October 1, 2018
Leading ladies: Millennial strength
Business partners, sisters-in-law, and digital savvy entrepreneurs, Michelle Knight and Hannah Fabian of Aura Eve are leading ladies with a modern approach to work/life balance. We pick the brains of these millennial business owners about building a successful online business.
Michelle Knight and Hannah Fabian of Aura Eve are your quintessential millennials with a passion for life and an eye for good business. While their generation is sometimes labelled as entitled and lazy, this could not be further from the truth for these young professionals.
Michelle and Hannah are all about the hustle; working extra long hours and multiple jobs to achieve their dreams and build a business with over 30,000 followers on Instagram and Facebook, and growing.
But like anything worth working for, their active apparel and booty band business, Aura Eve wasn’t an overnight success. For the last three years the pair has worked their booties off (actually, let’s say they sculpted their booties) to achieve success and a following of exercise-loving females looking to get fit in style.
The pair met through Michelle’s twin brother who is now Hannah’s fiance. The trio started share housing and Michelle and Hannah quickly became good friends with a desire to start a business. Although they are business partners and future sisters-in-law, Michelle jokes that Hannah is just as much her wife as her brother’s.
“We have more joint bank accounts than my partner and I,” laughs Hannah.
After a two year friendship, a business opportunity presented itself to the ladies and they haven’t looked back.
In 2014 Michelle started prepping for her first bodybuilding competition when she noticed a gap in the market for feminine bodybuilding apparel.
“When I started I was trying to find a lifting belt because I started lifting quite heavy for squat PBs. I started prepping and I couldn’t find a belt that fit me in a feminine colour. I went to Hannah and said, ‘We need to fill this gap’. So the first order of stock we did for our website launch was lifting belts, leggings and shorts,” she explains.
“Michelle saw the gap in the market. That’s when we decided to combine her accounting knowledge with my marketing and photography skills.” adds Hannah who was working as a dental nurse and digital marketer.
Their skills proved to be a winning combination and they immediately launched Aura Eve’s Instagram account and followed it up with a successful social media competition. Their following started to build and the business grew.
“About six months later we brought in our booty bands, which have pretty much made our brand,” says Michelle.
The booty bands came about after they identified another gap in the market. At the time, booty bands were marketed as resistance bands and used predominantly for agility training, martial arts and rehabilitation functions. With sculpted booties being a goal for many women, they repackaged and remarked the product to appeal to their Aura Eve audience, bringing a new functionality to an existing product.
“Nine out of 10 of our orders are booty bands, so that really put us on the map on the online market and we’ve been growing our product line since then. So we went from lifting belts to a few pieces of active wear to booty bands and now we’ve got more active wear and more fitness products,” says Michelle.
Getting to that position has required long hours and lifestyle changes for both Hannah and Michelle. Hannah is still working as a dental nurse but felt a sense of relief when she cut her work week in half and dedicated the rest of her week to Aura Eve.
“We get up at 5am to do the orders before we go to our day jobs, and then go home and deal with emails at night. We’re already used to doing that so doing it for ourselves and being able to do it throughout the day is just such a weight lifted,” she says.
Michelle finished working fulltime in an accounting firm in August to focus on Aura Eve servicing a handful of bookkeeping clients on the side.
“Long story short, it wasn’t sustainable and I bit the bullet and said, ‘Let’s put more effort and time into our business’, because we were constantly time poor, and we’re still trying to find that balance. We’re still new to it all.
“It’s now or never, I don’t think there’s a perfect time to do it.”
The pair ensures they dedicate every Wednesday to Aura Eve and recently acquired a warehouse in Kunda Park for their stock. After living together in the early days of the business partnership and filling their spare rooms, dining tables and garages with stock, it’s simplified their processes and their lives at the same time.
“It means we can put all the stock in one place, where we can see what we have and organise our inventory,” says Michelle.
Kicking goals is something these ladies are getting used to and they have big plans for the future. With a growing social media following, Aura Eve is on its way to be on par with the Lorna Janes or Ashy Bines of the world, but of course, they will do it their way.
“We don’t want to be the next Lorna Jane, we just want to be able to provide a niche product to a niche market and keep our customer base happy,” says Michelle.
With activewear being such a saturated market they’ve decided to bring it back to where it all started; fitness accessories and finding ways to make the male dominated industry more female friendly. They’re learning as they go, taking risks, getting help where they need it, and quickly adapting to changes to customer behaviour, and it’s paying off.
In the future the ladies hope to grow their community, get their warehouse up and running and start looking at wholesale options. When you’re asking questions like, ‘Do we want to be stocked in Rebel Sport or do we want be stocked in other online retail stores?’ you know you must be doing something right.