22nd July, 2019
Designer, model and now publisher, Brooke Meredith embodies the best of a new generation of entrepreneurs. But her story isn’t without a few twists and turns.
Every hero’s journey begins with a moment of inflection in which the central character is catapulted out of their regular life and into a new world of possibilities.
Brooke Meredith’s story includes several such moments, and through a series of life events, it’s obvious she found her path, and undoubtedly; her purpose.
Growing up in Albury-Wodonga, the young Meredith had dreams of chasing a career in publishing and design. A distant dream for some, Meredith packed her bags and moved to Melbourne at 19 to study within her field of choice; to pursue a passion that would turn in to a self-made-career.
While studying, Meredith freelanced in design and dabbled in modeling to supplement her income, before being offered a senior design position at a lifestyle brand first year out of uni. As demand for her modeling spiked, and with a design career flexible enough to put on hold, Meredith took several international modeling contracts, which saw her stepping out of her comfort zone to travel for months at a time to live in places like Singapore and Shanghai.
For some, Meredith’s post-graduate life sounds like a dream, but the reality was far from a walk in the park.
Just months before Meredith packed up her life to live overseas she was diagnosed with a gluten intolerance characterised by ongoing chronic fatigue, increasingly irritated skin and digestive disorders that had been wreaking havoc on her body.
“It was so interesting; I never had to think about what I put in my mouth, and then all of a sudden I had to think about every single ingredient,” she said.
“It was early, when ‘gluten’ wasn’t really in mainstream media, there wasn’t a whole heap of education on it, so re-writing my brain to process what I could and couldn’t eat was a journey.”
Fast-forward to Meredith living and working internationally, where long hours and pressures of the modeling industry were taking a toll both mentally and physically, not to mention navigating a ‘new’ gluten free diet in countries where gluten was mostly unavoidable, and Meredith’s health was plummeting.
Following a sudden drop in weight and Meredith was deemed too skinny for the modeling roles she’d signed on for – while also fighting a new infection that would have prevented her working anyway – she opted to end her contracts, come back home to Melbourne and focus on her personal wellbeing.
With her lifestyle at stake and health issues seemingly beyond her control, Meredith started down the road of what she would eventually define as her “wellness journey”.
Following the guidance of nutritionists and naturopaths, Meredith underwent a complete overhaul of her digestive health. As a result she found a love for crafting healthy versions of favourite recipes – ones that omitted, gluten, dairy and sugar as part of her ‘operation health-comeback’.
It was at this point that Meredith recognised an opportunity: to gather a tribe of likeminded individuals seeking and sharing wellness stories, recipes and more online.
It was then that the first iteration of A Conscious Collection was born. A personal blog that would soon take on a life of its own.
Now with a new project and potential income stream, Meredith made the choice to continue modeling and freelancing in graphic design in order to fund further studies in nutrition.
What had at one point been a vague dream to become involved in publishing by way of fashion had now become a burning passion for wellness, and A Conscious Collection cemented this thought by going from strength to strength.
“I saw a gap in the market for a luxury wellness publication,” said Meredith.
“I may not have had the experience in publishing, but I had a burning desire to pursue the idea – and that was enough for me.
“My background’s in design and wellness, and I think not having that [editing] experience also probably made it more beneficial for me, because I had no preconceived ideas of what I could and couldn’t do. Naivety got me started and fear kept me going.”
But the change didn’t happen overnight, and it didn’t happen in spite of her previous work.
Meredith is quick to point out how her work in design and in modelling brought with it a host of connections and opportunities that fed into her new business.
“I’m grateful for the different aspects of my life that have brought me to where I am today,” she said.
“Without my design background I wouldn’t know how to publish, without my health issues I wouldn’t have discovered my passion for wellness and education, without my modeling career I wouldn’t have learnt the resilience and fight I needed to run a business and face it’s challenges when they arise. Not to mention how to produce photoshoots.
“The connections and network I’ve made throughout these times have been priceless.”
The blog had only been online for a year before Meredith began to make plans for the next phase of the business’s development: a printed magazine.
Despite seeing how print publishing had been disrupted by newer, online offerings over the course of the past decade, Meredith also identified a lack of competition in the wellness space.
Moving quickly to enter a new magazine into the crowded print market felt like a necessary experiment – an experiment that’s since proven to be very fruitful indeed.
Meredith’s faith in her product, network and sense of style put her in good stead when it came to selling advertisers on the idea of a new print magazine.
When faced with skepticism from prospective advertisers, Meredith could display confidence in the face she had a product that would address the wellness market with a clean, luxury aesthetic that held strong appeal for her readers.
“I’m such a design nerd and I love things being aesthetically pleasing,” she said. “when something looks beautiful it makes people more drawn to it, that’s obvious.
“Our consumer is very design orientated – I know our market back to front. They like the finer things in life; they like clean, minimal, luxury and so I wanted it to reflect this in the wellness space.”
This confidence (alongside early prototypes of the magazine) were enough to bring her early advertisers on board for the ride.
Even better, the amount of advertising available to a national print publication is orders of magnitude larger than that of a simple blog. Meredith found that by creating a quarterly magazine she was suddenly able to consider hiring her first staff members.
But all that growth doesn’t come without its own challenges, and Meredith soon found she was once again wearing herself out by trying to take on too much at once.
In working as the primary sales resource, design lead, editor, publisher and basically everything else that makes up a business, Meredith soon discovered she was suffering from adrenal fatigue and, despite the great work she’d started, forced herself to take some much-needed rest.
“I’m a wellness advocate but I also am trying to run a business at the same time.
“So, I always say, ‘Do as I say, not as I do’, because I’m the first to admit that I don’t get enough sleep. I’m working on it.”
But if Meredith wasn’t operating at optimal capacity, neither was her accountant.
“Currently, I don’t feel like I have three days, let alone three minutes to do my bookwork.
“My accountant hates me,” she said jokingly.
Having never taken the time to take up an online accounting software, Meredith was managing her finances like so many other new and small business owners do. That is to say: hardly at all.
At best, her accountant would call her once a quarter and ask for all the relevant documentation he required to reconcile wages, expenses and tax so that A Conscious Collection was at risk of ATO scrutiny.
Unfortunately, this way of working meant taking more time out of her overcrowded schedule to find all the relevant spreadsheets and other documents, package them up and have them forwarded to her accountant.
“I would see him a couple of times a year with my books all over the shop, and as the business grew it was like I was presenting with a whole new set of issues every time.”
That’s before she took the plunge and set up MYOB for all her business bookwork.
“Having an automated system like MYOB helps you gain time back in your business and allow you to work on things that you really need to work on rather than spending time on things that should have been automated from day one,” said Meredith.
And being able to focus on the work she enjoys has additional benefits beyond productivity and efficiency.
“You can really tell the difference between the quality of work you’re passionate about compared with the rest.
“Allowing that space to be creative is so very important for my business.”