Olivia Burrows & Catie O’Neill

Olivia Burrows & Catie O’Neill

Co-Founders / My Glow 2

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Can I be honest? One thing that grates my gears is when a journalist reports that a brand, or companies success is due to a social media platform. As if the success wasn’t in fact due to the idea, the strategy, people and heart behind the business.

Case in point with Melbourne besties Catie O’Neill and Olivia Burrows, Co Founders of My Glow 2. It’s been widely reported that the success and growth of their business My Glow 2 is due to Tik Tok, but after interviewing the two, I can tell you that this couldn’t be further from the truth. Catie and Olivia are whip smart business women, equally impressive as they are kind. Listen to them talk about their business evolution and don’t be surprised if you walk a little taller, and dream a little bigger.

Yes, My Glow 2 was born after a visit to Turkey times which led the women to accidentally discover an ancient beauty secret amongst the markets in Istanbul, but their journey started long before. In this interview you will discover how both women started their career – where they studied and what, and how each important step, was one step closer to now. Catie and Olivia also have some note-worthy advice for anyone wanting to follow in their footsteps, so make sure you read the entire interview and take note.

Let’s begin.

Where you grew up and how your experience shaped the person you are, and the career that you are in today? 

Catie: I grew up on a property in the Yarra Valley riding horses, chasing chickens and pinching grapes from the neighbours vineyards. My parents have always been movers and shakers and never allowed one weekend to go to waste sitting inside. They utilised every moment they had to be productive. My father runs his own company. He taught me the meaning of true work ethic and what you can achieve if you are willing to do what the average person is not. My Mother devoted her time to providing my brothers and I with a nurturing and loving home. She always stressed the importance of living a healthy life and eating wholesome, homegrown food. She is the emotional backbone of the family and the person who has played an integral role equipping me with a healthy mind and body. They have both faced many challenges throughout their lives and one of the key lessons they’ve taught me is resilience.

Olivia: I was born in the small town of Ramsbottom in the North-West of England and moved over to Australia with my family in December 2008. My parents decided to pack up our belongings into a shipping container & fly our family across the world to create a new life. They arrived without any jobs, friends or their own home and only had a small amount of savings as they were unable to sell our house in England due to the Global Financial Crisis. The only thing they really cared about was ensuring that my brothers and I were enrolled in a good school. At the time, I didn’t realise just how bold this decision was, but looking back I can’t even begin to express the amount of gratitude & sheer awe I feel when thinking about what they achieved. They have been & continue to be the best role models that I could ever ask for and have always encouraged my brothers and I to do anything we want – and if we can’t, find a way. My dad has a degree in Economics and is a passionate soccer coach with incredible leadership abilities and my mum possesses an entrepreneurial mindset who consistently strives to keep learning and exploring innovative ideas. I thank my parents for being so powerful & not only telling me, but showing me that anything is possible.

When you were a young girl what did you want to be when you grew up?

Catie: I didn’t have a clear vision of what exactly I wanted to be when I grew up, however I had a clear vision of where I wanted to be. I watched my father work for himself my entire life so running my own business was all I ever knew and I was confident my career path would follow suit.

Olivia: Growing up, I always wanted to own my own business. My mum had owned a couple of her own small businesses and always encouraged me to think outside of the box. I did however love the idea of educating others and sharing knowledge. With this in mind, I knew I wanted to become a teacher of business in one way or another or own my own business.

Olivia and Catie at High School.

Where did you go to High School and how was that experience for you?

Catie: I went to Mt Lilydale Mercy College, a catholic school located in the Yarra Valley Region. I did not like school. The feeling of being controlled and stuck in a rigid system frustrated me. The first day of year 7 I remember longing to leave and jump into the ‘real world’. I did however meet Olivia in year 9 and our friendship blossomed. We shared the most wonderful group of friends whom we remain extremely close to.

Olivia: After arriving in Australia in December 2008, I commenced my Year 9 education at Mount Lilydale Mercy College. I thoroughly enjoyed the learning and social aspects of school however I felt an intense eagerness and desire to go against the grain. I was always extremely interested in partaking in extra-curricular activities, camps and leadership roles as I wanted to be involved in as many different parts of school life as possible to provide me with a range of experiences that I could utilise for future growth. High school is also the place where I met my business partner, Catie and developed many other strong bonds with people who I still call close friends today.

Did your high school play an important role in helping you choose your further education and future career?

Catie: I believe every experience that we go through life shapes our future in some form. However I felt school was focused on learning the standard technique of memorising and reciting information in a controlled and restricted environment. It did not provide me with the room to critically think for myself or strategically solve problems that I would face in the real world. An important part it did play was introducing  me to an open day at Monash University in year 11. This is what sparked my fascination to learn more about marketing. I knew this would be valuable knowledge for when I eventually started my own business.

Olivia: As I possess an interest in a vast range of topics, I chose to study the following subjects: Business Management, Visual Communication and Design, Religion and Society, Dance as well as English and Maths. With a strong passion for business as well as design, art and culture, I wanted to ensure I kept my choices broad so I wasn’t limited with my tertiary course selection. While I was unable to explore true entrepreneurship during my school years, I was able to receive a basic understanding of these area of studies and personal skills that will help me in years to come.

Did you complete any internships or work experience placements in high school? Tell us about that experience. 

Catie: I dived straight into employment when I was 14 and filled up every night and weekend I could by working 2 jobs; a checkout chick at the local IGA and waitress at a cafe next door. Whilst working as a checkout chick I was intrigued to learn about the internal operations and buyer behaviour in store. I worked myself up to be a supervisor so I could have the responsibility of managing the team and seeing the reports at the end of the night. As a shy person, I utilised these customer facing jobs to step out of my comfort zone and work on building my  interpersonal skills.

Olivia: During my high school years in the UK, I worked with a family friend who owns his own seven-figure graphic design company. At the time he had just finished working on Cascada’s new album cover and I was inspired by his work ethic and entrepreneurial lifestyle. I enjoyed observing how he led his team and how he managed working both individually and collaboratively in a creative workspace. During my work experience, he helped me explore my love for design by creating a logo, website and brochure for a hypothetical fashion label. This really spiked my interest in marketing and branding as a whole. This experience allowed me to really understand the amount of work and dedication that is required to start your own small business from the ground up.

Did you go to College, University, Tafe or another equivalent? Take us through the courses that you studied and why you chose them?

Catie: I went to Monash University and studied a double degree in Marketing and Management. I chose this degree as I was intrigued to learn more about what makes the human brain tick, why we make certain purchasing decisions and what is required to build a successful brand. I knew this knowledge would always be valuable to myself and any company I worked for.

Olivia: I attended Deakin University and completed a Bachelor of Arts (Commerce) degree with a triple major in Business Management, Dance and Literature as well as a minor in Marketing (2014-2017). I then completed a Master of Teaching (Secondary) degree with methods in Commerce and Dance (2018-2019). These were interesting choices at the time as it was extremely difficult to have a mix of units across different faculties. I ended up having to overload my undergraduate course to ensure I could achieve enough of the right credit points for my postgraduate course. I simply chose these courses as they were all topics that I was extremely passionate about and I knew that I would develop a range of knowledge and skills across a large variety of industries. More recently, since the launch of My Glow 2, I have completed ‘Contract Law’ and ‘Hinduism: Through the Scriptures’ online course with Harvard University to enhance by legal knowledge when dealing with different types of contracts, as well as deepening my cultural understanding of mindfulness – as the Hindu religion is its origin. I have also completed ‘Yoga Teaching’ and ‘Understanding Zen’ online courses to ensure that as a brand, we are able to correctly and respectfully communicate the ideologies of mindful practices that pays homage to its authentic roots.

Tell us about your career journey so far. Who you have worked for, and explain any highlights?

Catie: Whilst I was studying quickly I filled up every spare moment I had with shifts at two different wineries and an administration office. I would write in my planner the exact hours I had in a day and ensured I was utilising them to the best of my ability. The General Manager at one of the wineries I waitressed at then offered me a Marketing Coordinator position. The winery was a resort vineyard and spa and my role spanned across all departments. I was thrown in the deep end and told to swim. The experience this taught me is invaluable. Within 18 months the venue acquired 4 other resorts and I was promoted to the Marketing Executive where I had to manage and allocate budgets and implement a multi channel marketing strategy across their 4 key markets. After five years with this company  I was hired as the Marketing Manager at one of Melbourne’s most recognised Rooftop Bar and Nightclubs. As you can imagine it was fun, crazy and outrageous at times.

The venue was the official partner of Melbourne’s major events including Spring Racing, The Grand Prix and Portsea Polo. This role opened up many doors for me however the most important one was that it exposed me to a diverse range of successful business people across all industries. I worked hard to build my network and ensure I was always in the right room with the right people. I formed close relationships that have been key to my success today. As they say, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” I then left this role when I felt I was equipped with the knowledge and network to work for myself. I worked as a freelance marketer for a variety of different companies before the opportunity with Olivia arose to start our own brand. I am now the Co-founder and Director of the company, My Glow 2. Within 2 months of launching the brand I made the decision to take the leap and work for the business full time. Building a successful company alongside Olivia has been the biggest career highlight to date.

Olivia: I started working at the age of fourteen. My parents were extremely passionate about my brothers and I learning workplace skills and saving our own money from an early age. I had a range of casual jobs such as Babysitting, Hairdressing Assistant, McDonalds Server and Supre Retail Assistant. Once I graduated from high school in 2012, my original plan was to begin university straight away, however I found out that as I was not yet an Australian citizen, I could not enrol in my degree without paying for the course upfront. As I did not have the funds for this, I was forced into a gap year. During the same week of finding out this information, I was offered a promotion at Supre to Store Manager, so I took the job and worked in the full-time management position for twelve months.

Once it was time to commence university the following year, I became so accustomed to the full-time working lifestyle that I decided to keep my management role and complete my degree online in the evenings and on the weekends. While it was a challenge mentally and emotionally at times, I was determined to do both, to set myself up for the future both financially and career wise. In my management position, I was determined to learn as much about retail as I possibly could as well as how the Head Office operates especially whilst undergoing a transition – as the Cotton on Group acquired Supre during this time. I continued pursuing management roles within the company until I was managing a flagship store. I learnt a vast amount about leadership, operations, financials and budgeting, human resource management and visual design.

Throughout this time, as I was eager to delve into entrepreneurship, I launched an online fashion boutique as well as my own fashion label with my mum in 2014. This enabled me to gain a strong insight into the legalities and administrative work that goes into setting up and launching a business as well as a way to delve into brand creation, supply chains and marketing strategies. Although I enjoyed this learning process, neither of us were passionate enough about fashion to dedicate enough time to developing the brand, whilst I was completing my tertiary studies and full-time management role simultaneously. Once I had completed my Undergraduate Degree, I wanted to gain experience within the education department whilst undertaking my Master’s Degree. I secured a position as an Integration Aide at a local high school and was able to learn new skills regarding behaviour management and communication styles. 

During this time, My Glow 2 was born and one month later I became a full time secondary school teacher. These are both the highlights of my career thus far.

How did you get into the job that you are in now?

Catie: I went on a holiday to Turkey in 2019 and discovered a beauty tool that women and men had been using for centuries. It was a silk exfoliating glove that originated from one of the oldest bathing ritual in the world.The glove works as a deep exfoliator to sweep away layers of dead skin and impurities, whilst stimulating cell turnover. I brought the tool home to Olivia to experience and the results were phenomenal. Within 4 weeks it had cleared the Keratosis Pilairs on her chest, a skin concern she had for many years. We quickly recognised that not only was this beauty tool unavailable to purchase anywhere in Australia, it led us to transforming our skincare routine into a therapeutic ritual that focused on nurturing the connection between our mind and body. We felt more confident and healthy in our skin and we wanted to share this with the world.

Olivia: I landed my current teaching role by: completing my Masters of Teaching (Secondary), gaining experience in the industry through Integration Aide work, applying to be a Casual Relief Teacher at my current school and waiting for an appropriate position to become vacant that I was able to apply for. After working as a casual teacher for four weeks, the school offered me a Commerce and Dance Teaching position which I accepted. My Glow 2 came to be after my business partner, Catie O’Neill came home from a trip to Turkey and handed me a silk kese mitt that she bought over there. She had experienced a Hammam ritual whilst overseas and was utterly obsessed with the therapeutic experience and results this beauty tool achieved. As I had suffered from Keratosis Pilaris (KP) for a number of years, although skeptical, I was eager to try the silk exfoliator as it was believed to help with KP. After four weeks, I too was in awe and when we began trying to purchase more gloves, we were shocked to discover that it was nowhere to be found in Australia. As we both had a passion for the product and business in general, we realised we were sitting on a huge opportunity, as there was a clear gap in the market for not only the tool itself but the mindful skincare experience it conveys. We spent hours on the phone together and within 24 hours we had a company name, logo, domain names, social media accounts and a vision for the brand. This was the start of My Glow 2 and how I became a director of a skincare company that was launched on 17th November 2019.

What is the hardest part of your current job?

Catie: I am very critical and expect a lot of myself. As a business owner you set the boundaries, goals and objectives so this also means you have to recognise when you achieve these before quickly moving on to the next. This is a challenge I face daily. I also find it difficult to ward off feelings of guilt if I am not spending every waking moment working on the business.

Olivia: Juggling being a full-time high school teacher as well as the director of a small business is definitely challenging. I think the hardest part would be the mental shift that needs to constantly be taking place as you jump in and out of your contrasting roles, which both have an emotional pull. As my partner and I have a mortgage, I was unable to give up my position as a teacher from a financial perspective when starting up the business, however that was not necessarily the deciding factor. I feel extremely lucky that I am able to invest my time into two passions of mine, as teaching is not a 9-5 job that just pays the bills for me, I genuinely adore being an educator. While this undoubtedly is a great problem to have, it can often leave you feeling mentally drained and continuously questioning your choices. As My Glow 2 has now grown into a seven-figure brand, it is essential that I reassess my position at the end of the year. Being a teacher of two Year 12 Legal Studies classes, there was no doubt in my mind that I am currently unable to step away from teaching in any way during 2021.

What does a typical business day look like for you in your current job? 

Catie: I am a list person. Everyday I have my tasks categorised into general tasks, growth tasks and miscellaneous. Running a startup full time means I work across all facets of the business from the marketing, sales, operations, legal and finance so I find it extremely important to ensure I am not only working in the business, but on the business. The team arrive in the office at 8am and if it’s a Monday we jump straight into our mindful morning Yoga Flow. Building a strong and positive company culture is paramount as we continue to grow our team. My mornings are focused on general tasks – responding to emails, communicating with manufacturers, wholesale management, PR activities, website updates, paid digital advertising, brand collaborations, communicating with key stakeholders, managing imports and exports. The afternoons until late at night are focused on growth tasks – developing and executing our international distribution strategy, research and product development, future marketing campaigns, analysing data, developing key marketing strategies focused on scalability. 

Olivia: Due to the nature of managing two jobs, it is essential that my days are planned out by the hour. A typical day consists of checking my emails first thing in the morning and then arriving at school to teach. Throughout the course of the day I check in with our Design and Content Coordinator regarding upcoming tasks and regularly communicate with Catie. Once I arrive home, I begin working on My Glow 2 tasks such as, the overall creative direction for the brand including the creation of design briefs for all socials and email marketing, campaign and photoshoot planning and communications, copywriting and blog writing, website design and content creation. I also follow up any Human Resource activities and work on any PR interviews or briefs. Planning and communicating extensively with our brand strategists for our upcoming brand evolution project is at the top of my priority list, as well as continuously researching the happenings within the beauty industry as a whole. Later in the evenings I then begin working on my school work including the creation of lesson plans, writing new curriculum documentation, marking VCE SACs and other assessment tasks, choreographing Production dances and planning and organising Student Leadership and Student Representative Council events.

Who has been your hero, or greatest inspiration growing up and why?

Catie: My parents. Without them I would not be the person I am today. My Father continues to provide me with the knowledge and tools to run a successful company whilst my Mother reminds me everyday of the importance of self care and respect for myself and others.

Olivia: Although this is a cliche answer, my greatest inspirations truly are my parents due to all of the decisions they have made to give my brothers and I a better life. They have shown me what true strength and dedication really means.

What advice would you give girls who are interested in your career?

Catie: Learn from the mistakes of others. People have walked the path you are about to start so build your knowledge by studying and analysing their journeys. It is crucial you listen to advice given by people with proven runs on the board.

Olivia: The advice that I would give would be to never take no as an answer. If you wish to study a range of subjects, find a way. If you want to work whilst studying, find a way. If you want to invest your time into a side hustle, find away. When going against the grain you will be faced with many hurdles but there is always a solution if you are dedicated to finding one. Keep learning and developing your skill set by enrolling in new courses, continuously researching and surrounding yourself with like-minded people who only assist you in finding that solution and reaching your goal.

List your most valuable resources that you turn to constantly for inspiration in your profession? 

Catie:

  • Favourite Websites: Foundr.com
  • Name an Instagram Account that you can’t go a day without checking: @myglow2, of course.
  • Favourite Podcast: Glow Journal – Gemma Watts and Unstoppable – Kerwin Rae
  • Favourite Netflix/Stan/ Series: I am not a big TV person. I spend time watching YouTube tutorials and learning from successful business owners in interviews.
  • Who is your mentor? I have a number of personal mentors that run successful corporations across numerous industries. They are always a phone call away and are great at providing advice on all my ‘bigger picture’ questions
  • Favourite all time book/s: Richard Bransonn – The Virgin Way
  • Favourite App that you use every day: Shopify and Google Analytics

Olivia:

  • Favourite Websites: Forbes.com
  • Name an Instagram Account that you can’t go a day without checking: Our business Instagram – @myglow2
  • Favourite Podcast: The GaryVee Audio Experience
  • Favourite Netflix/Stan/ Series: I do not tend to watch tv series but the film Lion on Netflix is extremely eye-opening both culturally and philosophically as well as highlighting the importance of resilience and boldness
  • Who is your mentor? (This can be a person you follow for advice, or an IRL person): Although I have never met him, Ben Francis, the Founder of Gym Shark is someone I look to for inspiration and advice
  • Favourite all time book/s: ‘The Disruption Mindset’ by Charlene Li 
  • Favourite App that you use every day: Extremely tough question but currently TikTok and Shopify 

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