For the Founder Project this week, I had the opportunity to sit down with one of the rising stars in #startupaus, Gaby Howard, Founder and CEO of Flaunter. Flaunter is the leading platform for lifestyle brands and the best journalists, bloggers, influencers & stylist to come together to create, connect, and collaborate. It achieves this by providing a streamlined central hub for brands to upload and organise their hi res, media-ready content (photos, videos, documents and more!) and an easy-to-access system for media to follow, find, and download it.
Off the back of an $850,000 seed funding round, Gabby is in the midst of growing her team and expanding internationally.
How did you develop the idea for Flaunter and what drew you to this problem?
I was really just trying to solve my own problem…
After working in PR for over 15 years, 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] and brand owners. There was absolutely no way for media to access images 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.
How did you find your first few hires in the company?
All through recommendations. A hiring misstep earlier this year was an incredible learning experience. It solidified for me how important it is to hire for cultural fit first — skills second.
What was the catalyst that made you take the plunge and start Flaunter? What would you be doing if you hadn’t started it?
It was probably the moment when it became very clear that the problem wasn’t just my own. I had only recently started my own PR consultancy so I was already really focused on how to grow a business in the comms space. Obviously my curiosity around improved efficiencies got the better of me ;)
If I hadn’t started on this path I’d likely still be working for myself in some capacity.
But I love where I am today. And I’d like to think I would have found my way into a startup sooner or later!
What are some of your strengths that have helped you build the company so far?
It’s been a lifelong joke with family and friends that I am incredibly persistent. If I want something, I will usually find a way…!
- I am resilient and eternally optimistic. I am an abuser of the :) emoji
- I love connecting with people and I think this has helped me every day in building a new business
- I’m always happy to ask as many questions as it takes for me to understand something — ‘why’ is up there in my most frequently used words.
- I never shy away from asking for help
- I have built an incredible support network around me
- I LOVE what I do and the problem I’m trying to solve
How did you get your initial funding to get Flaunter off the ground?
Initially it was self-funded. I withdrew money from my mortgage — almost without hesitation.
What resources have been most helpful to you in starting up?
People. Family, friends, team, advisors, colleagues, acquaintances [if they’ll put up with me!].
Stories. We have such an incredible level of access to the stories [good and bad] of people who have come before us. I devour these kind of resources — particularly of people and businesses who are just a few steps ahead of me. They become incredibly tangible.
What has been the most surprising part of running your own company? What were you not expecting?
How much I’ve come to love feeling out of my depth, because with that often comes the incredible feeling of conquering something new.
Who have been your greatest mentors in this journey so far and what are the key things you’ve learnt from them?
This is a hard one! I think it goes back to your earlier question about what resources have been helpful — people! Lots of people. In the early days I took on board too much advice, in hindsight I sought out too many mentors maybe. I didn’t know SO MUCH, so every conversation was treated like a potentially life-changing moment ;)
Today it’s a little different. I’m more acutely aware of my blind spots and also where my ‘secret power’ lies… I have a handful of advisors that help me navigate the blind spots and then I have advisors who help me to keep on keeping on. I also have incredible investors.
I’ve learnt patience, to back myself, that no one ever has all the answers.
What piece of advice would you give to someone looking to take the leap into starting their own startup?
To be honest, when I first started, in those first few steps, I had absolutely no idea what the roadmap would look like. In hindsight, that naeivity was incredible useful!
Personally, I think you have to fundamentally believe that what you’re doing will make a real difference to the people you think you’re doing it for. For most of us it’s a long and challenging road to potential success. You’re tested at every turn so you have to feel like it’s a worthwhile pursuit.
Also — one step at a time! Yes dream big, but start small.