Business leader, entrepreneur, advocate for continued self-education and digital publishing mastermind, Bahar Etminan has a wealth of leadership experience and knowledge under help belt including CEO and GM roles with beauty and luxury categories. This business powerhouse was the youngest ever Brand General Manager of Bobbi Brown in Australia at just 27!
Not just successful in global roles, Etminan created and launched her own companies, starting with a beauty distributor and moving to a female-led publishing network, RESCU.com.au. Etminan's latest venture sees her tap into the growing trend towards digital learning platforms, launching RescuMe Academy, offering video led online education courses featuring world class experts on the subjects of health, personal development, beauty and relationships. The courses are created to empower and educate on the subjects that have proven to be top rating on RESCU.com.au. Each course features experts who deep dive, giving easy to follow step-by step-lessons presented as video, audio and workbook format.
Question: What is the art of personal and professional reinvention?
Bahar Etminan: I have always believed in the idea of evolving myself both professionally and as a person. I think this is a result of being an immigrant to Australia from Iran when I was seven years old and having the opportunity to discover and merge into a new culture, learn a new language and integrate into a new world. This early experience gave me the confidence and knowledge that nothing is forever and we are all capable of reinventing and transcending who we think we are. I have changed schools many times and lived in the US and France as an adult. Each time, I was able to learn and express different aspects of myself.
I have been married twice and had a couple of significant relationships where again I needed to and had the opportunity to reinvent myself and express different aspects of my personality. I think relationships both romantic and platonic are a really easy place to play with the idea of reinvention in a safe and loving space.
Professionally, I studied business at a time that the internet was only just becoming available and mobile phones were a very new reality. So really, my university degrees did not prepare me for my career as a digital publisher and the creator of an online education business. This took reinvention, re-education and the ability to be flexible and resilient to the changes, newness and discomfort of becoming something and someone new.
Question: Why is it so important to continue to reinvent ourselves as we progress in our career and our life?
Bahar Etminan: To me, reinvention is synonymous with reinvigoration. I believe reinvention through examining who we are, who we've been and who we want to be, regularly gives us the chance to be inspired and challenged and ultimately become anything we can imagine. There is nothing more energising than going from caterpillar to butterfly in any aspect of your life. Change is the only constant and I am lucky that I have a really good and positive association with this lack of certainty. I think it's given me an edge in business and in life. It's the one thing I hope to be able to teach my daughter well. Once I got familiar with embracing the unfamiliar, the fear dropped and the doors flew open.
Question: How can we incorporate self-education into our busy lives, today?
Bahar Etminan: There has never been greater access to experts, masters and information than right now. Most of it for free. I spend hours each week doing online courses, watching YouTube videos and when I can, attending seminars and workshops. I listen to Podcasts and eBooks, all the time.
I created RESCU Me Academy when I realised I did not want to spend hours of my life mindlessly scrolling through other people's curated lives on social media and that even ten minutes a day spent learning something new, could totally transform my life. The courses we created are video based and also available as audio. They are filmed in 8-12 minutes lessons. You can binge learn as you would a Netflix series or you can tap in and out for lessons that are of interest at that moment.
Self education is the most nourishing and rewarding gift to self. In any area... new languages, cooking, coding, relationships, make up application, meditation or floristry. Whatever floats your boat really. If you have 10 minutes a day to read emails, scroll through Instagram or listen to two songs, you have time to learn a new skill.
Question: Is it possible to start our own business with nothing?
Bahar Etminan: I started RESCU.com.au with a $1m debt, so really less than nothing. It was off the back of my first business, Brandmakers, a cosmetic distribution company importing 36 skincare, fragrance and make up brands to over 3,000 retailers across Australia, had to be wound down during the Global Financial Crisis. I got caught with foreign exchange debt and to repay the bank for this, in the two weeks I had been granted, I had to sell everything I owned, pay out contracts and close the business. This closing down actually cost me the same as the foreign exchange loss. It was the worst time of my life and I was only 35. I didn't want to go bankrupt and I was hugely embarrassed.
I used this to pick myself up and try again. Quickly. All I had was a data base and the shell of a website. I called every famous person and expert I had in my little black book and asked them to be a contributing writer for RESCU, the reinvented lifestyle site. I started publishing without any previous writing or journalistic experience. I knew it wasn't perfect but I was not self-conscious. I also approached businesses to start advertising on RESCU and using our data base to reach consumers. It worked and within three years, I had repaid my debt and was on my way to a rewarding and successful digital media career.
Question: What piece advice do you have for women beginning their own business, this year?
Bahar Etminan: Don't wait for perfect. Start today, polish up the details as you go along, and get excellent legal, accounting and book keeping advice from day one. I also strongly advocate asking people to help you. I have found people love to and are flattered to be approached for advice and assistance. This doesn't mean using or abusing their generosity and you must always be ready and able to repay the favour in any way you can (not always money) but do ask for help. It opens up channels that you would not imagine possible and it fast tracks success. When you get to success, pay it forward.
Question: How do failures in business actually work in our favour?
Bahar Etminan: Failures in anything work in our favour as they expose a weakness and area for development. Think of failures in relationships, cooking and learning a new skill. It's almost impossible to do anything without the steps of failure either up front or during the process. I learned from my first business being hit with the GFC that I had grown too fast, did not have the cashflow to support the growth and I should have hedged my foreign currency. I also learned that I did not keep a close enough eye on the risks to my business when I was busy growing. I was making unprofitable decisions to grow based on vanity or without thoroughly doing the math before saying yes. I also got lazy and relied on other experts to advise me when as a business owner; I needed to be across the micro details.
Question: What's a typical day like, for you?
Bahar Etminan: I have a morning ritual of listing to a guided meditation and doing a short series of affirmations. I then always make my bed nicely and mindfully so that I return to my bedroom and enjoy the peacefulness. I wake up my daughter and whilst she's getting dressed I shower and I have a million amazing shower gels and potions that I use even if I have a three minute shower. I love the sensorial experience of doing something luxurious and feminine for myself. I do Intermittent Fasting everyday so I don't eat breakfast but have a coffee which I drink in the car as we go to school. I try to do my exercise (Pilates or Barre class) before I get into the office or start meetings. The day is always varied; events, pitches, editing, looking at analytics for the courses and the site. I leave early to pick up my daughter and log on again after dinner if I need to. I never work on weekends. I stopped working at nights a long time ago too. It's incredibly unproductive and I feel I'm better off reading a book, doing a course module or listening to a Podcast after my daughter is in bed. Before sleeping, we do a short series of affirmations and gratefulness. I also try to read a book for at least 10 minutes a day.
Believe it or not my beauty routines are pretty low key; cleanse, serum, moisturise. Once a week I may do a mask and if I remember, I go under my Omnilux light therapy machine two times a week. It's heaven and it's literally a time machine.
Interview by Brooke Hunter