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Elle Macpherson: The important lessons I learned by becoming a businesswoman

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From licensing her name and image, to having her own ingestible beauty business, Elle Macpherson has learned a lot on her way to becoming a leading businesswoman.

In fact, the Australian supermodel likens her time in the corporate world to that of a journey.

"If we can see (business) as a journey with all its twists and turns, doubts and disappointments, successes and compromises, then each experience can be a point on that journey and it can give us context for our whole experience," Macpherson, co-founder of WelleCo, told CNBC's Tania Bryer last week at the EY World Entrepreneur of the Year 2018 Forum in Monaco.

Macpherson recalled having a "lightbulb" moment in 1989, when a small New Zealand company was trying to break into the Australian marketplace and needed a recognizable face to help grow its business. This is where Macpherson stepped in.

That moment, Macpherson said, allowed her to look at her options and decide what path she wanted to take. She went on to create her own eponymous company in the 1990s to manage her licenses and other opportunities.

Fast forward to 2014, and after switching to a new health regime, Macpherson co-founded WelleCo with Andrea Horwood and nutritional doctor Dr Simone Laubscher. The ingestible beauty business is now selling products to customers around the world.

Elle Macpherson
Peter Kramer/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank | NBCUniversal | Getty Images

For Macpherson, it can sometimes be the unexpected moments that can "make the best business decisions."

"I guess my lesson would be follow your heart, see business as a journey," she said, adding that one of the best pieces of advice she's ever received was: "'Let your heart decide what to do, and let your head decide how to do it' — and that has been my experience."

Doing what's best for the business

Being both a public figure and a businesswoman, Macpherson has monitored how the consumer environment adapts over time.

"I think that the advent of social media and the internet has had a huge change on the fashion industry, and particularly the modelling world," she said.

In the 1980s, the "more iconic you were, the more distanced between you and your public, the greater the success," Macpherson said, contrasting that with today, when the "closer, more connected you are with the consumer," the greater the success.

It's a lesson that has become essential to WelleCo, which is an online business.

Elle Macpherson Launches The Super Elixir at at Selfridges on May 22, 2014 in London, England
Eamonn McCormack | WireImage | Getty Images

"One of the greatest things that you can do in your business is to be able to adapt and evolve," she said, reflecting upon her business endeavors. "That is where I am today, we are working in a different landscape and being willing to adapt and willing to adopt new ways of doing things is very important in the evolution in business."

Adapting to new environments comes with new challenges, and for Macpherson, risk can sometimes lead to profit, and other times, wisdom — or a combination of both.

"I feel that when I have these challenges or I have to take a risk, I face it and embrace it and I see every opportunity as a moment to learn. I think that one of the only mistakes that we can make is not learning. There's no failures."

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