How a mum-of-two turned a simple beauty idea into a $30 million business.

When it comes to buying beauty and skincare products, it’s hard not to think of Adore Beauty.

For almost two decades, the site has dominated the Australian beauty market as the country’s longest-running online beauty store.

From humble beginnings in founder and CEO Kate Morris’ garage, Adore Beauty has grown to be a thriving, multi-million dollar company.

And now, Morris has debuted at #87 on the 2018 Financial Review Young Rich List with a wealth of $30 million together with her partner in life and business, James Height.

The idea for Adore Beauty was born in 1999, when Morris was a 21-year-old university student. Growing up in Launceston, Tasmania, Kate was inspired to create an online beauty store.

“I was working on the Clarins counter at a department store and I realised when I told people what I did that a lot of people would talk about how the found that shopping experience unpleasant. They would sort of pull a face and say ‘oh, I hate going in there, they’re going to try and push me into buying things’,” Morris told Mamamia.

“I realised that the shopping experience was absolutely not as empowering as it should be. When you’re talking about products that are supposed to make you feel confident, the shopping experience was making everyone feel the exact opposite.”

And so Morris took things into her own hands, launching Adore out of her garage.


But at first, it wasn’t smooth sailing. In a time that online shopping was just beginning to pick up, Morris struggled to get a loan from the bank. After all, Adore was Australia’s first cosmetics retailer to sell exclusively online.

“We didn’t have any money,” Morris told Mamamia.

“I managed to borrow some money from my boyfriend’s dad but it was really only enough to buy a little bit of stock and get the website built.

“There wasn’t really anything left over for marketing or for paying myself. It was about getting very creative and marketing on zero dollars.”

Another challenge was getting brands on board. In the beginning, Adore was populated by smaller cosmetics brands, with larger brands reluctant to join the e-commerce world.

“It was very difficult… I think they really weren’t ready to adopt ecommerce as the new way of doing things. A lot of them thought the internet was a bit dodgy or customers weren’t going to be interested,” Morris explained.

“Eventually they all came around.”

Woolworths even eventually bought a 25 per cent stake in the business, before Morris bought back their share just last year.

Kate Morris
18 years on from their launch, Adore stocks over 200 brands and boasts over 120 employees. Image: Supplied.

Now, 18 years on from their launch, Adore stocks over 200 brands, including professional salon brands, and boasts over 120 employees.

Speaking to Mamamia about the highlights of her business career so far, it's clear Morris takes pride in her team and bringing up the women and men around her.

"The thing I really enjoy at the moment is watching people on our team grow with us and the way that they take on challenges. To see the courage of people, to step outside their comfort zone and say 'well, I don't know how to do that but I'll figure it out' – that's pretty spectacular," she said.

"Getting to build a place that is safe and supportive for men and women to grow in their careers is pretty great. I think that's a great privilege."

Morris, who has two children with her partner, understands the need for flexibility in the workplace – especially for parents.

"The upside of having your own business is you can decide how you want to do things. If you want to work flexibly, then nobody can tell you that you can't," she said.


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And proud of it. ???????? #feminist #newfavouritetshirt

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"Being able to allow flexibility to my team as well has been something that really supports everyone.

"Everyone in our leadership team has small children. Because we offer flexible work, people are able to manage that."

Earlier this week, Adore also doubled their domestic violence leave policy and changed the policy from unpaid to fully paid.

"I was reading this article and just feeling really frustrated and angry that this was a problem that no one really seems to be doing anything about and I was talking to my partner and we sort of looked at each other and said 'we could do something about it, why don't we do something about it'," Morris told Mamamia.

"If you've got that sort of situation in your life, then I can imagine the last thing you really need to worry about is trying to get time off work and worrying about how you're going to pay the rent.

"If there's a thing that we can do to be more supportive, that's the thing that we can do. I hope honestly that nobody needs to use it. I think it's awful that anybody would need it."