Discovering a niche in a highly competitive market is no easy feat. Entrepreneur and creative force, Hayley Bonham did just that; having established luxury and creative serviced offices, event spaces, a wellness studio and a soon-to-launch sustainable hotel with her partner Rory Elsom, all in the last four years. Amongst her many professional pursuits, we learn how Hayley conceptualised her business’ and balances the day-to-day.
You simultaneously creatively direct Bonel PR, work on freelance styling projects, oversee La Porte Space, are the co-founder of candle and fragrance house Maison D’Amore, and are now launching a new boutique hotel in Noosa, Maison La Porte… phew! How do you keep all the wheels turning?
With all of the business I work across, I am fortunate to have strong teams in place to help me facilitate and manage the day to day runnings of all areas of the businesses. This allows me the time to focus on my creative strengths across all platforms and ensure I am innovating and constantly moving forward.
How would you encapsulate all that you do?
I would best describe myself as a Creative Director. I am fortunate that all of my business and projects feed into one another so I can creatively direct and oversee.
Do you have a favourite child amongst your business interests?
Thats a tough one… I love working across all areas of La Porte Group, as it’s like a creative playground for me and I love collaborating on creative and innovative fragrance ideas for Maison D’Amore, with my business partner Nadia Rosa, as this ties into my styling and visual strengths.
How did you first get into the fashion PR business?
I was studying at FBI Fashion Collage and landed my first fashion position in international sales, and then PR and styling became more of an interest for me. I am very visual and like to be hands-on. To gain experience before launching Bonél PR I worked in-house [for brands] and also in PR agencies.
Who inspires you, professionally?
I have so many wonderful men and women I have had the privilege of working with and I continue to work with daily. My dear friend, Steve Cordony has supported my projects with La Porte and has been such a wonderful mentor and sounding board for me; helping me to develop my confidence moving from fashion into interiors. My mother who has managed her own businesses and also my partner Rory Elsom, who has been amazing to collaborate with throughout the journey of creating and launching all of our projects. We have have grown so much and learnt so much from each other.
What is your overarching goal with each of your business interests?
Each business is connected in someway, but each brand is very much its own unique entity with a very specific long-term goal. La Porte Space has recently reformed into La Porte group, and is where we are challenging the experience side of the hospitality, fashion and lifestyle. We will continue to open more La Porte Spaces, hotels and unique experiences; but all will have strong ethical standards in place, that support both the environment and our long-term goals for sustainability.
How important is social media to what you do, professionally?
I’m a little bit of a control freak with Instagram and social media. I sit across management and content creation for all of my businesses. I’m a big believer in being genuine and knowing what works for my businesses, I won’t post unless it’s something relevant or something I strongly believe our audience will engage with. Personally, I get disengaged when brands or people over-share. I think there is something refreshing about waiting or getting excited for a brand that organically posts beautiful, engaging and thought-out imagery.
What Instagram accounts are you inspired by?
Tell us a bit about Maison La Porte (if you can)…
I can tell you that we will be bringing a little slice of Europe to Australia, the inspiration definitely stemmed from a trip to Puglia in Italy. I loved the rawness of the landscape, the architecture, the food and the way of life. There was a very strong sense of respect for the land and the environment, and this is something I really want to promote with the launch of Maison La Porte. Sustainability is a big priority to me and my businesses partner.
Why did you choose Noosa as the location for your first foray into the accommodation business?
My partner Rory grew up in Noosa. We both wanted to open a hotel that encapsulated aspects of the hinterland and its beauty, but still have access to the stunning beaches and the chic costal vibe of Noosa.
You work closely with your fiancé Rory Elsom on La Porte, Bonel PR and now Maison La Porte. How do you manage the who-does-what for which business?
This is probably the one question we are both asked most. Rory is definitely the business manager; he keeps the wheels in motion on every level, from creating seamless systems to commercially managing all of the tenants and also the wider business aspects of the space.
I manage the creative side of the businesses, from interior design, collaborations and partnerships, to content creation and strategy. Rory is incredibly humble and really supports every decision I make. I think that’s why it works, we have a very strong bond and unbroken trust where we can both actively make decisions without always having to consult each another. We think very much in the same way.
Do you have any rules or guiding principles to help separate work-life from home-life?
We both love what we do, so a lot of the time it doesn’t feel like work. Rory and I both make a rule to have time apart to do our own things, whether that be exercising or hanging out with friends. It’s a healthy balance that works well for our professional and personal relationship.
What do you do in your downtime to unplug?
Netflix. I love watching documentaries. I also do pilates. We recently launched our own studio called La Porte Wellness to make it easier to create a work/life balance for myself and the creatives that occupy La Porte Space.