This week on the Home Life Series we’re hanging out in the chicest Collingwood apartment with business guru, Anna Mackenzie.
Anna is the true embodiment of work-hard, play-hard, with her fingers dipped in many career pies. From launching UNIQLO in Australia, to designing Mecca's store of the future, to co-founding the popular business podcast lady-brains, Anna sure knows a thing or two about business.
When Anna invited us in for a tour of her modern inner-city apartment with uninterrupted city views, a rooftop pool AND a jacuzzi, how could we say no? We talk all things business, from how she got her foot in the door, moments of doubt and advice she’d give to fellow entrepreneurs.
Let’s kick things off with a little bit about you - please introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your epic career journey to date.
Thanks for having me! I’m Anna - a founder and startup consultant in an ongoing relationship with writing. I’ve had a pretty interesting career journey so far. My first job out of university was with fashion retailer UNIQLO, and I was hired as part of the founding team to launch the brand in Australia. I lived for six months in Singapore and Tokyo and it was my first peek into how a global brand operates across different cultures and markets. After a brief detour into recruitment I landed my dream job at MECCA where I worked with the founder, Jo Horgan, to design and deliver the beauty store of the future. A big part of my role was uncovering the coolest things that retailers were doing overseas, and I spent a large part of my time travelling to New York, LA, London, Paris, Amsterdam, Singapore, Bangkok…you name it, I went there. It was a dream job!
While I was at MECCA my friends and I started a passion project - the lady-brains supper-club - which was a dinner series for entrepreneurial women to connect and share ideas over yummy food and wine. This event series eventually spun out into a top rated business podcast. We had some wild moments including flying to New York to interview a guest in the Hamptons, and landing a partnership with Afterpay Australian Fashion Week.
These days, I’ve built what I call a ‘Portfolio Career’. I have my fingers in many pies: I consult for startups across Australia and the US, freelance write for publications like Fashion Journal and Smart Company, and I write a weekly newsletter Anna Mack’s Stack; my place on the internet to share insights and ideas across career, business, personal growth, creativity…and everything in between.
You’ve co-hosted one of Australia's top business podcasts lady-brains, and have had some pretty incredible guests including our very own co-founder Alex! What has been the biggest lesson you've learned from the many founders you've spoken with?
I’ve learned thousands of lessons from speaking to over 100 brilliant founders on the pod, but the one that’s on my mind right now is to make time for creativity, even when faced with an endless list of to-dos. For the business owners reading, another way of framing this is to take time to work on your business, rather than just in it.
One of the biggest struggles founders face is how to allocate their most scarce resource - time. In fact, to be honest, I’d say most of us deal with this challenge on the reg. When we’re drowning in responsibilities we often tackle what’s directly in front of us, but urgent tasks are usually not the ones that will actually move us forward.
I recently wrote a Substack piece titled ‘Why creativity is a lifeline when I’m drowning in responsibilities: how I make time to be creative when I have none’. In it, I talk about the fact that when I take time out of my busy schedule to reflect and tap into my creativity, even if just for a few minutes, that’s when I have my best ideas and find strategic solutions to my most stressful problems.
It’s counter intuitive but taking time out helps you to move forward. No one has life-and-business epiphanies staring into a spreadsheet ;)
Can you share any moments in your business or writing journey where you doubted yourself / what you were doing, and how you got through it?
Is it too dramatic to say all the damn time?!
Since writing and publishing frequently, I’m constantly questioning whether I’m good enough to write, smart enough to have opinions, or interesting enough for people to listen to. It’s bloody hard putting yourself out there but over the years I’ve come to learn that it’s natural to doubt yourself when you’re doing something new. In fact, I now see self-doubt as a signal that I’m doing something right; that I’m on the path towards bigger and better things. Unfortunately there’s no shortcut to confidence. The only way I’ve found to overcome my doubt is to listen to my internal self-sabotaging monologue and do the thing anyway. The only way out is through!
As someone who's been in the startup game for a while, what’s one piece of advice you would give to anyone trying to start their own brand?
My biggest piece of advice is to welcome problems with open arms. Don’t try to avoid them because you’ll only work yourself into a frenzy (trust me, I’ve been there). In business, problems are inevitable. They’re part of the process of creating something from nothing.
The goal of building a brand isn’t to prevent fires from igniting, it’s to extinguish them one by one and to try and avoid burning yourself along the way.
You have easily scored one the coolest inner-city apartments we’ve ever seen! With a rooftop pool, teppanyaki grill and gorgeous city views being just a few of the incredible features. What do you love most about this spot and why?
I’ve been a south-sider most of my life but recently my boyfriend and I made the trek up north to Collingwood and we haven’t looked back! Our apartment is a stone’s throw from Gertrude Street and I spend a lot of time people-watching at Builder’s Arms, slurping bowls of hot broth at Shop Ramen and perusing the eclectic thrift stores on Smith. We moved into our building over a year ago and while at first I was hesitant about not having a proper backyard, I quickly came to love apartment living. It helps that our place is epic! The front door is about 15 metres from our rooftop pool and jacuzzis, and you’ll often find me soaking in the hot tub on a chilly evening with a glass of wine, or sunning myself in a cabana and taking a midday dip between meetings.
My favourite thing has to be our floor to ceiling windows and uninterrupted view all the way out to the Dandenong Ranges where I grew up. In the mornings, I love sitting on my big white chair with a freshly brewed coffee, the morning sunlight on my face, watching the hot air balloons meander by.
With the festive season upon us and summer around the corner, what are you most excited about for the coming months?
Sadly I’ve just had surgery on my knee so the next few months will be focused on recovery, but I’m looking forward to the moment I can get back on my standup paddle board!