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Success Stories

Playing by Her Own Rules the Secret to Success for Kester Black’s Anna Ross

Smarter Writer
Smarter Team

The Smarter Team is made up of business and technology journalists who write to offer insights to small and medium businesses about technology, business know-how and emerging trends.

Smarter Writer
Smarter Team

The Smarter Team is made up of business and technology journalists who write to offer insights to small and medium businesses about technology, business know-how and emerging trends.

  • Anna Ross does things her own way, giving Kester Black an ethical mission customers respond to.
  • Entering the Telstra Business Women’s Awards helped Ross to refine the concept for her business.
  • Nominations are now open for the 2019 Telstra Business Women’s Awards.

A rule breaker by nature, Anna Ross is dedicated to undoing traditional-but-less-sustainable business practices. However, doing things differently hasn’t made her any less successful.

The founder of ethical beauty brand Kester Black is on a mission to initiate global change in the beauty industry by setting new standards for cosmetics with a positive social and environmental impact. Every business decision is made with these values and core mission in mind.

Kester Black founder Anna Ross Kester Black founder Anna Ross is committed to making ethical and sustainable cosmetics.

Ross founded the brand in 2009 from her bedroom with just $30 from her wages and a Gumtree ad. Today, her commitment to sustainable beauty products, putting ethical and design values first, has helped to build a company with just over $1 million in revenue. “It wasn’t really planned; it was kind of a hobby that turned into a business,” she says. 

In 2016, Ross’s hobby-turned-business led to her winning the Telstra Australian Young Business Women’s Award. “I won the award two years ago and I’m still getting heaps of opportunities coming through. I’ve just been filmed on A Current Affair and I’m doing a podcast series with Xero.”

It was Ross’s faith in herself and her achievements that convinced her to self-nominate for the award. “Don’t wait for anybody else to nominate you. Just give it a crack,” she says. 

The 60 hours it took Ross to complete the application process might sound grueling. However, she found completing this highly detailed groundwork far more valuable than just qualifying for the Telstra Young Business Women’s Award. It was also extremely beneficial in helping Ross to truly consolidate the concept of her business. 

“It really defined what makes my business different, as I hadn’t really written it before. I felt my product was ethical, sustainable and the way I was doing business was kind of different to what I thought business was doing at the time.”

By the time she reached the finals, Ross found herself up against multimillion-dollar companies. Refusing to be intimidated, the startup entrepreneur knew what she lacked in numbers she made up for with her strong belief in the premise of her company. “You never know what the judges are looking for,” she says.

Even if she hadn’t walked away with the award, Ross firmly believes that entering the Telstra Business Women’s Awards would have been worth the effort. It’s not only a competition with a few category winners, but also an intensive business boot camp with many learning benefits. 

“Even if you don’t win the award, if you make use of the network and stay connected with those incredible women who are so willing to help you, then that’s what you get out of it. The investment is nothing compared to the rewards.”

Following her win, Ross has achieved more than just a trophy, she also won a year of PR and bragging rights. One of her career highlights also eventuated from the awards: participating in the Women in Focus conference, run by the Commonwealth Bank. It was here that Ross met her now business partner and together they have started a second business. 

Her advice is simple when it comes to anyone looking to start their own business or considering entering the awards.

“If I can do it, surely anybody can. I got kicked out of school. I’m dyslexic. I can’t do math, which is pretty funny. I can’t spell. I just did what I liked. I think that’s the big message for me: Do what you want, do what you really enjoy doing and do it nicely, and you’ll be successful.”



Nominations are now open for the 2019 Telstra Business Women’s Awards.


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