The Grace Tales Founder Georgie Abay On Her Career Journey |

The Grace Tales Founder Georgie Abay On Her Career Journey & The Best Business Decision She’s Ever Made

Today marks two weeks since we made the decision to move to a subscription model. It was a step that has been in the works for over two years and one which, if I’m honest, I was very nervous about making...

The Grace Tales has been my life for over five years now. It’s my third baby. This has been our best year yet – we produced an entire advertising campaign for an Australian fashion brand which ran in all their stores; the Honourable Dame Quentin Bryce was our guest speaker at our last GRACE Talks event; we’ve grown significantly in the UK, US and Asia; and we’ve finished our first book, out next year. Our previous model was in many ways working, but looking at what was happening in the market – I was very sad to hear the news of Cosmopolitan magazine closing in Australia after 45 years of publication – I knew it wouldn’t work for much longer and ultimately, that it wasn’t sustainable long-term. We all need to pivot. Those who know me well, also know that I can’t sit still. To keep moving forward, we needed to change our strategy. The media industry is notoriously badly paid – and because so many publishers are navigating tricky times, it’s only getting worse. When I was in my 20s, it didn’t bother me so much. I was blinded by the seemingly endless perks – the trips overseas, the fashion shows, the free clothes and beauty products, the discounts, the events. I loved my job and put my head down and I did what I’ve done since I was 14 years old and got a job in the local ice-cream shop – I worked hard. And then I became a real adult. I got a mortgage. I got married. I had kids. And the childcare bills started rolling in (at one point, when my husband left his job to start his own business, our nanny was the highest paid person in our household). Suddenly, the trips overseas lost their appeal. Chanel shows are lovely and all, but I’d prefer to tuck my daughters in at night. The gloss and glamour of the fashion industry had worn off and eventually, I came to the conclusion that I didn’t actually like fashion shows. For the most part, they left me feeling bad about myself and that I needed more in my life – more clothes, more accessories. It’s bullshit, of course. But spend enough time at fashion shows and eventually, it’ll rub off on you. And there was a lot of staring at other people – comparison was inevitable (and comparing yourself to others is, in my opinion, one of the worst things you can ever do in life). There was a fantastic article written recently by Garance Dore – one of the world’s most renowned fashion influencers – about how she doesn’t like going to fashion shows. I read every word and breathed a sigh of relief. Garance! I hear you! Read it here. I remember when a former fashion editor I worked with when I was at Harper’s Bazaar had her assistant chase me all over Paris to get my show tickets off me, so she could have them (we were only ever given one or two tickets per show). I told her she could have them all, I’d happily attend no shows and go and to the Musée d’Orsay. Frankly, spending time admiring the work of my favourite artist Degas was far more appealing than watching models who had barely hit their teens walk down a runway in clothes I’d never be able to afford in sizes I’d never be. So, I lost my passion for fashion magazines, which is a problem. Because you need to be passionate about your work. Life is too short not to love what you do. So I created a new job, which I loved (motherhood is wonderful like that – it can throw you in an entirely new direction to the one you thought you would be going in or should be going in). Stepping away from magazines and into the world of being an entrepreneur has been wonderful. It continues to have its ups and downs. Some days I’m on top of the world, and others when I’m drowning in bills, IT issues, web development problems and more, I’m wondering what the point of it all is (my period usually arrives the next day). But for the most part, I LOVE my job. Most of all, I love story-telling and I love creating a platform that inspires women all over the world. But like any business, you can’t sit still for too long or you’ll fall behind. For the last five years, I worked my arse off on this business. Just ask my husband – he’d prefer I didn’t work so much at night. But as a working mother and the primary carer of our children, much of this business is done at night or in the early hours of the morning. For now, as a mother of two small kids, it’s just the way it is. Over the years, I’ve worked with fantastic clients and for the most part, they’ve all been wonderful. But sadly, as the industry has become more and more saturated, budgets are being cut and our work is becoming less and less valued. Many advertisers are struggling too because they’re also in saturated markets. Everyone is in the same boat. So I had two options. We could continue in the direction we’re going – which relies solely on revenue from advertisers. I knew this was dangerous as no business should have only one revenue source – we all know diversification is key. Or we could think outside the box. 10 years ago, we all paid for the publications we loved. As a magazine junkie, that meant $40-$50 a month on my favourite fashion titles. When digital publications came along, they were free. Free content? Brilliant! Our mindset suddenly shifted –we came to expect content for free. Until publications such as The New York Times decided it wasn’t sustainable to produce high-quality content and give it away for free. Slowly, others followed and it’s now the norm in the world of news. And it will be the norm in women’s lifestyle platforms in the next five years. High-quality digital content will not continue to be free. This I am sure of. Moving to a subscription model is also about stepping back and being confident enough to put a value on what you do. Valuing what I do is the best business decision I’ve never made. But valuing my work has taken me years. I remember working as an unpaid intern for many years before I landed a paid job. My mother was baffled. “But it’s not a charity darling?” she’d say to me. I’d tell her that it was just the way is it. And to this day, I do see value in sometimes working for free. If you’re gaining experience or training, then it’s worth it. If there is some benefit to you, then say yes. If not, say no. My years of work experience were all worth it. If you’re writing an unpaid article but getting free publicity or pushing your product or service, then it’s worth it. There’s value there. Over the last two weeks, the response to the Grace Collective has been phenomenal. I’ve felt our work is more valued than ever before. I’m very proud of what we’ve built and it’s not often that I say I’m proud of something – I’m extremely self-deprecating most of the time. When I worked at Vogue and fell pregnant, I wished there was something for mothers to read other than the mass sites where I could track the size of my baby (as much as I love these sites – “it’s a lemon this week!”). I wanted a publication that would inspire me, but also feel like a friend who reminded me that I’m not alone. The women I work with are incredible. The women we feature on the site are incredible. This business is incredible and because of you guys, will continue to grow. It will continue to be a unique platform in the market. We have been blown away how many women have become Grace Collective members. We were packing up our welcome boxes the other day (for our annual members) and I had to take a step back to remind myself, we’ve launched and people are signing up. We did it. So many of you have joined up – it’s truly blown us away. You’re on-board. You get it. You’re moving forward with us. You’re part of our global community. We’re going to keep helping each other navigating motherhood, career and life. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for believing in our business and The Grace Collective. We can’t wait for the year ahead with you guys. Georgie x Go to Image: Emmy Etie