We chat with Elle Ferguson, the girl in the denim shorts from the blog that practically raised us: TheyAllHateUs, on her career, business acumen and female empowerment.
From lining our university dorm rooms with stunning images (you know, before Instagram had really taken off), being the go-to destination for shoppable trends, and going on to launch her eponymous brand and very own tanning line Elle Effect, Elle (33) has proven that there’s plenty of business tenacity behind her blonde hair.
And now, having partnered with Bumble Bizz, the app encouraging career-changing connections, Elle is fostering the growth of female entrepreneurs one Bumble notification at a time. With this latest jewel in her crown, our digital content producer leapt at the chance to check in with the influencer.
Scroll for the interview below to find out why Elle Ferguson is a girl you need to know.
Miss FQ: How did you get to where you are today?
Elle: “It took a lot of hard work and not taking no for an answer.”
How did TheyAllHateUs begin?
“During University where I was studying interior design and architecture, I had a role at General Pants doing store design. My business partner at the time (Tash Sefton) worked for General Pants as well and had a fellow love of all things fashion. We covered every wall in our office with inspirational images, montages and collages. Then, once we filled in all of the walls, we ended up starting a blog to be able to house all of the images. Little did we know it just took off and people in the street started recognising us.
“It started as something to do on our lunch break and then it turned into a full-time business once we started the shop feature.
“Back at the beginning of TheyAllHateUs we founded it for like-minded people. It was a place for images to inspire and ended up growing this community of people who felt the same way. Then the community just grew and grew. Even now when I travel and work with people I admire, it’s quite cool to find out that they’ve been following TheyAllHateUs.”
How did you get involved with Bumble Bizz?
“I was lucky enough to be spending a lot of time working in the States and had become familiar with what Bumble Bizz was doing in the LA. So when Bumble Bizz Australia reached out to me, I put my hand up straight away because it was something that I wanted to be involved with. I actually walked off the plane from LA and walked into a photoshoot for a Bumble Bizz campaign.
“I love what it’s about. I used to work for a corporate company where you were put in an environment with people that were all about the same thing.
“What’s so difficult about working for yourself or by yourself is that you are quite alone. We spend so much time by ourselves, behind our laptops, that we don’t have time or that opportunity to go out and meet like-minded people.
“Whether you’re looking for investors, mentors or someone to bounce your ideas off, Bumble Bizz is a great place to be.”
If you had to sum up all of your projects/jobs in one sentence, how would you describe them?
“I’m living the dream; I get to do so many amazing things and there are no two days the same. I get to wear so many hats and that’s really exciting. You’re not put in a box and you can be what you want to be.”
Do you have any advice for Miss FQ readers who want to get into careers like yours?
“Stay true to you. If you try and navigate this world being someone that you’re not, then I don’t think you’re going to succeed. If you want to break into this world, you can’t be something that you’re not. People are very aware when you’re not telling the truth.”
How important is female empowerment to you and why?
“It’s huge and it’s at the top of my list. It’s about inspiring, being inspired and breaking down the barriers. The opportunities that lie in front of us are so exciting. We can be successful and be mothers. You can all the way to top now and it doesn’t matter what sex you are.
“There’s been so much change but there’s also so much change to be had. When I speak with young girls and young women, it’s exciting to know that they’re our future and the opportunities they’re going to have if we keep paving the way forward. We still don’t have equal pay and I think that’s something we’ve got to be really pushing forward for.”
Who do you admire most in business and why?
“I always have to say this and it’s 100% is my sister. She runs her own business Baby Anything, she makes her product and she’s the boss women. I’ve seen her go from a market stall to a global business with a lot of employees, plus a store in Paddington. And I also admire Jen Atkin in business and as a woman. She’s had a really big part in my story. How she navigates her business: Set goals, achieve them, but always make time to talk to everybody. You know I can message her at any time and she will always get back to me. I really admire that about her. There are many times in my life where I’ve said: “I’m going to do this,” and that’s because I’ve learnt something off Jen.
“When you work for yourself it’s easy to feel really isolated. I was lucky that there were so many people in my journey that I came across. There are barriers to meeting mentors and getting those connections and the Bumble Bizz app breaks them down which I think is really important. It’s meeting those people and being put in touch with inspiring people that make you go home and light up a fire in you.”
How do you define success?
“By being able to go to bed at night and being able to feel good about myself. Whether it’s about my business or my family life, I like to go to bed at night and feel good about myself.”
What are some challenges you’ve faced or had to overcome?
“I’ve always had this thing being blonde; it’s the old “you can’t judge a book by its cover”. During university, I did modelling to help pay for my studies and it was a constant struggle to have to prove myself and I needed to work extra hard. I worked in a male-dominated business when I worked in interior design and I felt like I almost had to perform more to prove myself.
“Even now, there are times where I walk into a boardroom and they’re all men and I’m having to feel really across my facts and my business as though it’s something I’ve got to come up against.”
Any life-changing books, podcasts, or websites you recommend?
“I always read everything Jen [Atkin] does – I know I sound like her fan club, but – any interviews, any podcasts that Jen does I always try to listen to because I love her story of where she started and where she is now; it’s extremely inspiring. Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of talks on Business Chicks and the women on my panel are always these really inspiring, incredible women.
“I remember reading He’s Just Not That Into You when I was like eighteen, and that one has stuck with me!”
How would you describe your style? Has it progressed or evolved since launching TheyAllHateUs?
“My style is eclectic. I’m still the girl in the denim shorts and I’ll always be the girl in the denim shorts. My style is very true to who I am. I’m very lucky to live by the beach and live quite a coastal life and my clothes reflect that.
“I think with the rise of social media we’re looking to cool girls and connecting with them and we don’t even know who they are.”
What’s your favourite go-to outfit or piece when you need to feel confident?
“My denim shorts and this one silk vintage dress. When I travel it has to remain in my carry-on because if I lost it, I ‘d be screwed. I love them because a) they always look good and b) they just make me feel good.
“But my go-to outfit is denim shorts and white t-shirt.
“I don’t know what I’d do if I was over there with you guys, I’d probably have to wear tights underneath them or something.”
What’s the one beauty product you couldn’t live without?
“The Elle Effect, my tanning mousse. I’m a tanaholic so I tan my body once a week and my face twice a week so I constantly look like I have a golden glow.”
When did you last act fearlessly?
“Yesterday, my sister, my boyfriend and I did the City2Surf; it was 14kms and it was big one because I did not think I’d be able to do it. I felt fearless crossing the finish line yesterday. Last year, the three of us said we’d do it, but the fact that we actually followed through with it was a pretty amazing feeling.”
You’ve already achieved so much, what’s next for you?
“I want the Elle Effect to be in the cupboard of everyone’s bathroom. It’s breaking the rules of beauty and it becomes a household name. That’s the dream.
[And of course] “Finally coming to New Zealand. It’ll happen one day.”