Frenchie is making waves within the sexual wellness industry. Founder and CEO Shayne Mele recently told Inside Retail that the brand had seen over 350 per cent growth over the last year, and is continuing its expansion in the US. Further, Frenchie’s recent partnership with David Jones over Valentines’ Day marked a watershed moment for the retail industry. He explained that it represented the first time that the traditional retailer sold sexual wellness products such as condoms, vibrators a
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s and lube in-store. Here, Mele shares what he learned from his time at Swisse Wellness, the importance of setting time aside to switch off, and why he learned to “act the expert.” Inside Retail: Tell me about your career journey. How did you get into the industry, and what are some of the different roles you’ve held along the way? Shayne Mele: Through my early 20s and 30s, I worked in various industries as an employer. I then identified an opportunity to start my own business. I’ve always been obsessed with business and enjoyed founding businesses. In my mid-30s I joined Swisse Wellness, which was a big career-changing moment. I was impressed with how strong the company culture was and how passionate the team were about helping people be healthier and happier. I worked my way through the business, which eventually brought me to Sydney to take on the key account manager role. It was quite the ride – we literally grew the business by triple digits off the back of the growing demand for Swisse products in China. I was then approached to lead one of China’s largest e-commerce platforms as VIP.com’s regional business development strategy. I worked with founders across the wellness industry, but it was obvious at that stage that I needed to get back into founding a business. Shortly thereafter, I started an international distribution business working with brands on their China entry strategy and distribution across a network of buyers and retailers. What I noticed was that there was a standout category that was lagging in innovation in products, marketing and comms, and that was sexual wellness. Growing up, I always had a positive attitude when it came to sex, but shopping for products was drab. The supermarket and pharmacies were full of products that contain parabens, fragrances, glycerin and other nasty ingredients that can irritate skin, and in intimate areas where skin is the most sensitive. This was a category that was ripe for disruption and innovation, so I launched my own brand, using my experience working with various founders and international markets to bring something that was different in all aspects. IR: What do you love about your job? SM: I love building things. Seeing projects develop from concept through to execution is fun. Founding a brand also allows you to be across so many parts of a business. One second you’re head-down in product design and function, and the next, you are discussing marketing campaigns. It’s challenging, but no one minute of the day is the same and that’s what I love – variety. IR: Do you have any business heroes? SM: Probably too many to list. I will often look at certain aspects of people and relate that to business. For instance, there are people outside of the business arena – like sports stars or musicians – who might not fit into your typical “businessperson” box but show outstanding marketing prowess, personal brand-building or product development skills. IR: What does a typical day look like for you? SM: I’m up at 5:15am and try to get to a 6am boxing class most mornings after my caffeine hit. Once I’m home, I get ready and head into the office or if it’s a WFH day, jump straight to it. First call of business is overseeing any communication we’ve received from customers or marketing partners overseas. I action anything that’s urgent and attend to any customer or shipping queries. I then meet with our team to discuss any projects, campaigns or activations we have, and action anything that requires immediate attention. I then review sales and any paid customer acquisition channels, assessing the numbers and looking for opportunities to scale up or back. The rest of the day is looking for and working on new opportunities, new products or new channels. IR: What’s your approach to work-life balance? SM: Work life balance is tough as with any start-up it’s always go, go, go. One missed opportunity could be the golden nugget, so nothing is missed. However, I try to set aside an hour a day for a workout. I love boxing and it’s one of those commitments I can get to with no excuses because I enjoy it. I also love to cook, which provides time to not think of work, and enjoy time with my family. IR: What are some of the key leadership lessons you’ve picked up over the course of your career? SM: Always lead by example. How can anyone trust a leader that isn’t in the trenches with them when it’s needed. I’m also a firm believer in backing yourself and being an expert regardless of experience. There’s been many times in my career where I’ve felt I was out of my depth. However, I quickly realised that most people are happy with the status quo and will never push themselves for more knowledge. So never underestimate your own ability to learn fast and act as the expert. Knowledge is power so leverage it to your advantage.