Title: Eleanor Pendleton, Founder & CEO, Gritty Pretty
Instagram: @eleanorpendleton @gritty_pretty
What has your journey looked like leading up to the present? How did the idea for Gritty Pretty come about?
After high school, I knew I wanted to be a magazine journalist. I studied a Diploma in Journalism at Sydney’s Macleay College (an accelerated degree that allowed me to complete a Diploma in Journalism & Bachelor of Arts in Media within 2 years instead of 3). I did work experience at various print publications – from Girlfriend to my local newspaper – and eventually landed an internship at Cosmopolitan. I was eventually offered the role of Editorial Coordinator/Beauty Writer and the rest is history… I worked my way up the ranks eventually landing the roles as Beauty Editor at FAMOUS Weekly and InStyle Magazine. After three years at InStyle, I decided to embark on a freelance career. I launched Gritty Pretty with the intention of being a creative outlet for me to talk about beauty brands, products, ingredients and innovations, which I didn’t necessarily have space on the pages for the magazines I wrote for. After four months of freelance writing, I decided to launch Gritty Pretty Magazine – an online beauty publication that I didn’t feel existed and women deserved. At the core of everything we do, I apply my editorial and publishing experience with the approach that everything we do, everything we test, write and publish is for the Gritty Pretty woman. She doesn’t want to be confused or bamboozled by marketing terms, fancy names of ingredients or gimmicks – she takes pride in self-care and nurturing herself but she wants to know what works and what is worth her money. It’s been three years since I started working on my brand full-time and our team has grown to a team of 6 full-time staff and 20-plus contributors.
We love the name Gritty Pretty – how did you come up with it?
The website was always going to be about beauty – it’s my greatest passion. I wanted the space to have an aesthetic that reflected my own personal style – not too girlie; very polished and refined. I remember sitting down with a pen and paper and writing down words that correlated with the feel I wanted the website to evoke. There was an element that was elegant and ‘pretty’ so that word jumped out at me – but I also wanted it to feel cool, a bit rugged and edgy, a bit ‘gritty’. And so, Gritty Pretty was born…
Have you always been interested in starting your own business?
I’m the daughter of parents who have always run their own small business. As a young girl, I think I was privy to the success and struggles that comes with running a small business. I watched my parents manage cash-flow and staff issues and I’m grateful that I had that insight. Truth be told, when I was 18 years of age, my only ambition was being a magazine writer. As time went on, I assumed the natural progression (once I had done my time) would be I would perhaps become a magazine editor once I reached my 30s. I never imagined I would become an editor of my own publication and entrepreneur but I do know I have found my calling and my purpose.
You’ve had some incredible women grace the cover of Gritty Pretty including Lara Worthington, Miranda Kerr and Hailey Baldwin, how did you go about securing such influential women especially in the early years?
It’s not easy! [Laughs]. I wish it was but there has never been a cover that has been easy to secure. We set such high standards – always opting to shoot a cover star rather than purchase images from a photo agency – so to do so, it requires a huge amount of nurturing client relationships with publicists and managers – and A LOT of back of forth.
Our covers take months to negotiate and secure. We are a start up publishing company so we don’t have the funds to pay any cover talent (most publications don’t), which is why I’m so proud to have created a publication with my team that celebrities such as Miranda Kerr, Hailey Baldwin and Lara Worthington want to cover and see the true value in. Our audience, which is now around 150,000 unique readers per month, is beauty-obsessed and these celebrities and supermodels see that. I’m really proud of that.
What does the creation of an issue of Gritty Pretty look like? Walk us through what the process looks like from start to finish.
Our production process spans 2-3 months. Gritty Pretty Magazine is a quarterly publication. We are a small team so spend over two months planning, shooting, researching, writing and designing. In the beginning, it was just my Creative Director and I – we’d both design the magazine and stay up to 3am every morning to get it finished. We put everything we have into each issue and that is also why I believe our audience loves it so much.
The publishing landscape (both digital and print) is continuously changing, what evolution and changes do you think we’ll see more of?
Sadly, I think some publications will continue to fold. I don’t believe they are evolving fast enough with the world as we become a more digitally-dependent society. I also don’t believe some publications are truly in tune with their readers. I think as some magazines became corporate money makers, editors lost sight of who their reader is and was becoming. As a result, we’re seeing some magazines embrace influencers – engaging them across both editorial and advertorial branded content – because it’s what their readers now want to see. I’m so fortunate to have made the jump when I did. Gritty Pretty has become a leader in the digital beauty space because we’re able to be nimble and innovate; we’re able to execute ideas on a whim whilst larger publishing corporations can take longer because of office bureaucracy.
What processes or strategies do you think have been key to the success of Gritty Pretty?
I never assume that I know everything. I am constantly learning and we are constantly evolving. There is always a new software or startup being launched that can shake the entire industry. We embrace technology and we push the boundaries of what is possible when it comes to user experience. I think that is also why Gritty Pretty has been successful thus far. In saying that, we still have a lot of battles and challenges – probably more so than larger magazines and publishers because we are a start up – but it’s what I also thrive off; the challenge of making a business not just work but GROW.
Who has been your biggest influence in business?
My husband – he is my grounding force. In moments where I experience self-doubt, he reminds me I am strong. In moments where I’ve absolutely nailed a project, he is my biggest cheerleader. He is my constant and biggest support. In terms of mentors, I’m lucky to be mentored by Marina Go whose experience and learnings in the publishing industry has been invaluable. If I have an idea, I’ll bounce it off her.
What was some of the best advice you received early on in business?
It will be really hard – but it will be the most creatively-fulfilling and rewarding thing you ever do.
What has been the biggest learning curve since starting Gritty Pretty?
Learning to manage staff and cash flow. It’s constant.
Knowing what you do now, what would you do differently (if anything) in your business?
No, I would do everything the same. I haven’t rushed anything. I’ve made many mistakes but I’ve learned from each one. I wouldn’t be who I am and Gritty Pretty wouldn’t be where it is today if it weren’t for what we’ve been through.
How do you ride the highs and lows of entrepreneurship? What helps you stick it out when things get tough?
You learn to develop thick skin and a no BS attitude (which I’ve always had – even when I was a little girl). You learn to cut straight to the chase. I don’t have time for egos or f**kwits – I built this business so I could work with incredible, talented and kind people. If things get hard (which happens more often than not – I just don’t share it on social media), my husband helps me stick it out
What qualities and traits have you found have really helped to build your dream team? What do look for when hiring someone?
I’ve learned to trust my intuition. I naturally give people the benefit of the doubt but I’ve learned if someone isn’t the right fit for our company, I knew it early on – I just chose to ignore it. When I hire someone, experience is key but their personality and kindness as a person is equally as important. Being part of a small start up, personalities can be amplified so it’s important I hire people who are truly passionate and committed to our cause.
How do you balance between work/home life or me time?
I take each week as it comes! Some weeks can be crazy and I might not be present in being a good wife or friend – and other weeks I’m able to give more to those people in my life than my work. It ebbs and flows like anything in life but making more time for me is something I’ve been working particularly hard on. I’ve been prioritising my time to exercise, which I have found benefits all parts of my life.
Tell us about your workspace, what inspires you and what do you like to surround yourself with?
We work within a beautiful work space in Sydney’s Rosebery. Our office is very ‘Gritty Pretty’ with lots of black steel, polished concrete and white furniture and plenty of greenery. Plants always make work spaces feel more conducive to productivity!
Your biggest career highlight so far?
Shooting Miranda Kerr at her home in Malibu was a huge win for us. It was our first international shoot and I remember just feeling disbelief and immense pride on the way to her home. The other huge highlight was travelling to Paris with CHANEL for the CHANEL Haute Couture show in 2017. Having a seat with my name on it in the Grand Palais was truly surreal and such a privilege!
How has your life changed since launching your business?
In every way possible. It’s more intense, I’ve never worked so hard but I’ve never felt so fulfilled or happy.
What’s next? What do you still want to achieve or what’s in the pipeline?
We have branched into e-commerce with our curated e-boutique, which is a focus for us. And, on June 1, we’re launching a new vertical that has been over six months in the works. We constantly receive questions from our readers such as “Where can I get a good facial in Sydney?”, “Where is the best place to get a blow-dry in Brisbane?”. We use crowdsourcing to spur our innovations and content so we are launching Gritty Pretty’s Little Black Book of Beauty – a curated list of the best in beauty, which is tried, tested and approved. Every single place of salon, spa and studio has been tested by one of beauty experts. If they don’t meet our criteria (because our readers have high standards and expect high quality), then they cannot be featured. It also looks beautiful and is so easy to use. You can literally search for your nearest hair salon on Gritty Pretty (that is Gritty Pretty approved), book an appointment and hit your maps and away you go.
What resources would you recommend to other women in business?
Podcasts are my go-to. I drive to my office every day from Sydney’s Northern Beaches and there’s nothing I love more than getting that hour to myself to listen to an inspirational, entertaining or educational Podcast.
And finally, what advice would you give other women wanting to follow in your footsteps?
Know your brand. Have a business plan. Stay true to your values and success will come.
Finish these sentences..
When I wake up in the morning the first thing I do is… Check Instagram. Guilty but true.
Three things I can’t live without are… My husband, tinted moisturiser with SPF and illuminator.
Five words to describe myself are… A little fire cracker (that’s four words though…).
My favourite quote of all time is… “Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn.”
The most important thing to remember in business is… Be remembered for being kind.