First established in 2011, Melbourne’s annual Pause festival is renowned for the unique way it explores the tech, creative, and business spheres, and how it examines the convergence of the three through keynote presentations and workshops delivered by some of the world’s leading innovators and creators.
Each speaker and presenter has countless insights to share, insights gained through years of experience navigating life in their chosen field.
Sometimes, however, the best insights come from those with the freshest outlook, and to prove that at Pause 2017 will be Rebecca Rusinovic, the 16 year old founder of organic skincare brand Bahama Belle.
The youngest person to ever speak at Pause, Rusinovic started the journey to launch Bahama Belle when she was just 13 years old.
The Bahama Belle product, an organic sea salt scrub that acts as a one-step system to clear skin, is aimed at teenagers, notably those dealing with skin issues such as dryness and acne.
The idea for it came through Rusinovic’s experiences seeing the impact these problems had on the self esteem of her fellow teenage girls, leading her to wonder what she could do to solve it. She saw that her classmates were using expensive products and complex prescription medicines that barely showed any positive results.
Thinking that these products were most likely those marketed to and recommended by parents to their kids, Rusinovic thought there had to be a better alternative.
“As a teen I thought I should have products targeted at me, not both me and my Mum. So I had an idea for something natural and useful for what we were – teens.”
While she had total belief in her idea, starting at the tender age of 13 meant the already difficult path to launching a startup was even more complex.
Rusinovic said that while the reaction from her family was positive, not everyone she told about her idea responded with encouragement. The beauty industry in particular served a powerful learning curve, as she encountered people who attempted to cripple her progress.
“I truly believe there is a certain strength and mentality you need to run your own business and trying to explain this to others or convince them of your idea only opens you up for more doubt and opportunities to bring you down,” Rusinovic said.
Age was certainly a difficult factor in the journey, both in how outsiders percieved her and how she was forced to juggle schoolwork and a teenage social life beside launching her business.
“In all honesty, I believe that 95 percent of the things that have gone wrong in this whole experience have been because I am now 16,” said Rusinovic.
One particular example was the time Rusinovic paid a manufacturer to develop a sample; she was never handed the crucial list of ingredients or replies to her emails after she received the initial sample.
“I almost threw in the towel but that taught me how much I wanted to succeed and to overcome this defeat,” Rusinovic said.
While many attendees at Pause will not find age a barrier in their startup journey, Rusinovic believes most founders will similarly have a problem or issue that poses constant barriers, and her resilience in persevering through the particular barrier she faced can be of inspiration to those listening to her keynote.
For Rusinovic, the three year journey she has been on to launch Bahama Belle has helped her to learn and grow stronger as an entrepreneur.
“My biggest piece of advice to others would be to just start; you are never going to be ‘ready’. Believe in yourself wholeheartedly because if you don’t, how are others going to?” she said.
It was Rusinovic’s belief in herself that brought her support from many within the Melbourne startup community, where what struck her was the notion that people invest in other people, rather than merely an idea or statistic.
The Melbourne startup community offered her a confident spirit and energy, Rusinovic said. The young business owner said the community’s attitude towards pushing through adversity provided her with the courage to take ownership of her work and constantly move forward.
However, with the road to launching a startup paved with challenges and setbacks, Rusinovic said there is room for improvement in raising awareness about just how many support networks there are out there for early stage founders.
“If I had known of the support networks that are out there today, I would have utilised them to connect and benefit from the empathy of people understanding my experiences,” said Rusinovic.
Pause 2017 itself is a key event that can provide support to founders both new and experienced.
While keen to share her insights with others and provide them with a source of inspiration, Rusinovic said the festival will also provide her with a key opportunity to connect with those who can help Bahama Belle grow further.
Pause 2017 will take place at Federation Square on the 8th-10th of February 2017. Tickets can be purchased here.