After working in PR for over 15 years, Flaunter Founder and CEO Gaby Howard fostered a niche in her industry. As a publicist, frustrated by the challenges and lack of resources sharing brand assets with media and influencer networks, Gaby launched her platform as a definitive industry resource. As our recent partner in Parlour X Talks (spy Flaunter’s fabulous images and filmed footage here), Gaby shares just how she established her business and what components are necessary to keep striving forward.
What is your professional background?
Before Flaunter I spent years working in the communications industry with leading brands in the fashion, lifestyle, entertainment and not-for-profit sectors. After finishing a communications degree at UTS, my first PR role was at MFPR. I worked there for over five years. Maria taught me so much about PR – lessons and experiences I still think about every day. I then went back to Sydney University and completed a teaching degree. I know – it seems random given where I have ended up! I loved the idea of teaching but in practice, there were too many constraints for me. Maybe that was a sign…In 2009 I moved into the world of not-for-profit as a Director of Communications for the ALNF. We launched one of Australia’s most successful online fundraising initiatives – the Wall of Hands Indigenous literacy campaign was recognised with a United Nations Media Peace Award in 2010, in collaboration with The Sydney Morning Herald. It was an incredible role and company, but I missed working with fashion and lifestyle brands. So, I left and started a consultancy where I could do it all. Fast forward… Flaunter was launched in 2015 as I looked to try and solve some of the problems the PR industry was facing.
Can you describe the motivating factor behind the platform and how it came to be?
I wrote a long blog post on this a while back while taking part in Australia’s top start-up accelerator program – Startmate. Non-industry people really wanted to understand why Flaunter?Visual content is now the most powerful way for brands to express value, build trust, establish quality – and most importantly tell their stories. Knowing this, and working in PR, I’d become increasingly frustrated by the difficulty of sharing brand imagery and content with media, retailer, blogger and influencer networks. It was a mess – for everyone involved! Most often, all these incredible and useful assets lived in the dark corners of the emails and hard drives of publicists [me], marketers, photographers and brand owners. There was absolutely no way for media to access images [and associated credit details] on-demand in order to satisfy their ever-shrinking lead times. On the flip side, when brands and PR’s distributed their images they had no visibility and analytics on who downloaded their content and how it was used. What was the impact? After years of working in a broken system, it seemed like a good time to start working on a solution. I had thought to create an image library of sorts for my own clients, but after speaking with others in the industry it became clear that there was wider demand. And so off I went…
How intimidating did you find the process?
I was incredibly naive when I first started. Which really worked to my advantage in some respects – and was disastrous in others! I’m pretty sure I’ve made every first-time founder mistake known to man. But I’m still here. The more mistakes you make, the faster you learn [as long as you’re not regularly repeating the same mistakes. It wasn’t until about 6 months in that I started to fully appreciate everything I didn’tknow and some of the self-doubt crept in. The best advice I can give is this.
- Become comfortable with the discomfort. If you can do that, you know you can overcome most things.
- Focus less on starting, and more on lasting. Starting is the easy part of a business. Lasting [or surviving] is the hard part.
There are so manychallenges in a start-up. Sometimes it can feel like every day is an assault. The learning curve is astronomical. Things move fast. Nothing is ever certain. Everything feels like a risk. The best book I’ve ever read that describes the experience is The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz.
Define Flaunter in one sentence.
Flaunter is a technology startup transforming the PR industry.
Behind Flaunter is a talented team from all over the world from France to Argentina and India to the Philippines. What are your tips on bolstering the right team?
Growing a team has been one of the most rewarding, and challenging, aspects of my life as a new CEO. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have hired some amazing, passionate and dedicated people. We’re definitely a team who cheers each other on, every step of the way. People are everything to me. And I want the people who come on the Flaunter journey to feel that… acutely. To me, building a great company is a balance of two things:
- Being a commercially successful business with global reach. Yes, I want to build a business with a huge impact.
- Creating a workplace that people love, and thrive in.
Finding the right people comes down to a culture-first approach. I always look for cultural fit before skills. Being respectful, collaborative, flexible and setting high expectations are all important. Also: communicate! There’s no such thing as over-communicating, especially when you’re working with a global team and at startup pace.
What should we expect in the near future from Flaunter?
Lots! It’s still such early days for us. We are heads down on a huge product change at the moment, and then global expansion. The roadmap is really long, and very exciting.
What advice do you have for those wanting to start their own business?
Do your research. Know your market inside out, the size of the opportunity, your competitors… but most of all, your potential customers. Speak to hundreds of people if you can. Validate your early thinking quickly, without investing anything but your time. Once you’ve done that and still think you’ve got an idea worth pursuing, start small. Validate small pieces of the puzzle first and use that time to keep learning. Never stop learning!
And tips on balancing work with family?
Be ruthless with your time. I also find it easier to focus on one thing at a time, I feel far more productive. If I’m in work mode – I’m in the office and if I’m with the kids, I try to give them my full attention. I’m rarely trying to do both at once. Something I’m trying to get better at – taking time out every now and then to just breathe! Having a family and intense work schedule can feel like I’m constantly ‘on’… and if I’m pushing things too hard, I need to make sure I give myself the time to recalibrate. Everyone benefits.
The most rewarding moment so far has been…
That’s a really hard question! The journey itself is incredibly rewarding, as is working with such an amazing team of passionate people. There are moments I’ll never forget – our first paying client, our first download, on-boarding early team members. Recently a friend shared a screenshot of a conversation that some of her extended contacts were having on social media about Flaunter – asking each other if and how they’d used it in the past, if anyone recommended it, what the value was. The conversation was entirely positive – and it was pretty cool to see. We’re also listed as a skill now on LinkedIn profiles… that blows my mind.
Your style approach as a businesswoman and mum on the run?
I love clothes, and I love to feel comfortable so I can’t focus if my clothes don’t feel ‘right’. I really like the idea of a work uniform – a no-fuss approach to getting out the door in the morning. I haven’t entirely nailed it, but I find that tonal dressing is a step in the right direction. All black, or white, navy – and my strange new obsession with pink [which has filtered down into my daughter’s wardrobe too… even though I swore she’d never wear pink]. We’re a start-up so most days I can be pretty relaxed – which works well with kids too. And then there are the days where I need a strong piece of tailoring to get things across the line. I definitely buy less and think more about my environmental footprint. Wearing the same outfits on rotation is liberating. I know I’ve done well in the morning if Henri, my five-year-old, tells me I look like a princess. The right clothes can make you feel really powerful.