I MET BETH WHEN WE 21 & working the retail floor at Surf, Dive 'n' Ski. She has been one of my best friends ever since. Beth doesn't let anything stop her; she has big visions & little patience, a combination that I think is really powerful! In addition to creating & overseeing all the gorgeous Tigerlily retail stores, Beth also is in the start up phase of her own creative concepts company; Dos Palmas. I have such huge admiration for Beth, both personally & professionally. Here is her story on how she went from retail floor to running retail store across the country....
NAME: Beth Studerus
COMPANY(S): Tigerlily & Dos Palmas
TITLE(S): National Retail Sales, Ops & VM Director, TIGERLILY + Founder & Creative Director, DOS PALMAS
How would you describe yourself in 5 words? Creative, hard-working, empathic, relaxed, generous
What is the long version of how you got to where you are today? I discovered my love for all things retail at Surf Dive and Ski while I was a uni student. The company really focused on inspiring their people to be passionate about their brand. When I work for a company I have to believe in what they do, so that it inspires me creatively to bring the lifestyle they are selling to life. That’s why it’s so easy for me to do what I do at Tigerlily – I really live and breathe the lifestyle we inspire our customers to live. If I’m not working you’ll find me at the beach, or travelling when I can- it always involves the sun & a bikini!
After finishing my degree I moved into the world of visual merchandising. It appealed so much to me as I was able to integrate my love for retail while expressing my creativity through bringing the whole brand to life through our stores. When a customer walks in to a store I’ve created, I want them to feel instantly connected to the brand and a holistic experience from environment to service and everything in between.
I soon moved my way up to assistant Visual Merchandising manager with a team of 4. We had 15 stores to look after at that time and we executed all window displays and instore promotions, as well as all the store merchandising. I loved working with the various brands on window concepts- it really appealed to my creativity, but also helped me better understand the concept of branding. My next career move propelled me even deeper into the surf industry as I became VM for Billabong. Funnily enough this was also how I met my husband, who was also at the brand so it wasn’t all work! I could see real opportunity in controlling how our clothes were merchandised in these stores as often the stories were getting lost in a multi-branded environment. I started incorporating merchandising into my visits and this ended up forming a large part of my job. The accounts really responded to it and we were able to really drive sales without just relying on the window displays.
My success introducing this was one of reason I was offered a position as the Tigerlily VM Manager - the brand was also a part of the Billabong group and it really was my dream job! I had loved the brand for years and it lived up to all my expectations- working with a small and creative team that are all really passionate about what they do. I started off just focusing on VM and at the time we had 12 retail stores that were really lacking a uniformity to their merchandising. The first step was implementing VM guides as we were designing monthly stories to work in together but that wasn’t particularly reaching its way to the consumer, so I created monthly key hotspot guides which we still use. My background in retail though saw me start to take on more and more of the operation side of the retail business and my job title changed to the ridiculously long one I now hold – National retail sales, operations & VM manager…! We have had a very successful couple of years, which saw us opening more stores - we now have 22 across Australia and New Zealand - and working on the design of the new environments really cemented my passion for all things interior. I feel my strength is being able to immediately visualise a floorplan and how a space will come together. The planning that goes into designing and bringing together a store- from all the creative elements through to the operations side - is really project management and very satisfying when it comes together. Opening 10 new stores in the last two years gave me the confidence to embrace what I really love and take the leap into the world of small business. My next phase is to wholly embrace the creative side as I transition to a part time role with Tigerlily- just focused on VM & store development while I start my own business- Dos Palmas- which will see me working on interior styling projects- from residential through to retail & commercial.
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? Creating inspired spaces that evoke an emotional response from people- whether that means transporting them to an exotic place, or making them feel at home.
Are you doing what you thought you would be doing 10 years ago? (If not, what did you think you would be doing?) Absolutely. I always knew I would end up working in something creative and visual. Growing up I was always drawing & painting- or re-arranging my room. I remember giving my poor dad specific instructions on how we were going to put together my hot pink & yellow themed bedroom. Mum made a quilt, dad had to choose the exact shade of yellow….. it started early. And that room was so beautiful at the time.
I never knew though, that I’d be lucky enough to do it for a brand that I love so much, and while I wouldn’t have envisioned running the operations side of the business, it’s given me a whole new skill set that will enable me to run my own interior styling business successfully.
What does ‘success’ mean to you, and do you consider yourself ‘successful’? It’s about the feeling I get when I finish a space and see it working as I envisioned. If it’s a store, it’s about seeing people walk in and buy into the lifestyle and brand we’re selling. If it’s a home, it’s about helping people to discover their own personal style, then bringing that to life in a way that works both aesthetically, and practically, for their family.
What do you still want to achieve (personally & / or professionally) Dos Palmas is my new creative venture and I can’t wait to really devote some time and energy to bringing my company to life. I’ve consulted on fit-outs for companies in the fitness, restaurant and surf industries and I’m looking forward to expanding into other areas that I haven’t worked before. On the residential side I love showing clients how they can take risks with things they wouldn’t have had the confidence to experiment with themselves. It comes naturally to me to instantly visualise how a space can be turned around with just a few simple pieces, and I really enjoy the challenge of doing that with varied budgets and in different environments. At Tigerlily I’m really looking forward to re-focusing on the retail spaces and window executions as I move away from the operations. It will free up some more time for me to take our stores to the next level visually as our brand continues to grow from strength to strength.
Did you study anything specific for the career you are in? Bachelor of Arts (Visual Art)
What have been the most rewarding things in your career to date? The success of our retail stores and the design of our new spaces. I’ve put so much time into making sure that Tigerlily really owns a unique space in our customer’s minds- where they can purchase beautiful items, and feel at home & inspired simultaneously. Our Manly store is probably my favourite interior. It was here where I was really able to push the concept, incorporating the beautiful old building it was housed in & some amazing vintage rugs & textiles, to really evoke that bohemian beach shack feel. It was truly a collaborative design experience with our creative director Amelia, and I felt so priveledged to be able to bring the vision together. The feedback from customers has been so positive, which made it such a rewarding project.
Tell us about your workspace (Office / café / couch / aesthetic) what inspires you about your workspace? It’s as chaotic as my work life! It is constantly changing but filled with old window props, rugs, textiles, flowers and reflects completely Tigerlily as a brand. I am currently working on converting my back shed into a home office and I hope it can reflect the Dos Palmas ethos of creating inspiring spaces as much as my Tigerlily one does. I have loved so much working on my house interior & see Dos Palmas HQ as an extension of this! The name is actually inspired by the two palm trees out the front!
What are some frustrations you have experiences on your career journey? I think like many people would say, in the current economic environment that frustrations often come from lack of resources and juggling various roles. There are times I feel like I’m doing nothing to the level I’d like to, but I also think that reinforces my resilience and determination to get the job done, despite often challenging circumstances.
When was the last time you were overwhelmed & cried from something provoked by work / work load? At the end of last year after opening five stores prior to Christmas, I may have had a small moment where I felt I couldn’t cope. It did help me learn though that I can get the job done at times of intense pressure and I actually thrive on it in a way. We’ve just repeated the same again this year and there were no tears!
Would you say you put pressure on yourself? Has this gotten more or less as you progress in your career? Yes- I am my own worst critic but I would say one of my strengths is the ability to let go of the stress and realise I can only control the controllable. Most of my career, but in particular the last two years, has been made up of juggling multiple roles and I think the hardest thing would be knowing that everything doesn’t always run to plan and can’t always be to your exact vision. You have to be flexible and if I was a perfectionist I simply wouldn’t cope. And sometimes the best results can come from just throwing everything together at the last minute and hoping for the best!
If you are a business owner – and 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 am really grateful to work for a manager and with a team that is very understanding and supportive. I hope that when I am my own boss I am able to give myself that same level of understanding! It really is about focusing on the big rocks.
Has your career affected your personal life / relationships? If so how? Yes- when you combine a hectic schedule with a husband who is just as busy it does impact this just due to a lack of time together. Luckily enough he is in the same boat so is very understanding of my work commitments. However, I really hope to introduce a bit more work/life balance with my career change this year as I’ll able to focus more on home life, and, hopefully the opportunity to be more creatively inspired with the extra freedom. I’m a big believer in making the most of the time I have to myself and using it to do what makes me happy.
Has your journey at times felt lonely? Yes at times. We are a pretty small team, and in the midst of store openings with the bulk of responsibility on me it can feel like the weight of the world is on my shoulders. Problem solving is certainly a well-developed skill when you’re a day off store opening & none of your furniture has arrived or you’re without hangers..!
What causes you anxiety / sleepless nights? Not much as I am a great sleeper even under duress!
If you had your time over again, from when you started your career to right now, would you do anything differently? No, I have no regrets about the path I’ve taken. In every role I‘ve had, I’ve been genuinely interested in all areas of the business and this has contributed to my constantly evolving roles and responsibilities. Despite the craziness I do love the fact that I could be doing budgets one minute and then crafting giant festive wooden bikinis for my Christmas windows the next! It definitely keeps me on my toes.
What advice would you give your 21 year old self? Don’t underestimate yourself and overestimate everyone else. Lose the self-doubt.
Who are some women in business you admire & why? Of course, my friend Samantha- I have seen her grow the most amazing business from nothing and all by herself. She is the most driven person I know and never doubted herself along the way. She took risks and wasn’t afraid of what people thought. She has created a brand identity that is wholly her and I couldn’t be prouder of her success. Also, my Tigerlily brand manager Sally- she has four children, which in itself is a full-time gig, and juggles her job and that so seamlessly. She is supportive, intelligent and hilarious and has created an awesome work environment for the whole team.
What traits do you admire in people you surround yourself with? Laughter, intelligence, drive, drama-free
Work life balance… Does it exist? and how to maintain it, or a sense of it? It’s hard but yes it’s all within your control even if you’re working long hours. You need to be able to switch off at home and realise you are only one person and you can only do what you can. Half the time I think people struggle with the worry of the workload and not the workload itself. Things can seem overwhelming, but once you start getting stuck-in it’s amazing what you can achieve.
Have you ever thought about giving up / quitting? If so, does that feeling hit from the same triggers? Why haven’t you quit? Yes- I think everyone has been there at some time, but I would never want to let my team or myself down by walking out. I would find it harder to cope with that guilt than whatever caused me to feel that initially.
What is the biggest misconception about what you do? I think from the outside people just see my role as purely creative. They don’t see all the work behind it that can be distinctly uninspiring- wrapping and sending props, waiting on deliveries etc,- it can be very unglamorous at times! If I was just a creative person with a perfect vision, nothing would come together. You have to be able to adapt your vision to the reality of your circumstances/budgets/ environment, whilst still keeping the creative intent behind it.
What advice would you give someone who is starting out in your industry? Learn everything you can about all areas of your business. Don’t be content with just knowing your narrow field- you never know where your career might take you - so knowledge is everything.
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? I’d do it all again! I’m where I am now because of all the experiences I’ve had to this point – good and bad. If everything was easy, nothing would feel as satisfying.
I like the quote ‘Don’t just have a job, have a purpose’ - What do you want your legacy to be? I’d like for people to always feel better for having spent time in a space I’ve created. If people’s families love where they live, and I’ve been able to have an impact on that, or if a business is more successful because customers spend more time instore as it’s an enjoyable experience, then my job for the day is done!
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)? As women, we need to be each other’s biggest advocates. Tigerlily creates products for women, designed by women, to make them feel good about themselves. We’re a company that is very heavily resourced by women – because let’s face it, bikini’s are our bread and butter and only a woman can really understand what great swimwear can do for you! Don’t get me wrong, I love working with men too – but I think we need to continue to fight for equality in the workplace and opportunity for women in business, and I’ll do whatever I can to endorse and promote talented women being successful.
What are some of your favorite quotes?
'A man's only as old as the woman he feels.' Groucho Marx
'Life is 10% of what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it.' Charles Swindoll
“All you have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to you.” Gandalf, Lord of the Rings
'Be somebody who makes everybody feel like a somebody'. Kid President