It was 2009 and Nyree Corby’s digital media agency, The Topia Project, had just gone into administration due to a combination of “youthful optimism, some bad debts and poor financial advice,” she explained at the time. This was the same company that had won Corby the Telstra Young Businesswoman of the year award just four months previously. Fast-forward seven years and this experience underpins the ethos of Corby’s new venture, the incredibly successful online custom dressmaker, Fame and Partners.
“Every failure is a learning experience; every success is a learning experience,” the seasoned entrepreneur tells us. “I’ve learned to not think of disappointments as failures but rather as opportunities to learn, grow, and eventually succeed. I am trying to build this culture into Fame and Partners; where we celebrate and learn from everything that went wrong… and right!”
And there is much to celebrate. Just two years after launching the on-demand, made-to-order retailer – which has achieved 400% growth year on year – Nyree managed to raise an impressive AUD$10.02 million from two US investors and subsequently relocated the company from Sydney to LA. Expanding into America was a feat, she says, that was achieved through a combination of dogged determination and a passionate belief in her brand.
It was while she was working as a venture capitalist – a job that meant she was paid to stay abreast of internet, commerce, retail and mobile trends – that Nyree had her ‘aha!’ moment. After reading a cautionary tale of one woman’s terrible experience of purchasing an evening gown online, the idea for Fame and Partners was born.
Upon researching further, Nyree discovered that while 20% of all clothing was eventually destroyed, 50% was sold at clearance, which meant that only 30% of clothing produced was sold as intended. “I discovered a huge imbalance in supply and demand in womenswear,” says the Australian, who also noted that return rates were at an all-time high.
Indeed, upon landing in the States, Nyree’s plan was a simple one: she wouldn’t return home until she had achieved what she set out to.
“The plan was to return to Australia only after I had secured funding,” she recalls, adding that she even had an open-ended plane ticket home. “I knew I needed to be prepared to travel and stay in the US as long as it took to close, despite the challenges running a company on the other side of the world.”
This gamble paid off, with venture capitalists telling Nyree that they often turned other Australian entrepreneurs away that didn’t demonstrate the same level of commitment.
But that wasn’t her only stand-apart tactic that won over her US investors.
“Focus and simplicity is what any investor is seeking. Find the [best] way to articulate what you are doing in under eight words and use this as your war cry,” Nyree urges. “US VC’s want to see a business that has global ambitions and a global opportunity; Australian VC’s are more risk averse and narrow in their focus (with an exceptional few) and so don’t be afraid to sell, sell, sell. They will also want you to be in close physical proximity which will mean a commitment to relocating.”
Which is exactly what Nyree did.
“The greatest challenge since relocating a team to Los Angeles and recruiting 20 people in the space of three months has been ensuring there is adequate time in all strategic plans to allow employees to sufficiently on board and find their natural cadence, whilst still achieving what the company needed to,” she explains. “I want to build a culture that is supportive and nurturing – to me, this is extremely important.”