[su_spotlightheader who=”Bella Acton” what=”Founder & CEO of Never Liked It Anyway” where=”Los Angeles, CA”]
August and September have always had the scent of back-to-school in the air. But rather than the new school clothes and folders with heart throbs plastered on them that I looked forward to as a kid, as an adult I always take this time to start anew by embracing the adage: out with the old and in with the new.
As fortune would have it, our latest Spotlight On guest has carved out a business from tossing out the old and making room for the new. Bella Acton is the founder & CEO of Never Liked It Anyway, a site where you can jettison the pain and refuse from your recent breakup and transform that breakup baggage into new shiny things that will help you rebound. The website is more than a marketplace though, it is also a refuge filled with women who know just how you feel. In this Shangri-La, she has managed to create a place where not only can you “buy it” or “sell it” but you can also reach a community where you can “tell it” too, sharing your breakup stories and finding solace in the fact that you are not alone. I talked to the cheeky entrepreneur about the worst breakup stories she’s ever heard, the importance of not taking yourself too seriously, and the upside of getting dumped 5 days before Christmas.
Where did the idea for “Never Liked It Anyway” come from? My boyfriend broke up with me 5 days before Christmas. We were meant to go back to London to have Christmas with his family, and suddenly I had these plane tickets that I no longer wanted. I started thinking about all these other things I had that I didn’t want any more – they were all perfectly nice – but I knew I wouldn’t want them anymore. I mean, who would want to wear jewelry around your neck from your ex?! I started joking about a site that would let you offload your breakup baggage – I wanted to make it playful and positive and warm. Everyone laughed (including my ex). I then investigated the world of breakups and found there wasn’t really anything out there. The things I found were either really mean, bitter and evil or a big soft (and pointless) group hug. There was nothing with attitude, cheekiness and something built around definitive action – sell something and use the money to buy something that will make you feel great! So, armed with this personal and universal insight, I set off to bring my idea to life.
Is that why you came up with Bounce Back Box? Yes! There’s a lot more to Never Liked It Anyway than just selling your breakup baggage. It’s really about helping people get back to fabulous and return them to their best selves. The Bounce Box was an idea to help our community do just that! Often, after a breakup, there’s only so much your friends can say and then you really just need to pick yourself back up. Something about the idea sparked something in the team, so we decided to pursue it. When it came to selecting what went in the box; we wanted a broad range of stuff. Obviously, there were the expected things like mascara, lip gloss and nail polish, but we wanted to think a bit more holistically about feeling better so we introduced things like the tea and the candle. We also wanted to make sure it stayed on brand, so we chose to have a bit of fun with it and included the vibrator and condoms and sex course!
What was your impetus to make your idea a reality & to take the entrepreneurial leap?
I’m an entrepreneur at heart and had worked the concept up to a point where there were no good reasons NOT to go forward. I had shared the idea with anyone that would listen, and gradually incorporated their feedback so by the time I launched, I knew I had an interesting and different product on my hand. I didn’t know it would work, but by that point, if someone came and took the idea away from me and said I couldn’t go forward with it, I would have been really upset. That was how I knew I had to dive in; It was still a scary leap, but one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Did you have a background in business before you started? Yes. I worked as a an innovation and marketing consultant for about 8 years in Sydney, London and New York. My job was to come up with ideas for other people’s companies. I loved what I did as it was the perfect blend of strategy and creativity. I find that running a startup requires me to flex both these muscles at all times – it was the perfect training!
What’s the worst break up story you’ve heard? Anything to do with failed marriages always breaks my heart. We also often have women selling things to help pay for their expenses – often kid related. And that’s always really upsetting.
Are you in a relationship now? If so, how does your significant other feel about knowing you think about breakups all the time? I’m not in a relationship right now, but this is a great question! I worried about this a lot at the beginning but it became clear pretty quickly that guys are either intimidated by my business or admire my entrepreneurial streak and go get ‘em attitude! In that way, it’s a great pressure test. The sort of guy that is worried about my work isn’t right for me.
How did you put together financing & gather resources? At the beginning, I tried to find a partner with a tech background to help me build and launch it. I ended up meeting a bunch of people, none of whom took me very seriously. Apparently my idea was ‘cute’ but not serious enough for the tech world! No matter your idea, finding a co-partner can be hard – often you’re expected to give them 50% up front. It seems a little like marrying someone after a first date; you don’t really know what you’re getting yourself into and it doesn’t really make sense! In the end, I saved up and paid someone to build the original site for me. In hindsight, this was the best thing for it. It meant I could keep creative control and ensure the brand stayed fun, cheeky and playful.
Walk us through a typical day in your life. Definitely no such thing! I spend my time working with my team on what content we’re going to produce for the week, checking in with our customers to make sure everyone’s having a great experience and then – increasingly – working with production companies and publishers to bring Never Liked It Anyway to the world of sitcoms, reality TV and books! It’s a really exciting time and really charged with creativity, which I love. Today, for example, I plan to write some sample chapters for our book, send 150 Bounce Back Boxes to Miami Swim Week and work with our partners Glam Squad on a video series called “Bounce Back”. Never a dull moment!!
[quote_right]I also try to give myself a break and not beat myself up over the small things. At the end of the day, my work is not that serious – I’m not saving lives or inventing a cure for cancer.[/quote_right]What resources do you draw upon to motivate yourself through life’s challenges? Friends and family. And talking things out. We have a tendency to only seek out our friends and family when things are fine rather than when we’re in the thick of our problems. I’m trying to get better at asking for help when I need it and it’s amazing what happens when you do! I also try to give myself a break and not beat myself up over the small things. At the end of the day, my work is not that serious – I’m not saving lives or inventing a cure for cancer. Keeping things in perspective helps to reduce day-to-day stress (which most of the time is over trivial things). What really matters is people – so I try to do the right thing by my team (I love my team!) and our customers. That brings me fulfillment and satisfaction.
Do you believe work-life balance is an achievable goal? Absolutely, and I’m fortunate enough to say I have that right now. Being your own boss can be tricky but the perks are immense. This is a small, but meaningful example – I’m not very good at working from about 3-5pm. I’ve always known it, but now I can do something about it. During these hours, I’ll go for a big beach walk with a friend. It clears my head and inspires me, and then I can get back to work. I’m also trying to work remotely for a month each year – and do that near my family. They live in Australia so making time to see them is really important to me.
Where do you find inspiration? I try to find it everywhere! Once a week, I try to take myself somewhere humbling and mind-blowing, just to keep it fresh – like the Getty, LACMA or even a studio in another part of town. I also really like to read funny things – especially historically funny things. Knowing that everyone from the Greeks to the Ottomans right up until today were having a good laugh is somehow very comforting to me. I try to read something creative as soon as I wake up (rather than check my phone… it’s hard, but I’m getting better!). It’s a much nicer way to start the day, fuelling up on creativity, rather than trawling through a FB feed.
What advice would you give to your 18-year old self? Go for it!! Launching Never Liked It Anyway has been the most wonderful experience. It’s taught me skills I never thought I’d be able to master and opened up doors I didn’t even know existed! It doesn’t look at all how I thought it would, but it’s truly incredible! Through Never Liked It Anyway, I’ve met so many amazing people, have written for places like Forbes on entrepreneurship, co-hosted a radio show and am working with an awesome company to develop a TV show based on the idea. There is no way I would have thought any of this were possible a few years ago! I encourage people to just make a start. You don’t have to get it right, just get going. Perfection is a big trap. Your idea will evolve, change and morph as you go – so just do it as soon as you can.
What’s your biggest vice?
Gelato and tequila. Not together. I try not to call them vices. I think the stress caused by trying to avoid ‘bad’ things is worse for you than the actual thing itself.
Great advice. What is the moment in your life that you felt the most “successful”? I feel successful now because I’m truly enjoying the life I’ve carved out for myself. I love my work, my friends, my family, my team and my puppy! I love the challenges, the independence, the freedom and learnings that come with running your own business and trying things you have no idea how to do! Though some days I feel stuck in an entrepreneurial funk and wonder why I signed up for it, I wouldn’t change it for anything. On the whole, enjoying the day-to-day is probably the most meaningful ‘success’ I’ve experienced.
What do you consider to be your hardest won or most treasured life lesson? Honestly, probably going through breakups. They really do make you feel awful and knock you down into the ground. Then, you have to climb back inside yourself, do a bit of digging and rediscover all the bits about you that are great. You dust them off, polish them up a little and then come back brighter, happier and more whole than ever. It’s an incredible transformation to go through and you always end up in a better place.
Where do you see your future? I hope to do a lot more creative writing and also help other women launch their own businesses. I feel really strongly about female entrepreneurs and creating communities and opportunities for us to flaunt what we’ve got! I hope to create a community of kick-ass women to help us all soar. I’m a firm believer in Shine Theory – when you shine your light on those around you, we all grow brighter.
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