Women face more challenges than men when it comes to starting a business, but that doesn’t stop them following their passions.
Mini Latif is the Founder of Ottoman3. In this podcast, she reveals that as a 7‑year-old she thought everybody grew up to run a business. At that age, she also came up with the original concept for Ottoman3.
Kara Breadmore is the Founder of Ka’llure Jewellery. It was Jewellery that found Kara and became her passion. Kara explains how her business is not about making shiny things, but telling the stories of her clients.
Masters Series puts industry professionals in front of a room full of startups and entrepreneurs to share their experience and secrets to success.
Disclaimer: Transcripts may contain a few typos. Similar sounding words can lead to them being deciphered wrongly and hence transcribed likewise.
Serpil Senelmis: Who’s your businesswoman role model?
Interviewing Public: I don’t know if you would say this is I think she’s a businesswoman. I would say Beyonce. Okay. I think what she stands for, for women as well. And also, I’m Emma Watson as well. Just really strong people.
Interviewing Public: I love Oprah Winfrey. I know she’s a TV personality, but she’s still a business person and she’s coming from next to nothing, and build herself up and become this empire.
Interviewing Public: Yes, would definitely be my boss. And she does everything like not afraid to mop the floors. You know, like spent her weekends in the store. She’s still hustling.
Serpil Senelmis: For WeTeachMe this is the Masters Series where industry professionals share their secrets to business success. I’m Serpil Senelmis from Written and Recorded and I’m a woman running a business. While there are more of us in entrepreneurial leadership and board roles, I’ve noticed that it’s far more common for mediocre men to come in to shout their successes than it is for really successful women to feel comfortable talking about theirs. But we’ve got two female founders ready to step into the limelight for you, Kara Breadmore started Ka’llure Jewellery in 2005 to create custom jewelry that fulfills dreams.
Kara Breadmore: We were exceptionally lucky that we had a father who really encouraged my sister and I, as women to be anything that we wanted to be. And it didn’t matter if you were a man or a woman. And it meant that I actually became one of the first Victorian scouts, Boy Scouts, and Girl Scouts. And that was an amazing experience and I didn’t even really realize it at the time that it was so forward-thinking of my father.
Serpil Senelmis: We’ll hear more from Kara soon. First up Mini Latif, founder of Ottoman3 Brow Bar who wanted to bring beauty rituals of ancient times into modern practice. With three locations across Melbourne. Mini has successfully brought threading back and saved many eyebrows. In this fireside chat with WeTeachMe’s Wayne Lewis, Mini says there’s nothing more powerful than a single woman without a kid.
Mini Latif: I grew up with parents that always have their own small business. So they were making coffee before it was cool. And they weren’t called baristas back then. So we were just working really hard and the takeaway shops, and I honestly grew up, really believing that everyone grew up to start their own business. I had no idea that you didn’t own your own business when you became an adult.
Wayne Lewis: That’s quite powerful isn’t it?
Mini Latif: Yeah. I just thought that’s just the way we do it. So watching my parents struggle somewhat in takeaway shops and cafes and stuff, making a healthy living for us. I knew that it could have been done better and more sophisticated. So my goal was not to get into the food industry but certainly I was going to run my own business, maybe in an industry that I enjoyed, which at that time, I love fashion. And I love beauty because I’m a typical girly girl. This is I’m talking 10 years old thinking now. And so when I grow up, I’ll go and probably work for those big corporate companies, learn all the policies and procedures, and then go and start my own business. I need this as a kid.
Wayne Lewis: 10 years old, where your parents are encouraging that as well. We are expressing some of these views with the parents of that.
Mini Latif: Yeah. And they said you are going to be a lawyer, that’s what’s gonna happen with you. So you’re going to go to Monash very specific. We actually spoke to my Mum about it last night. So I have an E‑book and my ebook is called How to be a dirty entrepreneur. And my Mum was a bit taken aback and “you’re not dirty!”. And I said no entrepreneur used to be a dirty word. So when I was 10, if I said to you, Mum, I want to open my own business, you would have said no, you need to be a Lawyer, Doctor, or engineer. Those were the three really respectable career paths that migrants of that period. My parents are from Cyprus. So they had come to Australia to escape the war and to try and have a better life for themselves. So when they ended up having a family themselves, they did very thankless jobs, but they did them so their three children could have an opportunity and in their mind that opportunities again, Lawyer, Doctor, Engineer,
Wayne Lewis: And then you made that trip over to London and you’re working in the agency space what happened there?
Mini Latif: So I work for British Telecom and Lloyds TSB British Telecom itself is one of the biggest telecommunications companies in the world. So the agencies that we were using one were world-class, but also the budgets were just crazy, and you’re talking about 12, 13 years ago now. So we were launching a website about 14 years ago called BT vision and my budget was a million dollars, then I still don’t have million-dollar budgets. So I got exposed to some great things. But I knew that that was an area that I needed to immerse myself in. There was so much the corporate world is not something that I desired strongly, but I knew I had to go through it to gain the insights. Yeah.
Wayne Lewis: And what were some of the difficult lessons that you faced in that environment?
Mini Latif: I think knowing that policies and procedures as boring and as dull as they are, quality control measures, all of those things that really don’t excite me unnecessary to keep, I guess the word is control. I mean, you could speak to any of my team, they might say to you, Mini one day makes a decision to go left and the next day to go right. I don’t call it being indecisive. I’m just forever evolving in my ideas and my processes, but that can be detrimental for a company of I have just over 30 women working with me so I could literally change the course of the entire brand in one sentence, and that’s not healthy. You know, it’s fun to watch the chaos. We’re not gonna do brows today. No, it’s not like not that bad. But it taught me how to be a lot more controlled in the way that I thought how to deliver the lessons I learned there is how I actually managed to open my very first Brow Bar in Myer. I don’t think I would be able to pull that off in 2018. But in 2008, when I contacted Myer, I had no contacts by the way. So I literally know nobody, I always say on the most unnetworked, unconnected businesswoman, I know, I just hustled my way through. So it just is what it is. But I moved back from London and I was like, Alright, how am I going to do this? Now, I know that I need to be in the department stores. I know that that was where the opportunity was. The biggest player is Myers available today. But anyway, I said all right. I don’t know anyone at Myer, so I went on their website and I found this email address. It’s called firstname.lastname@example.org. So I emailed them. And I said, I have a very important proposition for you, but you need to sign this NDA before I release any information. So that tone of voice that legal than NDA, it was just don’t tell anyone but a report from British Telecom just changed a few names on there. You know, they’ve got a really good legal team.
Wayne Lewis: Did this go in the e‑book? Is this in the…
Mini Latif: Not that bit, but my blog always goes a little into the stories so I got a response I’d say within 48 hours, and my store was opened up eight months later.
Wayne Lewis: In-person. Were you always thinking on the grand vision of going national or was it a case of okay right head down, see how this bar goes? Oh, was it always…
Mini Latif: All the way, day one all the way I just an all or nothing person. So it was the vision I had it like 10. So it wasn’t a brow bar back then by the way, so when I was seven, my parents took us to our first international trip overseas. We did the UK, we did Cyprus, and we also did Turkey. We had family living in Istanbul. So I was seven years old walked into one of the palaces in Istanbul and I just looked up at this opulent, insanely overdone place and just said to myself, when I grow up, I am going to work in a place that looks like this. Not live, work. So this work ethic is in being embedded in me from birth because I literally was raised in a milk bar for the first seven years of my life. We lived upstairs and the milk bar was on the bottom. So for me, everything was work, work, work, work, work. Back at seven, I just wanted to work in a palace essentially, you know who doesn’t right? So as I got into the corporate world, I knew that I was definitely into beauty. That was something I was just passionate I just personally loved all things beauty, and I realized that there was no hamams in Australia which is a Turkish bars, right there is an opportunity in the Australian market, I am going to design the country’s finest Day Spa with a Hammam look and feel to it an ottoman bath look and feel to it. So I was a marketing manager for ISelect so the I select logo that you guys see and the terracotta orange, you know, I pick that I was in a taxi in Sydney and saw an orange building and said, that’s the ISelect logo color. So that’s how those things happen, guys. And then Damien Wella, who was the he’s the founder, but the CEO at the time, I put my resignation and said, Alright, I’m ready now to move to London, and go really write my business plan for this Ottoman Day Spa that I thought was what it was going to be. So when I went to London, I wasn’t there just to get some corporate experience. I was also there to spend a bit of time in Turkey, my Turkish is terrible but I wing it all the time and spend some time there and really kind of get an understanding of what this bar was going to eventuate into. And I did that. So that’s with aesthetics. So of course, all of you are going to follow me on Instagram at the end of this to really get an understanding of what the look and feel of my brand is and all that kind of stuff. But the aesthetic side was locked in at that point, the service what it really is, that came about on my lunch breaks when I was working at British Telecom and jumping on the tube and running to John Lewis at my lunch break to get my nails done, and then go and crap. Whilst I’m here, I’ll just run to the other side of the department store and get my eyebrows threaded. So these things already existed. I am the very first brow bar to open up in Australia in threading 10 years ago, but I did not invent threading. It’s been around for thousands of years and I didn’t invent it as a concept in a department store. Most of the ideas that most of us have something that’s already kind of been thought about but we re-invent them and we make them contemporary for the audience that we are today. So as I would see in this tight lunch break period of trying to get And I’m running across and getting my brows done and I realized why if we had them combined because every three weeks, I’m coming to get my nails and my eyebrows done and I just would have saved a little bit more time as they were together. And that’s basically how Ottoman3 came to life. That’s the three every three weeks of coming in and having the service done. We did nails for five years, it really wasn’t profitable, fantastic for marketing, fantastic for PR, could get any story in the Herald Sun about stuff like that. And no one really cared about brows back then. But at five years, I had to make a call where is the direction of this business now? So I decided, yeah, we’re gonna grow the brow side because I’m going to start manufacturing brow products
Wayne Lewis: And as a woman in business then have you had any challenges as being a female in business or is it play to your advantage?
Mini Latif: I just gonna disappoint everyone and say, no.
Wayne Lewis: That’s good, though.
Mini Latif: I just haven’t not even in my corporate world. I just have not experienced it. We talk about all the time in the office as well. We do have a full female team. It just personally I’ve not experienced it. We do have challenges of having a full female team though, in our office now for different reasons. Would you like me to expand on that?
Wayne Lewis: I’d like you to expand on that? Yeah.
Mini Latif: All right, this is very cultural. Okay. As for threading our brow artists typically come from India for the most part purely because that’s where most of the people have their skill set from some from the Middle East, but predominantly from India. So I have about 25 to 28 brow artists at the moment. Many of them really like being in Australia for less than five years, majority of them, okay. They come from a culture where the man runs the household. So men, ahead of a woman as far as Korea, so if the child is sick, guess what the husband does. He’s an Uber driver. All right. So he has more flexibility to go pick up the kid from school, if he’s called in sick, she doesn’t have that flexibility. She’s got to catch two trains and a tram to get to the store. But this cultural aspect for us is something that we’re constantly battling. It’s a really difficult one because often she actually is the breadwinner, or should I say making more money in the household? We know this because we talk to them very intimately about it and trying to empower them to try and give them a voice in their own home to say, look, if the teacher calls and the kids sick, he has to make a call who goes to pick up that kid? And that kind of, to me goes back 20, 30 years where you would never expect the husband to leave his corporate job to pick up the kids sick from school. Of course, the mum would do it. That’s a bit backward.
Wayne Lewis: Yeah. And it’s good that you’ve got that open relationship with the staff.
Mini Latif: Yeah, many husbands dislike me. Yeah. That’s alright. The beginning because of this culture. This is going back to 10 years, I’d say for the first six months, husbands would call me to tell me stuff about their wives, whether it’s like she’s calling in sick or something to do with her pay or some administration question, I’d be like, I’m sorry, I can’t speak to you. I don’t employ you. You can put the phone on to the person that I’ve employed. I can have the conversation with her as politely and respectfully as I could. That doesn’t happen anymore. But yeah, those are the challenges, I guess from a female perspective.
Wayne Lewis: Okay, if you could go back and you could tell yourself one or two things now what would that be?
Mini Latif: Do more, actually, because I kind of I’m not slowing down now. If anything, we’re like quadrupling everything we’re doing, but I didn’t have a kid at the start. I’ve got to keep out so that slows you down. I wasn’t married at the start. You know, being single. There’s nothing more powerful than being a single woman without a kid. You are the most powerful person in the room because that is someone that has a lot of energy. That is not having to be split by partners, children. That stuff all comes if you choose to if you want it, and it’s so interesting now that I look back and go, why didn’t I do more of that before I had to worry about family and stuff like that?
Wayne Lewis: Yeah, cool. Great way to learn. So guys, can we have a round of applause, Mini Latif of Ottoman3.
Serpil Senelmis: I so love how Mini wanted to work in a palace when she was a little girl and she made that dream come true. Thanks, Mini. We’ll hear from Kara Breadmore right after these messages.
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Serpil Senelmis: Thanks Ad Guy, Kara Breadmore was planning on a life in fashion until a transformative adventure revealed to her the wonders of jewelry. In 2005 she founded Ka’llure Jewellery. And in this fireside chat with WeTeachMe’s Wayne Lewis, Kara says if you don’t look after number one, you won’t be able to run a business. You need to invest in yourself to give back to your business.
Kara Breadmore: We were really lucky growing up we lived in a house where we were really encouraged to be thought leaders and to think outside the box. And, I think in particular, even though it shouldn’t have been this way, in the sense of gender equality, we were exceptionally lucky that we had a father who really encouraged my sister and I, as women to be anything that we wanted to be. And it didn’t matter if you were a man or a woman. And it meant that I actually became one of the first Victorian scouts, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. And that was an amazing experience. And I didn’t even really realize it at the time that it was so forward-thinking of my father to let me as a young girl be a boy scout or the first girl scouts. And that experience definitely shaped my resilience and so many skills that I’ve taken into my business life. I’m exceptionally grateful to both of my parents for the upbringing that they gave us, but particularly reflecting on the opportunities that having a dad who was open-minded as a woman in business, which is a very hot topic now the gender equality space, so I went to high school and I was always very into fashion design. And from there I actually got into RMIT and did fashion design degree. But after about two years I, I don’t know I was not 100% happy and unfortunately, my parents were going through a very messy divorce. And I felt like I just needed to take a year maybe like a gap year but the wrong year. I was made to be going into my final year to graduate and I just needed a break needed to go and discover who I was and really find more out about myself as a young woman. So my, my friends and I bought a car for $800 and drove around Australia for a year and it was the most remarkable year of my life. I always loved making little beaded necklaces. I had no idea how to do it. I just taught myself and I took my box of beads and my wire and my plies…
Wayne Lewis: Reselling them on the road?
Kara Breadmore: I was selling them on the road. Yeah. I left Melbourne with $800 in my pocket for the year. I had no idea how beyond that $800 dollars I was going to survive. Yeah, it was a mind-blowing experience. But, by the way, we broke down 70k’s out of Melbourne for the year which was quite funny. These two blonde bombshells rocking to the petrol station and remember saying to this guy in the mechanic shop, and we’ve broken down and I think he just did everything he how if you travel around Australia. And anyway, I tend to my girlfriend because the end of the trip was starting to grew near and the questions around what am I going to do? Am I going to go back to uni? They all started creeping in. I just remember saying to her, I was like, I wonder if you can study jewelry. And it just seemed like a really strange question that I’d never actually explored before. Anyway, to my parents dismay, they were quite upset and had always been very supportive in everything that I’ve done, but they were like, what are you doing? You’ve got one year of your course left and and RMIT fashion and design course it’s exceptionally hard to get into very sought-after course, so they were like you’re mad, and I didn’t feel like I had a full support, which was really hard. And even my brother and sister also thought it was crazy. So I felt quite alone in the decision to go into jewelry. But that now has been an instrumental learning for me and my business that I’ve looked back and always back to myself, and I think now I give my, my family the big like, you know, I backed to myself and I made it because I listened to myself. And even though you didn’t think I was making a good decision, I’m really, really so pleased that I did, but it meant moving to Perth, on my own without my family and any friends, because I’d missed the intake into the jewelry course at RMIT, which I really wanted to get into. And at the time, I remember sitting in my first week of soaring metal and I literally was sitting at my desk crying because I was like what have I done. This is the worst thing in the world trying to hack into these metal with these tiny little so frame that week by week, everything went by and I just fell in love with the process of making jewelry. And next thing I know, I’m back in Melbourne and I’m applying for the RMIT course. Actually, when I got off the plane, I thought I better get a job. And I looked in the newspaper. Yes, the newspaper who gets a job in the newspaper and it was a job advertised that said CBD jeweler requires an assistant. I’ll never forget, it sounds like a great big long description of stuff at all. Just fax my resume in. And I did and apparently, 500 people applied for this job. And I ended up managing this business for 14 years while I would run my own business. And it was a hugely instrumental in my experience and my knowledge and working underneath Ronnie Bower who’s exceptionally highly regarded in the jewelry industry. He definitely helped map and shape who I am today and I’m exceptionally grateful for that. It’s probably only been in the last three years that I’ve really dug into my business to understand. Why do you literally wake up in the middle of the night and draw jewelry for people? Sometimes I literally do wake up until the night my husband like you drawing again. And I’m like, Yes, I just have to draw because I am so worried that I would forget it in the morning. It’s because I love it so much, but I never really questioned why I love it so much. So I’ve done a lot of exploring in the last three years because in a way jewelry is quite materialistic. And I don’t think of myself as a materialistic person. So I wanted to understand what my relationship was with my business and why I was so driven by this thing that is technically a luxury and materialistic. The words like brand identity and tone of voice and all these things didn’t like even four years ago, of course, I knew they existed but they didn’t really mean anything to me. I had essentially just been loving doing what I was doing and just doing it. So it was really pleasurable experience for me to really unpack why I’m doing what I’m doing. And what I discovered was the beautiful sparkly things that women love is definitely the reason I do what I do. But it’s not what drives me. It’s not what gets me out of bed every morning. It’s the connection, I get to follow my customer and my client and the long term relationship. I get to go through so many experiences in my clients because it’s not a transaction. For me, it’s a lifetime relationship, it might start with an engagement ring, then go on to a wedding ring, and then it might go on to a push present or eternity ring. And then it’s Oh, it’s my wife’s birthday. And then all she’s telling. It’s not just these one moment and it’s one transaction it’s so much deeper, and whether people will consciously recognize it or not, to release. It’s very empowering for people to process what they’re going through, through a piece of jewelry. So it could be a divorce or it could be their grandma’s passed away, and they want to redesign their piece into something else. There’s so many reasons that people embark on the journey to design a piece of jewelry. And for me, that’s where the goodness lies. And the part that really empowers me to want to empower them to heal or to grow or to love or to learn or to forgive or to say thank you or to say, sorry, there’s so many reasons that jewelry comes into play. So it’s been a really magical three or four years for me, really discovering why I’m doing what I’m actually doing. So yeah, and it’s…
Wayne Lewis: You’re making my job very easy here actually.
Kara Breadmore: I’m sorry, did I just not stop talking?
Wayne Lewis: You can carry on. Actually this is fascinating stuff. You’re doing a great job. This is absolutely great to listen to. So you talk about doing a little bit of soul searching and digging into the why of why you’re in business and everything else. So now that you’ve put that in place, what is in front of you now, what are your main goals?
Kara Breadmore: A lot of people assume that because I’m a jeweler that I have a jewelry store. Never say never. But I don’t see me ever transitioning into opening a shop because what I try to encapsulate in every step of my business is an experience that people can’t help but want to talk about. And I think retail and the shop fronts now really struggle with being able to execute that for people. So my space that I’ve recently launched and opened to the interactive workshops studio, it’s an environment where people can come and visit me but also have experiences while they’re there, quite unique ones. And I’m just in the process of designing a whole series of round the table, dining and jewelry, interactive experiences, that people actually come to the studio and it’s more than just I’ve come to talk to you about a piece of jewelry. I’m actually throwing them into saying here’s a pool of gems. You’ve got the freedom to play with them and turn it into anything that you like, but into an interactive evening. And I’ve got a lot of ideas around, wanting to create a blog that’s focusing on my clients who are women. I’m very passionate about empowerment of women. And I want to call it the maverick women’s blog. And it’s because so many of my clients that come to me are really impressive, powerful, amazing women who’ve got an incredible story to tell. And I want to tell that for them, especially because they’ve come via the channel of them being a client to me. So that’s another thing. And I’m also about to roll out a ready to wear collection, which is very exciting, but also very nerve-wracking. Because up until this point, everything that I’ve ever done has been around creating something for someone. And even though I’m still designing it for them, it’s about them. Whereas this is me putting my aesthetic and my design out there to the world with no reason for it. And so there’s a little part of me that’s like, oh, but if they don’t like it, but I just can’t know that I haven’t tried in my life to achieve this thing that I really want to do, which is to have a online store where people can purchase and take a precious piece of it and own it, but they don’t have to necessarily go through the whole process of the custom design experience. So yeah, that’s a few things that are in the pipeline.
Wayne Lewis: Exactly. So was that always a grand vision?
Kara Breadmore: No, I think this is what my vision of businesses, I don’t have a vision of becoming a multimillionaire, of course, you need money. And because money is important, but it’s not what drives me. It’s what drives my business. For me, it’s about looking back and saying my business to do something that was bigger than the sparkly materialistic things. It’s about the journey. It’s about the opportunity that everyday meeting people, it’s so much more than that. And I just want to look back and know that I’ve injected that into my business, essentially.
Wayne Lewis: How do you look after yourself? Are there any moments where things get on top, what do you do to invest in yourself emotionally?
Kara Breadmore: I had such an awakening to this in the last few years. Unfortunately, my mother went through a very difficult time and it really made me look into myself in terms of my mental health and my well being and I honestly believe everything starts at the top with you in business. If you are not looking after you, number one, then you will never be able to operate business the best that you possibly can if you’re not. So I make a really conscious effort now to always make time for myself every day. I don’t nail it every day. There are some times when my husband will definitely attest to that. But I am so much better than what I used to be and realizing that going for a walk and taking 15 minutes to myself and all the whole time I used to be like oh my god, I don’t got time for this. I don’t have time, I got to go to work. I’m like to stop. Just take the time because you’re actually investing back into your business by looking after yourself. I started doing yoga, which I don’t really do regularly anymore. But I definitely, when I turned to yoga, it had such a, an awakening experience for me to really connect with myself and to what matters and your well-being is so important in business. And yeah, I go to the gym and do all those things that are really important. My husband, I recently moved near the beach. And it was a really concentrated decision because even though we could have got a bigger house out further, I wanted to be by the ocean so we could get up in the morning and have that lifestyle and just make sure we take time to go for a walk and look after yourselves because bigger picture we all can wake up one day when we’ve just worked way too hard and way too fast. And what was it all for? You work hard, and then you become sick? Yeah. So I’m actually about to go on a wellness retreat, which I’m really excited about, to Fiji. It is for entrepreneurs. So it is about work skills.
Wayne Lewis: Guys, can we have a round of applause, Kara Breadmore of Ka’llure Jewellery.
Serpil Senelmis: So Kara’s vision isn’t to be a multimillionaire. I really love that she wants to look back and know that her business stood for more than just the shiny things. Thanks, Kara. And thank you Mini as well. Next time on Masters Series, how to jumpstart your business. If you’ve been sitting on your idea for a startup, you won’t want to miss this. We’ll hear from two successful founders about the steps they took to get their business up and running. Until then, I’m Serpil Senelmis from Written and Recorded, and for WeTeachMe, this is the Masters Series.
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