That might be because no other female-led business has done it. Adore Beauty’s IPO is the first of its size to be brought to the ASX by a female founder that is also led by a female CEO. (Tennealle O’Shannessy took the top job in August.)
“It’s kind of shocking in 2020 that it hasn’t happened before, but I feel really proud,” Morris said.
And it doesn’t stop there. When it lists, Adore Beauty will take the number of majority female boards on the ASX from five to six. And it will prove that “businesses that are by women, for women are meaningful and can scale”, according to Morris.
“It’s exciting,” she said.
Sticking to her values
Going out on investor roadshows was an “eye-opening” experience for Morris.
“Seeing how male-dominated that area still is…you can see why businesses that are for women have a harder time raising funds,” she said.
Morris has long been outspoken on the topic of gender equality, from calling out conferences and events that don’t feature enough female speakers, to offering employees of both sexes access to the same amount of parental leave. As the face of the business, her values are Adore Beauty’s values, and they’re not going to change when the company goes public.
“If anybody thinks that Adore is going to start becoming a mercenary company that doesn’t do the right thing by its staff or customers or suppliers…then they can go invest in something else,” she said.
“We’ve been super duper clear that this is the way we do business, and I think those values support sustainable growth over the long term.”
Self-care spending boom
This is evidenced by the $121.1 million in revenue the company generated in FY20, thanks in part to the increase in spending on self-care during Covid-19.
Morris likened the pace of growth over the past six months to “drinking from a firehose” and said it created a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity to “get the Adore Beauty message out there” through its first TVC.
“We were able to see how well that worked for us, even in the less locked down states like Queensland and WA. We can see that customers are sticking around and sticking with us,” she said.
“It’s not just a flash-in-the-pan spike [that will] go away. It just fast-forwarded where we were expecting to be in a couple of years’ time.”
At the same time, Morris said she has “mixed feelings” about Adore Beauty’s success.
“It’s a little bit bittersweet to be one of the businesses that have gotten lucky because of the circumstances of Covid,” she said. “It’s great to be doing well, but it’s also a bit heartbreaking for all the other businesses.”
In March, Morris created a group chat on Slack for online retailers to share how they were responding to the rapidly evolving crisis. Participants from more than 180 businesses helped each other figure out how to make warehouses more hygienic and develop remote working policies before there were any clear guidelines from the government.
So what’s next?
After launching a local Adore Beauty website in New Zealand last year, Morris said further international expansion is more of a medium to long-term goal for the business.
“We see a huge amount of headroom just with [Australia and New Zealand],” she said. But she added, “we certainly have aspirations of world domination”.
These aspirations include products developed and sold by Adore Beauty. The e-commerce site offers 11,000 products from over 230 global and domestic brands, but until now, it hasn’t ventured down the path of private label.
“It’s something that we’re thinking about for the future,” Morris said. “The benefit we have from being really close to our customers for the last 20 years is that we know them really well, so we can see the gaps that aren’t necessarily being filled by the third-party brands on the platform.”
While some businesses approach private label by simply knocking off their best-selling products at lower prices, that won’t be Adore Beauty’s strategy, Morris said.
“Because the platform that we created is not just a retail platform, it’s a media platform with the podcast and the blog and the videos and all the stuff we’re doing, we can identify things that are trending at a content level but aren’t being met at a product level,” she explained.
“I think that’s a really interesting opportunity for us.”