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October 18, 2016

Lisa Messenger comes to town for AFF

The publisher and entrepreneur has some ideas that are sure to resonate in a city struggling to define its future.

  • Interview: Sharmonie Cockayne

Lisa Messenger is the CEO of The Messenger Group, and the founder and editor-in-chief of Collective Hub – an entrepreneurial lifestyle magazine with a mandate to disrupt, challenge and inspire a worldwide audience. CityMag spoke with her ahead of the ‘Daring and Disruptive’ event she will appear at as part of The Adelaide Fashion Festival.


Lisa will be speaking at the ‘Daring And Disruptive’ Lunch on Wednesday 19 October as part of the Adelaide Fashion Festival.

Tickets are available for purchase here.

Did you have an epiphany or stand out moment when you conceived the idea of The Collective? Where were you, and what inspired your idea?

Funnily enough, I was travelling with one of my staff in Morocco years ago and, atop a rooftop in Marrakesh, we hatched out a plan for a series of magazines. I didn’t know at the time, but the seeds for Collective Hub were being sown at that moment (she is now my Content Director, so has watched it unfold).

But, it wasn’t until years later that I walked into the office one morning and told the team I wanted us to start a magazine. The day before, we had decided that we would only make books, and that’s what we’d focus on 100 per cent. Something wasn’t right in my gut, and I was grateful at how embracing they were of my 180-degree revolt, considering our discussion just a day prior. By day’s end, we had created a rough overarching vision and next steps to get it underway. Less than a year later, we were on newsagent and supermarket shelves, launching in 12 countries. Today we are in 37.

What is the hardest thing for you about being a publisher in an age where print is becoming increasingly hard?

Print is a costly beast, but there is still great merit and value for it. There’s nothing better than curling up with a magazine in the bath or on your deck in the sun or even on the grass at the park. I work my iPad hard and take it with me everywhere, but it can never replace the aesthetic and feeling or reading a novel or magazine – and I know our readers feel the same way.

From a business perspective, we’ve just had to approach it differently to fund it, and I believe that this creative approach to all aspects of the business is what has ensured our overall success, not just with the magazine, but also beyond it.
The best part for us though, is that we are offering a range of things for stakeholders, not just a magazine. We have, which is growing insanely, and then we have events, our education offering with Torrens University, my books and speaking, and other published products.

How important do you think social media is to young or emerging entrepreneurs in the fashion and publishing industries? Do you think it is now essential?

Absolutely crucial. Businesses have been launched and grown purely on social media. They have also crumbled on it. Social media is an incredible tool which businesses and individuals can use powerfully with the right expertise and support behind them. It’s a great way for entrepreneurs to test ideas and get real-time feedback, which traditionally took time and cost a lot of money to acquire – that is a huge win for emerging entrepreneurs. For me personally, the number one rule of thumb is to keep it authentic and real – I constantly check-in with myself on that. From a business perspective, map our your social media plan well, because once it’s live, it’s hard to take back.

What is your relationship to the fashion industry?

I hope we have a healthy respect of one another! We are not a fashion magazine or a fashion website, but we profile a lot of people from within in the industry for their business acumen, ideas and innovation.

It’s such a vibrant and complex industry, and there’s more to it than meets the eye – that has been really insightful for me to experience and see since launching Collective Hub. I’ve loved seeing a lot of disruption in it of recent times, as well and getting to know some of the designers and seeing what their life is life day-to-day. After a few minutes I realise we have a lot in common – we are creative entrepreneurs with ideas and dreams, balancing commercial realities with our creative pursuits.

How do you see Adelaide in the context of the Australian fashion industry, or even just in the context of the creative industry?

There are so many things to love about Adelaide, but the rise of its fashion industry over the past few years when other industries are struggling is testament to its resilient, resourceful, creative underbelly – and they are all of the characteristics I love! I love that people are finding their passion and thriving, but not only on a small scale (which is fine too), but there are some big things coming out of Adelaide at the moment which are being displayed on the world stage. That’s powerful and inspiring for entrepreneurs and fashion designers all over the country.

Why did you choose to speak at the Adelaide Fashion Festival?

I’ve been fortunate to get quite a glimpse behind the scenes of the fashion industry since we launched Collective Hub. I think a lot of people just see all the lovely clothes and fashion shoots and don’t realise there’s a powerhouse of entrepreneurialism and creativity that goes behind it all – with all the highs and lows of the entrepreneurial journey. I love to come alongside entrepreneurs and encourage them in their journey, to give them any fresh ideas I might have or tips garnered from my years in business which might help them in theirs, and vice versa. We might be from different industries, but more often than not, entrepreneurial principals translate, and if I can be a voice of empowerment and encouragement during the festival, I’d be very happy with that! I also love Adelaide, so any excuse to head west!

You spent time with Sir Richard Branson on his private island, Necker. How did that come about? What did you take away from your time with him there?

I have been really interested in Richard’s business life and, like many entrepreneurs, have aspired to be like him in some areas. Over the years, I’ve taken every opportunity to respectfully and appropriately connect with his team, and I guess you could say that the planets aligned for Necker. It was such an incredible trip and one I’ll never forget. The island itself is beautiful and fun, but the access to Richard was unexpected. He was open and encouraging, sharp and witty all in one. One of the biggest takeaways for me was his genuine interest in people and their business journeys. You don’t always get that with really busy, successful people. Then, when he came to Australia recently, I was so honored to spend a week with him, shoot him for the magazine and present with him on stage.

You’ve said you don’t believe in wishing, you believe in doing. What are you doing right now?

Great question! We have just moved offices to a MUCH larger space. It’s too big for us right now but like one of our staff members said this week, “we can see our future”. Space is really important to me and I think it impacts how effectively you work and the overall culture of your team so instead of just saying we wanted a rooftop office with lots of natural light, and plants and a city view, we have one! There’s even room for the pony and turtle that I keep saying I want. Now to pay for it…

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