The Body surely requires no introduction, but what of the business behind it?
Perhaps more successfully than many of her contemporaries, Elle Macpherson has parlayed her phenomenal career – now well into its third decade – as an iconic model into a burgeoning branding and business empire, culminating most recently in the launch of WelleCo and its flagship product, an alkalising greens supplement. In occasion of the arrival of Macpherson’s Super Elixir arriving exclusively in Double Bay’s Pam Pam boutique, GRAZIA spoke with Australia’s most indomitable modelling export about her career to date and the challenges of building a brand from scratch when your greatest asset and obstacle is you.
What was your very first job? How, if in any way, is it similar to what you do today? “My very first job was at a local pharmacy working Thursday nights and Saturday mornings. I made $13 per week and I felt mature, responsible and rich! When I was 17-years-old, I started modelling.
There is a huge difference between being a spokesperson for someone else’s business and starting your own. I’m not just the girl in the ads – I’m the girl in charge, on the board, part-owner of the company. I have always had an interest in the businesses behind the brands and I’ve experienced working for all the greats. I find that now I am able to put this experience into my business today.
I highly recommend for any woman who has a niggling feeling, a desire to do something for yourself to find what you love and do it – choose courage, it’s so rewarding. The feeling of purpose, the opportunity to work on something you are passionate about and the drive to do something meaningful is the best reason for taking the next step. If you’re going to work long hours you have to love it. And I do.
I appreciate being financially self-sufficient. I have worked since I was 17-years-old and it’s a good feeling. I choose to have people in my life because I love them, not because I rely on them for anything other than love and friendship. That’s quite liberating in my world.
The day to day of my current job as co-founder and creative director of WelleCo means I get to work with a truly energised and committed team to create a business from the ground up. It’s exciting. As a largely e-commerce business we see the day-to-day results of what we are doing, what people are responding to and what they’re not. The problem solving, day-to-day issues and problems to overcome; the hours contributed, the thrill of creation and when [WelleCo] is adopted by so many people, because they see benefits – it’s all part of the rewarding feeling at the end of the day.”
What has the process of getting WelleCo off the ground involved? Can you describe the process from ideation to inception; from the first spark of inspiration through to pitching this concept to investors through to completion? “I’ve always tried to live a balanced lifestyle, eat a healthy amount of nutritious foods, and stay active whenever I can. But sometimes, simply living a healthy lifestyle isn’t always enough.
Several years ago, despite my best efforts, I started feeling run-down. I tried an array of supplements, but nothing seemed to do the trick. No matter what I did, I just couldn’t shake the feeling that something was off.
That’s when I met Simone Laubscher, Ph.D., who specializes in the science of nutrition. She explained that there was one factor in my life that wasn’t balanced: my body’s alkalinity. My pH levels of acid to alkaline were off-kilter, causing my body to try to compensate. As she put it, my body was “working overtime, all the time,” leaving me feeling exhausted. Disease thrives in an acidic body, and I didn’t realise that stress, worry, jet lag, not getting enough sleep and eating too much red meat, dairy or not enough greens can make your body acidic. Dr. Laubscher devised a personalised blend of super greens (including barley grass, wheat grass and spirulina) for me.
We started to work on perfecting and balancing the most effective combinations of wholefood and organic ingredients as we went. This is where The Super Elixir born. We changed, modified and tested for years to find the perfect formula. In fact now if I leave home without my green drink in the morning, I turn and go back – my body actually craves it.
I set up WelleCo with my Australian business partner, Andrea Bux. We knew there would be easier products to start with, but our Super Elixir Alkalising Greens are the core of WelleCo and why we exist. I discovered the profound benefits of good nutrition and living alkaline and I wanted to share it. I have had an extraordinary couple of years – WelleCo celebrates its third birthday in May this year. I didn’t expect it to be so successful. Last year we stopped advertising and just let our customers tell their stories and it’s been the most powerful thing we could have done.”
What would you say to encourage other atypical entrepreneurs who aspire to your level of success, not only in your industry but beyond? “Find what you love and you will never work a day in your life. It takes commitment and a lot of hours but if you love it and you have passion, it comes naturally. There are plenty of ups and downs. Enjoy the ride. Be flexible and ready for an adventure!”
What lessons have you learned in your past endeavors that you’ve applied to the running of WelleCo? “I’m sure people see me as strong and confident, but believe me, I went through the same moments of nervousness and procrastination as the next person. Starting my own wellness company at 50-years-old, knowing it would be publicly scrutinised – the fact that there was such talent behind it, the nutritional doctors and PHD’s who worked on it, I was worried that such a good product and such a positive message could get lost. Even though I knew one day I would start my own business, this natural caution has held me back from certain steps in my life. Understand your strengths and step up when you have to, timing is everything. I also believe that taking on projects for love is important.”
What do you feel you still want to learn? “I am learning everyday, refining and evolving. Learning to be flexible, grounded and knowing how to deal with ‘what is’. The balance between making lists – and completing them – and ‘allowing’ things to unfold in natural timing is a fine line for me. I also would like to learn to be a better cook, more capable on my computer and to be more disciplined practicing my writing skills.
Have you had any mentors throughout your career? What’s the most important piece of advice they have given you? “I was lucky in my early career to be surrounded by clever people, and I learned a lot along the way from them all. There weren’t many models at that time who were starting their own businesses, so I did have to do lot of learning on my own too. I look up to wonderful entrepreneurial women like Diane von Furstenberg, and of course my WelleCo business partner Andrea Bux, who also started Invisible Zinc and Australian Style.
What’s the greatest misconception that you face in your line of work? If you could change one thing about your industry, what would it be? “You can’t go from the catwalk to the boardroom.”
What is the greatest challenge that you face on a day-to-day basis? “My biggest challenge on a day-to-day basis is learning not to take things personally. I try to find the light and humour when things get sticky – both personally and professionally. My biggest creative block is taking myself or situations too seriously.”
Finally, how do you see WelleCo evolving? “We are aiming at creating the world’s largest premium wellness company – somewhere you can find everything to make your every day life better, from organic whole food supplements, to an amazing veggie wash that removes pesticides, good honest kids’ nutrition, and everyday essentials like a healthy deodorant and toothpaste. We have all these lines coming to welleco.com over the next year.”
Tile and cover images: Courtesy of WelleCo