Serial entrepreneur and Founder of Freelancing Gems Fleur Madden shares her business insights garnered over two decades of running her own businesses.
You have founded many successful businesses. Where does your passion and energy come from?
I see the opportunities and gaps in the market all the time – it is how my brain works. Both of my parents are business owners and my grandparents were business owners, so I was born into generations of an entrepreneurial family. It is engrained in who I am. Developing a new business, scaling that business and the up and down rollercoaster of that journey is where I thrive. You don’t get used to the massive highs and crushing lows however which is part of every entrepreneurs path. There is a saying “no one ever drifted to the top of the mountain.”
What have been some interesting lessons you have learned along the way?
Oh gosh over two decades in my own business, so many! There are a few sayings I remind myself of which have meaning for me because of my experiences.
- “Don’t play small” is my current favourite and I remind myself of this constantly.
- “No one is coming to save you” is another one. A wise friend in business said that to me nearly a decade ago and it changes how I look at tough situations. I know I have everything I need to turn something around, so put on your big girl pants and get it done.
- The saying “Those mountains you’ve been carrying around you were only supposed to climb” I heard recently and I thought was a good one for perspective. If you choose not to carry a challenge or burden, but to overcome it, it totally changes your mindset. I have certainly carried many mountains I should have just climbed.
Tell us about your latest project Freelancing Gems and the catalyst for starting it.
Freelancing Gems is home to Women’s Recruitment in Australia. We are Australia’s first digital jobs marketplace for freelancers, consultants, sole traders and side hustlers. We champion women to find their next meaningful job/ role and connect them with Australian employers/ brands. Last year we placed hundreds of women in new roles.
We are passionate about the future of work for women and indeed that women are paid what they are worth. Did you know, female freelancers charge 38% less than their male counterparts? We are here to change that.
This year we also launched our recruitment services division, Gem Recruitment, to cater for placing women in permanent parttime and fulltime roles. This rounds out our service offering making us a talent destination to connect with professional women if you need a freelancer, part timer, consultant or fulltimer.
I started Freelancing Gems with my cofounders because we saw the gap in the market – there was no digital jobs platform for women in Australia. We launched during Covid when there was a million women in Australia out of work, so while a dreadful time in the world, it was the right time to be supporting the future of work for women.
What do you see as the trademarks of a great leader?
- Someone with a great vision, but who can also execute that vision.
- Someone who inspires others to be the best of them. I always say to my team when they start in any of my businesses, you are here to do the best work of your career. And I mean that. It is my responsibility to also give them the opportunity to be the best of themselves though too.
- Someone who gets in the trenches with the team when they are needed. I never expect anyone to do anything I haven’t already done, or wouldn’t do.
- Someone who evolves. Times have changed in 20 years in business. The way I operate now in this environment, isn’t who I was 15 years ago or even 5 years ago.
What was a really difficult business issue that you encountered and how did you overcome it?
I have had four businesses, but this is the first I have had to raise capital for in order to scale quickly to maintain our market position. I find the raising capital situation challenging, mainly because the statistics don’t lie. Only 2% of Venture Capital ever goes to female founders, so try being a female founder raising capital for a business that also supports women who work. The concept of women and work not being a charity seems to blow people’s minds. I haven’t experienced so many roadblocks, unprofessionalism and sheer sexism in all my years in business as I have while preparing for a capital raise. I am scaling Freelancing Gems to sell it in time and when I do, I intend to be an investor who prioritises female founder businesses, so I can do my bit to correct this wrong in the market. There are some wonderful people out there also doing this and I thank them on behalf of all Female Founders.
Who is your greatest source of support and inspiration? How have they supported you?
I would say my husband. I honestly believe who you have as your partner, IF you have one, is directly aligned to your level of success, whether they build you up, or hold you back. My husband always pushes me to keep going or get back on the horse if I ever waiver or am having a bad day. You need that person in your life, whether it’s a friend, parent, partner, who calls you out when you want to play small. He doesn’t let me play small because he knows what I am capable of.
My business partner Kirsty and I are also great support to each other, when one is down, the other is up which makes for a great partnership when you balance each other. We also laugh a lot, I swear and then we move on. We are good with putting on our big girl pants.
What is the secret to sustainable growth? What was your experience?
In any business setting up the systems and operations early to prepare for growth is the key. Always operate like you are running a bigger business so when you start to take off, you are in the best position to capitalise on the opportunity. This has always been something I have been proud of in our businesses, our worldclass systems.
What advice would you give to someone whose business is stuck in a rut? What can they do to create a catalyst for positive growth?
Step outside your business and network and seek inspiration from others. Attend events, listen to podcasts, sign up for masterclasses, get a mentor. When you are a business owner it is on you to level up and it is easy to just coast along when you have no one to answer to. But you have a responsibility to yourself and even your family to be the best of you. Set some goals, what is something you could do this week that would enhance your business? Now get to it!
How did you discover Rare Birds and what made you want to be an Ambassador?
I have known Jo in business for many years and indeed both our businesses share similar values when it comes to supporting women at work in different ways. I am delighted to support Rare Birds in big ways and small because of the impact we can have together when we champion women.
If you would like to join us as a Rare Birds Ambassador and make an impact on economic equality, we would love to hear from you! We are looking for champions of change who will advocate for us, amplify our message and help us reach more female founders, innovators and leaders. Get in touch HERE.