Pop Quiz, Monday with Philippa Giles, Founder and Managing Director at The Giles Apparel Group.
The Pop Quiz, Monday is a fun little exam that we love to give to savvy business owners. The examination is not a surprise after all since the interviewee already knew about the questions in advance. However, we can always pretend and have fun with the scenario of a young entrepreneur sitting in class nervously biting on their pencil. They are ready to take a pop quiz on a chapter that they were supposed to read the night before. Instead, they played Metroid all night on their SNES (Oops, this was me in high school). The real purpose of the pop quiz is that this is a fun way to introduce business tips from real-world experiences that you can not learn in a classroom. We want to thank our entrepreneur for being a good sport and volunteering their time to answer a few questions to help our community grow from their knowledge.
I want to introduce you to our guest today who will be taking our Pop Quiz Monday.
Can you please tell everyone your name?
What is your job role?
Founder and Managing Director of The Giles Apparel Group.
Tell us about your company?
The Giles Apparel Group is an Australian owned apparel business which believes women of all shapes and sizes should have the opportunity to access great quality, stylish clothing and express themselves in a way they choose. The key brand, a consumer-facing eCommerce platform, is called SISU & FINN.
What do you love most about your job?
The diversity of tasks each day. After 15-years in corporate communications, my day to day became very repetitive — the same problem dressed in a different colour jacket. At SISU & FINN, I have a broad view of the business and everything that happens within it. At times it can be overwhelming, but for me, it’s also exciting.
What motivates you to get up every day and go to work?
I fundamentally believe my business is improving the quality of life of plus size women around Australia. SISU & FINN gives me an opportunity to offer our customers a chance to dress in a way where they can express themselves. That right should not be just for a ‘traditional’ sized woman — whatever that means. For many, clothing is not just an item to wear; it’s a form of self-expression. When someone doesn’t have the opportunity to express themselves authentically, it can be crippling to their sense of identity. This mission is what drives me to get up, help others, and myself, every day.
How do your co-workers inspire you?
I feel so much pride when my employees are learning, laughing and believe in what SISU & FINN is doing, and trying to do. In turn, they also teach me; whether that be a skill, further developing my management style, and everything in between. How could that not be inspirational?
How do you have fun at work (team building, pranks, etc..)?
My team is very lean and passionate, so when you have people who believe in your mission, it’s so much easier to enjoy the day today. This allows for a great working environment. I love spoiling my team — whether that’s taking them to a hot new restaurant, sending them flowers, or enjoying a Summer Friday team activity. We joke around, laugh and we celebrate all the wins. Especially the small ones.
What are some of the challenges of your job?
Everything needs to be done now. As a startup which is rapidly growing, every part of the business needs attention. As helpful as my corporate comms background has been, there is so much more to learn when it comes to running a business; I have been forced to learn very quickly. I love it, but it can be difficult. You need to have a very strong sense of self. Otherwise, the constant challenges and uncertainty will destroy you.
What are some lessons learned from a past project that you can share with us?
For me, mission-critical tasks need to be done onshore and preferably onsite. Last week my whole site when down. My developer is based in the same co-working space, and he was able to look at the problem instantly. When I initially looked at hiring a developer, offshoring made the most sense financially. But some things are worth so much more than cash! I am very grateful I hired someone who was instantly accessible and committed to fixing the problem asap.
The other issue I am tackling is people. I recently hired a junior all-rounder based on instinct. The biggest lesson in this situation, and for where my business is now, is to trust my instinct. Skill can be taught but a commitment to you and the business, work ethic and values can not.
What advice would you give to someone who is starting in your industry?
You are in it for the long haul. Have access a personal support crew (to celebrate the highs and discuss the lows) and a strong sense of humor! Humor will get you through (almost!) everything. Grit is also an undervalued trait and the ethos my whole business is built on; ‘SISU’ is Finnish for grit.
Thank you for taking our pop quiz today. You get an A+ for effort. You can learn more about our interviewee and their business by visiting them on the web: