I WAS A FAN OF ZOË FOSTER BLAKE, from her early columns. I would see Zoë at Sydney social events, she would have had no idea who I was, and I was far too scared to go & introduced myself - Until many years later at a race day in Melbourne. Maybe is was because I was a few years older & more akin to being a normal person at events & introducing myself to people I wanted to meet, or maybe it was the 4 glasses of champagne, either way, I waltzed over to her & introduced myself. Her first words to me where 'OMG. I have been researching you & your jewelry for inspiration on a character in a novel I am writing where the main character is a jewelry designer!... Oh and sorry about my orange tinge; Spray tan gone wrong. How are you!?!?'. Zoë is one of the funniest, down to earth & most hard working people I know. It is an honor to have her featured here - I know you will enjoy her story....
NAME: Zoë Foster Blake
TITLE(S): Author and CEO and Founder/Tyrant/Cutie of Go-To
How would you describe yourself in 5 words? Grateful, lucky, fun-seeking, busy, peckish.
What is the long version of how you got to where you are today?
I was born in a small country town in NSW called Bundanoon, last in a blended family of eight kids. I spent my childhood devising complex mathematical and scientific theories that essentially revolutionized neurosurgery, as we know it, and making up lies about how I spent my childhood for any interviews I would do later in life. I moved to Sydney for Uni, completed an instantly obsolete degree (BA in Media and Comms) and started working in magazines at 21, graduating from kids, to teens, then glossy fashion titles like Cosmopolitan and Harper’s BAZAAR, where I held the beauty director position. In 2007 I (controversially, because this was back when online people were viewed as scum) quit my post at BAZAAR to launch and edit Primped.com.au, which was basically a huge, financed, fun, mega-version of my beauty blog, fruitybeauty. I had free reign, great staff, and a shittonne of fun.
During all this I was writing books on weekends and at nights, and have so far published four novels and two non-fiction books. I had superhuman levels of drive (and time, apparently) in my twenties, which I am deeply grateful for, cos it waned as I got older/when you add children/a business to the mix, and it really helped to set me up to be able to do what I wanted to in my thirties. To take risks, and be picky with projects.
In 2012 a friend asked why I didn’t launch my own skin care line, since I was always telling her what to do with hers. With her help I found a chemist and a manager, added my ecommerce/web genius into the mix and in 2013 started Go-To, an online-only skin care company of all-natural essentials. My knowledge of skin care, my relationship and engagement with the girls who had been reading my beauty articles and book for years, and my love for and experience in digital had all been heading towards it, I suppose. We launched in 2014 and our growth and success has floored all of us, but especially me. I love Go-To because I want girls to use good skin care that actually works, I get to put my wild ideas for products into reality, I get to have fun with the customer, and finally, I get to be the copywriting and marketing hero I always secretly thought I was. It's a LOT of work, but so worth it. Of course, my team makes it all possible. I’d just be a girl with an idea without those rascals.
I think it is really important people can explain their main message in a concise paragraph – if the above is the full version - What is you elevator pitch on what you do?I am an author and writer, who is the CEO and founder of her own skin care business, Go-To. I delight in communicating and playing with readers and customers. My muse and my goal is fun.
Are you doing what you thought you would be doing 10 years ago? (If not, what did you think you would be doing?) This is a question I find hard to answer truthfully because I don’t look forward that far. Even looking a year ahead feels claustrophobic. I subscribe to: ‘do what you’re doing now and make that good’ and believe the rest takes care of itself if you nail that.
What does ‘success’ mean to you, and do you consider yourself ‘successful’? Success to me means being able to do what I love to do, feel proud of my work, and have an audience. It would be more impressive to say that I don’t care about having readers or customers, but I love knowing they’re enjoying themselves in the output process, just as I did in the input process. Some writers and creators can happily write for themselves and solely their own pleasure, and look, I have a wonderful time creating my work, but that’s only half of it: I want it to be read, too. Do I feel successful? I feel like I have been productive, and that’s important to me.
What do you still want to achieve? (personally & / or professionally) I’ve taken a bit of a hiatus from writing books because my head has been busy with my adorable progeny and Go-To, but I have some things I want to do in publishing. Also, I have an App idea I keep parking that I know is a ripper, and the second I “find some spare time” HA HA HA AS IF I will get onto that. (It’s called Meowlarm and alerts you when it’s time to feed the cat. DON’T STEAL MY IDEA, SAM.)
Did you study anything specific for the career you are in? Uni was enjoyable, but vocationally meaningless. I learned what I needed to for Go-To on the job, working as a beauty journalist, and as for writing, well, I tend to think you can write or your can’t, and my father is an exceptional writer, so I thank him enormously for the writey genes.
What have been the most rewarding things in your career to date? I love when girls tell me they enjoyed or got something out of my writing, or their skin is looking DOPE cos of Go-To. You always secretly hope that what you do might create positive results, but it’s always a huge thrill and bonus when it actually does.
Tell us about your workspace (Office / café / couch / aesthetic) what inspires you about your workspace? I have a home office, which I have made alluring with gorgeous wallpaper and attractive ornaments and art… but I still do my best work in cafes or on flights.
What are some frustrations you have experienced on your career journey? Well, last week I ordered a new ruby-encrusted yacht, and they used emeralds instead. I was furious.
When was the last time you where overwhelmed & cried from something provoked by work / work load? Now that I’m a mother, it takes more than just work to make me fall in a heap. I’m stronger and more resilient in a lot of ways. (Better at hangovers and no sleep, for example.) So when I do lose my shit it’s usually a motley combination of tiredness, hormones and workload.
Would you say you put pressure on yourself? Has this gotten more or less as you progress in your career? Absolutely. I have been my own boss for a long time, and when it’s your book, or your column, or your skin care company, and your face and name are attached (you obviously would have no concept of this, Sam), and only you are responsible for the quality of the work, or the timeliness in which said work is submitted, then I think pressure is necessary. It certainly has not lessened; in fact now that I have a team relying on me, it has probably increased. I see an email come in, and feel I have to respond instantly. It’s so gross.
As a business owner, you often can’t just check out / have a week off when you are dealing with personal things – how do you keep on keeping on with your business when things get tough? I have a wonderful team who are very protective of me. Also, they all have kids, and know what it’s like when your baby is sick and you have to disappear for a few days. I am too hard on myself, unnecessarily conscientious probably, which could be viewed as a negative, but I believe it’s what got me to where I am today. That and self-discipline. And coffee. And croissants. Also, wine.
Has your career affected your personal life / relationships? If so how? I think it’s more the reverse. My husband’s unwavering support and enthusiasm and belief in me makes me feel like I am invincible, and when we got together, that’s when I really started to bloody go for it.
Has your journey at times felt lonely? How? No. First because I enjoy my own company, but also because I have been so supported, from family and friends and my husband, and I am deeply grateful for this. Also, my work is very ‘up’, I write and do fun things for a living, so even if I do have a tiny lonely moment being a stay at home writer/boss/mother/juggler, it’s short-lived, because I know how lucky I am to be paid to write what is essentially nonsense.
What causes you sleepless nights? Unanswered emails, work that is not done but needs to be, errands I’m yet to do, things around the house that need doing, things I said I’d do but haven’t, texts I need to write back to, any public speaking I have coming up, general too-much-shit-on-at-onceness, and my son if he has decided to grow some more teeth.
If you had your time over again, from when you started your career to right now, would you do anything differently? This might sound arrogant, but that’s only because it is: No. I am proud of my path, my mistakes, my successes, my learning and my productivity, and feel extremely #blessed with who and where I am.
What advice would you give your 21 year old self? No one is thinking about you. They’re thinking about their shit. So stop imagining that everyone or in fact anyone cares about what you’re doing/wearing/saying. You’re funny, and curious, and determined, and smart, and young, with a fantastic, fit little body: utilise these blessings every day. If a boy seems to be mistreating you, or being dodgy, or your gut is whispering to you that he a skunk, then listen, because he is. Also: buy some shares in Google and Apple.
Who are some women in business you admire & why? I admire women who work hard, and do innovative things, and who test themselves and their creativity in different fields, and who are generously and meaningfully philanthropic, and who aren’t afraid to take risks, and who trust their gut that something might work, so why not give it a go. Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Lena Dunham, Tavi and Kristen Wiig are my professional idols, but I have a whole pool of cool girls around me doing great things by combining talent with authenticity, discipline and confidence, like Kate Reid from Lune, Lucy Feagins from The Design Files, Samantha Wills from this website, Clare Bowditch, Robyn Butler, Jane Kennedy, and so many more.
What traits do you admire in people you surround yourself with? Positivity, a desire to learn, wisdom, self-confidence, thoughtfulness, kindness, grit, a sense of humour and an ability to make cakes that I can then eat.
Work life balance… Does it exist (I don’t think it does!) and how to maintain it, or a sense of it? Of course it doesn’t, and it’s unrealistic and unhelpful to pressure yourself into believing you must maintain some magical threshold or else you’re somehow failing. I do the best I can, with the best intentions, to the best of my ability. My life is a gorgeous feast of my son and husband, my work, my business, my writing, my friends, family and self-care (exercise or rest), and I love all elements, and need all of them, and do my best to enjoy and be present in all of them, whenever and however it’s possible.
Have you ever thought about giving up / quitting? If so, does that feeling hit from the same triggers? Why haven’t you quit? And do what? No, no no. I love working, I love creating; I need new projects constantly. I have creative ADD, which may not necessarily be healthy, but it’s not something I can turn off, or even wish to.
What is the biggest misconception about what you do? Everyone thinks I am an oil baron who spends all day eating caviar, which is hurtful cos I only like it for afternoon tea.
What advice would you give someone who is starting out in your industry? My advice for those wanting to get into writing (or more recently, starting a business), evolves constantly, because the landscape does. I used to say, “Start a blog!” but certainly wouldn’t advise that now. I’d probably say: figure out what your superpower is, whatever you’re really good at and love doing, (Selling? Cooking? Organizing? Making people feel better?), then create a dream career based on that. But as you work on this dream, keep your day job. Don’t expect your passion to earn you a living; it’s unfair and unreasonable. It may, and very well could down the track, but it’s not a given.
If you knew what you know now, about how much work was involved to get you to where you are now, would you do it again or do something different, if so, what? Not at all. Hard work has afforded me the life I live and love. I enjoy the rush of finishing something I worked really hard on, and generally rush straight into a new project as soon as one is done. Get antsy otherwise. Annoying to others. Shop too much.
I like the quote ‘Don’t just have a job, have a purpose’ - What do you want your legacy to be? Yes, purpose sounds so valiant and romantic, doesn’t it… I’m not sure you get to choose your legacy; you can only do good work and hope something sticks. If I could choose a legacy, it would be that I found a cure for cancer and ended poverty. (Too much?)
The SAMANTHA WILLS FOUNDATION is about bringing women in business together – why do you think this is important / (why did you want to be involved in this interview)? I love supporting other women, full stop, whether they are in business or not. Sisterhood is such a vital, powerful, specific brand of camaraderie, and I advocate it strenuously.
What are some of your favorite quotes? I find the best ones come to me just as I need them. But for the longest time the one mum taught me as a kid, “What you think about, you bring about”, has been my mantra. (My brother’s “He who smelled it, dealt it,” less so.)