinner. The answers, which are a little bit embarrassing to look back on now, ranged from 30 to 50. Safe to say, none of us were even close to a correct guess.
That night, and the week following, the app became the Number 1 app in the Apple Store under ‘Magazines & Newspapers’, and has only continued to grow from there, regularly making an appearance as the top app in ‘Shopping’ too.
In just 12 short months, the team has grown from three to 15, and now features more than 700+ brands. The business closed a capital raise and launched new features to the platform, including Cashback, brand pages and exclusive Shopping Festivals. We’ve partnered with some incredible companies, the likes of Afterpay Australian Fashion Week and Samsung, of which we were lucky enough to award two fellow female-founded businesses with grants worth $20,000.
Of course, it would be remiss to say it’s been all smooth sailing. There’s been long nights, countless “why did I sign up for this” moments, even a last-minute van drive through Sydney’s CBD to make sure goodie bags for an event were delivered on time.
It really is hard to believe it's been a year since we’ve been out in the world.
I’ll finish with one full circle moment that really sums up my experience so far. When I was in my early twenties, my mum gifted me a book, The Game Changers, by Samantha Brett and Steph Adams, which features a collection of the world’s most trailblazing women and their best advice and stories. I’d fill it with post-it notes and scribbles of those who left me inspired, regularly turning back to it when I felt I’d hit a standstill. Not only was it co-authored by Brett, the founder of Naked Sundays, a brand who has championed Her Black Book from our very first days, but Julie was one of the very women amongst its inspiring pages. I’m now surrounded daily by the women who have been sitting on my shelf for years.