ELEANOR PENDLETON IS ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE who is so strikingly beautiful, that when you re speaking with her in real life, it is a bit disarming. She is kind, and funny, and it goes with out saying, has an unrivaled work ethic. Founder of internationally renowned digital beauty magazine; GRITTY PRETTY - you would be forgiven for reading Pendleton's achievements & think she was well into her 40's. But she is just 27 years old. Her story below is full of one of the most important things in business - passion. She talks about 'why' she started this venture, and it shines thru that from the very first issue, till current day - the 'why' is the forefront of her business & she had not lost sight of her vision. Eleanor is a huge inspiration to me in business, and I am lucky to call her a friend. I know you ill enjoy reading her story, below. - SWx
NAME: Eleanor Pendleton
COMPANY: Gritty Pretty
TITLE(S): Founder & Editor
How would you describe yourself in 5 words? Loyal, Generous, Kind, Tenacious, Hardworking
What is the long version of how you got to where you are today? I knew what I wanted to do with my life from the age of about 9 or 10. My dad ran a small local newsagency business and it’s there that my love affair with magazines began. I remember the smell of the freshly printed paper in the mornings, the shine of new glossy covers, and the luxury of being about to read and take home any magazine I wanted (in those days, I was an avid DOLLY reader!). It was then that I decided I was going to work in magazines. There was no other option for me. That was my dream job; that was my calling.
Writing has always been my strong suit (mathematics and science, less so). And, to be honest, I assumed after school I would go on to study journalism at University and eventually become a features or entertainment journalist but my story is less conventional.
After high school, I was accepted into two universities (one in Sydney and one in Queensland) and a private college in Sydney. I chose the latter. Why? Macleay College offered a Diploma in Journalism and a BA majoring in Media & Communications, which students could complete in two years full-time. Finish your studies in two years? “Hell yeah,” I thought. The idea of studying for three or more years never appealed to me – being taught by real-life journalists with industry experience did. I knew I wanted to get my studies over and done with so I could start working in magazines as soon as possible. I wasn’t kidding when I said I was tenacious for an 18-year-old girl from a small town.
When I began studying at Macleay College – catching the one and a half hour train to Sydney and back – I started contacting all of my favourite magazines. I begged them for a week of work experience. I didn’t know a single contact in the big, glossy world of publishing. I never received a leg up. My family didn’t know anyone in the industry. I was just a girl from the New South Wales Central Coast with a very big dream – my dream. I stalked and stalked publications including Girlfriend, DOLLY and CLEO – most emails went unanswered. Until, one day when I received a call from the editorial coordinator at Cosmopolitan magazine. Her name was Lucy Cheek and she had phoned me to let me know she’d had a cancellation for the first week back after the New Year (note: work experience at monthly magazines is usually booked a year in advance). She asked me if I was available. If I weren’t, I would’ve dropped everything to be. I was ecstatic. This was my moment. I knew it.
During my one week of work experience at Cosmopolitan, I relished in every task I was given. I arrived 15 minutes ahead of schedule. I offered to stay back late. I jumped at the chance to go to the mailroom and fetch the bags of beauty products and clothes sent to the magazine’s fashion and beauty editors. I was beyond excited about the prospect of cutting out newspaper clippings. I took pride in whatever the editors asked me to photocopy. And, when I was asked to get the team’s coffee, I made an extra effort to memorise all of their names so they would remember mine. At the end of the week of work experience (then-editor) Sarah Wilson offered me a six-month internship with the beauty department. Cosmo’s beauty department at that time was headed up by none other than acclaimed beauty editor and author, Zöe Foster Blake, who went on to become my first mentor.
Up until meeting Zoë, I didn’t know a job as a beauty editor even existed. Testing and writing about beauty products? Surely that couldn’t be a real, grown up job. After a few days with Zöe, I was hooked. Six months into my internship, Zoë went on to become beauty director at Harper’s BAZAAR so I extended my internship at Cosmopolitan’s sister titles, where I spent an additional six months – one, sometimes two days, a week unpaid.
A year into my studies and interning, I had graduated from my first year at Macleay College with a Diploma in Journalism. I had one more year to go but a week into semester holidays I received a call from Franki Hobson, the then-editor of Cosmopolitan Hair & Beauty, Cosmopolitan Bride & Cosmopolitan Pregnancy magazines. She offered me the job as editorial coordinator/beauty writer. The pay was abysmal – if not illegal – but I could not care less about the money. No one who goes into media does so for the money – they do so out of passion. And, I was so happy that after I hung up the phone, I screamed!
After working for 18 months as a young beauty writer, I was offered the role as beauty editor at FAMOUS by an incredible journalist, Gereurd Roberts. Working on a weekly title appealed to me because of the fast pace – I constantly wanted to upskill myself. I made the switch from ACP (as it was then) to Pacific Magazines becoming the youngest beauty editor in Australia at 20 years of age. Over the course of the next 6 years, I worked my way up the magazine ranks – eventually landing the role as beauty editor at InStyle Magazine Australia. It was at InStyle that I really developed my own tone and discipline as a beauty journalist. It was there that I learned to hone my craft.
After three years as beauty editor at InStyle, I decided I wanted a better work-life balance. I chose to quit my job to become a freelance beauty writer – working to my own hours and for various other publications. Looking back, I can see that I recognised a real shift in traditional media. There was a lot of mass redundencies and I could see the consumer was moving more and more towards digital. So once I left InStyle to go freelance, I relaunched GrittyPretty.com (which had been sitting dormant whilst I worked for the international masthead). Gritty Pretty took off within a couple of months and I decided if I was going to run Gritty Pretty as a business, I was going to do it properly. I invested EVERYTHING I had into the website including the launch of Gritty Pretty Magazine – the first and only digital beauty magazine in Australia. It took 6 months to get perfect and in just over 12 months since launching our first issue, we've photographed and featured incredible cover girls from Miranda Kerr and Lara Worthington to Shanina Shaik, Phoebe Tonkin and Jessica Hart. We now have over 25 contributors and growing. Essentially, my role has remained much the same – but the medium in which I work has changed from print to digital. It's an incredibly exciting time to be working in digital media!
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’m the founder and editor of Gritty Pretty – Australia’s leading beauty website and online magazine. We don’t just create beautiful, educational and engaging content – we give women that ‘aha’ moment. We give women the tools, the means and the tutorials to make them feel beautiful and confident about themselves.
Are you doing what you thought you would be doing 10 years ago? (If not, what did you think you would be doing?) To be honest, no. The fast evolution of digital changed everything for me. I thought I would eventually go on to become a print magazine editor – I never imagined I would become the founder and editor of my own independent digital publishing business. Life throws unexpected turns but I’m glad it threw me this one. I’ve learnt more about myself since running my own business than I have before.
What does ‘success’ mean to you, and do you consider yourself ‘successful’? To me, success is creative freedom. The freedom to conjure up ideas, execute them and share them with the world. I do consider myself fortunate to be successful. It’s something I’m very grateful for and often reflect on.
What do you still want to achieve (personally & / or professionally) Haha I’ve always got ideas! My brain never stops. The best ideas come to me at night when I lay in bed – I keep a notebook on my bedside table and write my ideas down even in the dark (so I don’t forget by morning).
I have huge plans for the Gritty Pretty brand and my team. We’re constantly coming up with ways as to how we can push the boundaries of giving our readers the ultimate reader experience when it comes to all things beauty. A lot of the goals I have I’m manifesting and working towards but I just can’t give too much away! Digital is evolving; the world has to evolve with it.
Did you study anything specific for the career you are in? Yes, journalism.
What have been the most rewarding things in your career to date? By our second issue of Gritty Pretty Magazine, I secured CHANEL as Gritty Pretty's first annual advertiser. It was a life-changing moment. remember just crying in my hotel room in Berlin where I was at the time from pure relief and joy. As a business owner, I’ve had moments of struggle and doubt where I wonder, “Will this work?” and “I’ve invested so much! Will it pay off?” but when I landed CHANEL, I knew I had created a brand that truly connected with women around the world. Right then, I knew that it would work because I was going to make sure it would. There was and is no other option. The fire in my belly is constantly lit.
Also, when I was in an Uber earlier this year on my way to Miranda Kerr’s home in Malibu to shoot her for the cover of our the winter 2016 issue, it really cemented to me that Gritty Pretty isn't just a small-time beauty blog – it's a renegade digital publishing business that is pushing the big multi-million dollar publishing companies of the world to stand up and take notice. Our content offering is of the highest quality. Just because we are online, doesn’t mean we skimp on our quality offering. We treat our readers with the upmost respect. We know exactly who our readers are and we strive to bring them the best in beauty – minus the bullshit..
Tell us about your workspace (Office / café / couch / aesthetic) what inspires you about your workspace? I started out with a home office – like most successful start-ups do. My digital career began in my sunroom. I didn’t even have a MacBook, a desk or a beauty cupboard. Eventually, my sunroom set up evolved into a proper home office, which later evolved into a leased office suite at one of Sydney’s leading creative spaces, La Porte Space. We are surrounded by a very minimal aesthetic – polished concrete floors, white walls, plenty of flowers and yes, LOTS of beauty products.
I feel inspired when my workspace is tidy and I have fresh flowers on my desk.
What are some frustrations you have experiences on your career journey? The road to success is never smooth – there are plenty of potholes and roadblocks along the way. For me, convincing traditional media agencies to invest into an online beauty magazine that did not exist yet and had no competitor I could compare it to was very different. It still comes with its challenges. But, I don’t see these experiences as negative as such – I see them as experiences, which Gritty Pretty, my team and I can learn from.
When was the last time you where overwhelmed & cried from something provoked by work / work load? Monday! [Laughs]. It might sound trivial but when Miranda Kerr posted our Gritty Pretty magazine cover on her Instagram to her 9.2 million followers (!), it was a real pinch me moment. It was an Instagram post that was not negotiated as part of the cover (I certainly do not have the budget for that!) – she posted it because she truly loved it (she even texted her fiancé [Evan Spiegel, founder of Snapchat] looks from the shoot). When my art director texted me Monday morning telling me Miranda had shared our cover, I screamed from excitement. I saw the post and then just burst into tears. My fiancé had to comfort me – he knows more than anyone how much I’ve sacrificed and invested into Gritty Pretty so that moment – knowing our publication was being shared with over 9 million people by a world-renowned supermodel and celebrity – the ultimate pay off. It was a real turning point.
The next day, Miranda posted two more images from our cover shoot. By that stage, I almost had a bloody heart attack! I’m truly grateful to Miranda Kerr that she loved our cover story so much she wanted to share it her fans three times over.
Would you say you put pressure on yourself? Has this gotten more or less as you progress in your career? Since launching Gritty Pretty, I’ve never worked so hard in my life. I’m a perfectionist and have immense attention to detail. I place a lot of pressure on myself because Gritty Pretty is my business but I’m excellent at internalising it. I then have a personal support network – my fiancé, family and close friends – who I can confide in. I also have an incredible Gritty Pretty team and the work culture we have stems from the top – from me. I make a point not to let stress overcome me and I have consciously created an office environment where the team have freedom to work their own hours or from home when they choose.
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? In the beginning, it was hard – I was a one-woman band. I was responsible for EVERYTHING (I still often am) and I just bared the grunt of it quite often running on adrenalin. Now, I’m fortunate that as the business has grown, so too has my team. I specifically hire to my weaknesses so I have an amazing head of partnerships, art director and beauty editor. We have a lot of work between us so I definitely plan on growing the full-time editorial team.
Has your career affected your personal life / relationships? If so how? I have an incredibly supportive fiancé – we have been together for seven years so he’s been my rock throughout my magazine career right through to starting my own company. I think it’s an incredible quality for a man to be truly supportive of his partner and never threatened or emasculated by her success.
Has your journey at times felt lonely? How? No. People constantly surround me in my line of work. Finding a single day where I have no meetings and can just sit at my desk and work is the real challenge.
What causes you anxiety / sleepless nights? Advertising budgets, and securing cover talent.
If you had your time over again, from when you started your career to right now, would you do anything differently? Absolutely not – everything that was meant to happen happened when it should.
What advice would you give your 21 year old self? Stay true to yourself. Know your ‘why’.
Who are some women in business you admire & why? I’m so inspired by women in business whom have achieved great success but have always remained grounded, humble and have a willingness to help or mentor other women.
I’m particularly inspired by Marina Go, Lisa Messenger, Julie Stevanja, Bahar Etminan, Bianca Monley, Sally Obermeder, Maha Koraiem and of course, Samantha Wills.
What traits do you admire in people you surround yourself with? A strong passion, love and worth ethic for what they do.
Work life balance… Does it exist (I don’t think it does!) and how to maintain it, or a sense of it? I often work 6 days a week (often trying to ensure I take one day off). When I had a home office, I found it very hard to separate work from home. Once I invested into leasing an office suite, I found the drive to and from work allowed me to “switch off”. Smart phones and social media make the concept of 100% switching off extremely difficult. But, I ensure I stay healthy and give my myself “me time” to stay balance – a morning walk with my fiancé, Sunday breakfast with my girlfriends, a yoga class on my own. Those moments keep me centred. To some, it might seem I’m a workaholic but when you love what you do, it never feels like work.
Have you ever thought about giving up / quitting? If so, does that feeling hit from the same triggers? I’ve certainly had moments where fear takes over. Doubt can creep in when the sleepless nights catch up. When you own 100% of your business and are so self-invested, it can seem as if there’s a lot to lose. At the same token, there’s everything to gain – and it’s for you (not your employer). While I’ve had more highs than lows, I’m open minded to the fact that running this business is a journey. We are in a stage right now where we are experiencing rapid growth. I hope that will continue but I’m realistic and open to the fact that we may have slumps in revenue – we may have quiet periods. If we do, there will be a lesson to be learned to avoid that happening again. I’ve never once thought about giving up. Creating Gritty Pretty and a community of beauty-obsessed readers is what I was put on Earth to do. I couldn’t be surer of that because I know my why.
Why haven’t you quit? Because I love every single aspect, element and detail of my job – from the likeminded and creative people to the work itself. My work is rewarding. It’s my dream job. Sure, the Xcel spread sheets aren’t fun (again, that’s where I’ve hired to my weakness) but when you love what you do, I truly believe you’ll never work a day in your life.
What is the biggest misconception about what you do? Because my industry is considered “glamorous”, perhaps there is a notion of vanity or narcissism that comes with having a social media following. I’m just guessing here. Anyone who thinks that about me, I’m not phased by and I don’t have time for. Those who do know me know that I couldn’t be further from a narcissist. Yes, “Eleanor Pendleton” has organically developed into becoming a brand and media profile within itself but the truth is I’m naturally an introvert. I’ve had to push myself out of my comfort zone to sell this business. You’re only as good as the people around you and I’m lucky to have incredible people in my life who keep me grounded. I don’t really give a shit what haters think of me.
What advice would you give someone who is starting out in your industry? Create a business plan, find your niche and never give up. If haven’t figured out what you want to do just yet, that’s okay too. Think of what makes you happy and run with that. That in itself is pretty damn sweet.
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 would do it all over again – the mistakes, the wins, and the losses. I am who I am because of my journey.
I like the quote ‘Don’t just have a job, have a purpose’ - What do you want your legacy to be? I want Gritty Pretty to have made women feel good about themselves. We improved their skin. We showed them how to do their hair the way they like. We taught them red lipstick made them feel sexy and empowered. The power of beauty can quite often be quite underestimated.
When I receive emails from readers telling me that a product we tested, recommended and featured on Gritty Pretty changed their skin and made it glow, you want to bottle that feeling. I’ve had women who are undergoing cancer treatment say that our brow tutorials made them feel feminine again. The brand is bigger than me and that, right there, that is why I created Gritty Pretty – an accessible online beauty destination for women around the globe.
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’ve been a fan of Samantha’s for many years. I’m incredibly fortunate that our careers and industries of beauty and fashion have allowed us to cross paths. We were even lucky to share the September cover of The Collective magazine together. What I’ve always admired about Samantha is that we aren’t from the big smoke – we never received a leg up. I’m just a girl from the Central Coast who worked for some of the country’s leading glossy magazines, created a business and now has the likes of Miranda Kerr on her cover. That’s bloody amazing and I think it’s about time more women celebrate their own success as well as the success of others. I believe it’s so fundamentally important to help other people – both women and men – across all facets of life (not just business). If I can give back, some how, some way, I will.
I openly list my email address on both Gritty Pretty and my Instagram page. I welcome anyone who has any questions about business, beauty or blogging to contact me – it might take me a week or two to respond but I will always respond.
What are some of your favorite quotes?
“Good things come to those who wait work their ass off!
“Girls compete with each other; women lift each other up.”