Inspirational Woman: Jenene Crossan | CEO & Co-Founder, Powered by Flossie

Inspirational Woman Jenene CrossanJenene Crossan is the CEO and Co-Founder of Powered by Flossie, a New Zealand originated software that helps enterprise hair and beauty businesses around the world reduce booking abandonment and increase revenue by streamlining the user experience.

Passionate about building the next generation of hair and beauty software, Powered by Flossie is a plug and play solution that connects to the existing calendar management software providing better tools and platforms to effectively ‘retail services online.

She won the 2016 Most Inspiring Individual at NZ Innovation Awards, placed as a finalist for the Women of Influence Awards, Women of the Year, New Zealand Marketer of the Year and the international Veuve Clicquot Award.

Described as hardworking, insightful, creative, committed and tenacious, Jenene has been a Founder for 20 years, across multiple start-ups. She regularly ‘gives back’ to the start-up community running open office hours for Founders and speaking on the challenges of being a female technology entrepreneur with family on the other side of the world.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I’m a tech entrepreneur from New Zealand, now based in London.  I’ve been working on my own digital start-ups for over 20 years, and my most recently as co-founder of  “Powered by Flossie” – which has just launched in the UK. We work with enterprise salons and product companies in the hair and beauty industry to help streamline and optimise the customer booking experience.  We’ve been operating in New Zealand and Australia for the last seven years and spied an opportunity to bring our front-end software to London last year. I commute between the two countries and in the New Year my eldest daughter will move to Paris to study.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Absolutely not!  I left school at 16 with glandular fever and ended up working for a software company and fell in love with technology.  That was back in 1994 and five years later I started out in my own company. I was entirely making it up as I went along, much as I often still do today – such is the nature of technology and the need to bring new thinking to innovate.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

I often say that success should be spelled with a K in it – “sucksess”, that’s how much it can take out of you and the price put on driving for an outcome.  My business is venture backed, and with that comes substantial pressure, alongside this I’ve had a huge challenge with fertility (years of IVF) which culminated this year with a full hysterectomy.  Five weeks post-operation, I was back on the plane to London, and the year has continued in the same way. What has changed though, is that I am very clear about protecting my space and time, to ensure that I can lead a healthy life – which everyone benefits from.  I believe that there is 2% of me that is my absolute superpower and must be looked after. It can be exhausting being a tech founder – but it’s possible to surround yourself with people who also want to see you thrive. Through almost breaking myself, I was able to recognise how to go about pushing back and away from a burn out culture.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I’ve been so fortunate to be supported by incredible individuals, including my co founder Steven Torrance – so every achievement I celebrate is a testimony to our partnership.  It’s a lovely symbiotic one where we bring to the table the necessary skills and experience to achieve. We are really proud that we’ve been able to create a global company as only 1 in 50 NZ companies ever gets offshore.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success? 

I used to say it was resilience, and then I found out the hard way that resilience is not a personality trait and it can run out if you don’t look after it.  Now I’ve realised it’s my tenacity and lack of shame! I will keep turning up again and again, and not let anything stop me from achieving my goals.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

Earlier in my career I kept myself relatively separate from the technology itself, my role was to form and sell the concept, but the tech implementation was always Steve’s domain.  Now I can confidently understand the relationships between all of our platforms, as well as how they function, and that’s been a turning point for how we commercialise it. Get informed, understand how it works and the ‘why’.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

I’d love to say there are no barriers, but sadly I’ve experienced some interesting ones in the UK.  But I’ve had to take it as a challenge to overcome, and ask for some guidance from peers to get through it.  It hasn’t been pleasant, but I learnt a lot about myself and certainly gained a greater appreciation for how much more work there is to be done.

What do you think companies can do to progress the careers of women working in technology?

I would continue to ask people who see antisocial or sexist remarks to call them out and stand up in unity.  I was in an unfortunate situation during a conversation with a group of men, where I came away feeling like I’d been quite ganged-up on. It was surprising in this day and age, as it’s not something I’d experienced before.  The only way we can prevent issues like this occurring is by speaking up, calling people out and holding ourselves to higher standards.

There is currently only 17% of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry? 

Shine a greater light on the women that are working in tech, and highlight their journey in getting to those positions.  I have three amazing step daughters and I’m still surprised by how limited the view from schools are on what is available to them.  The more we can socialise them with some of the very interesting, innovative, unique and challenging roles out there, and show them the path to get there – I think we will see faster change.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech? 

Being connected is how I ensure that I’m across what is important for my industry, but also how I keep inspired, but sometimes the deluge of information can be a bit overwhelming.  We keep a Slack channel at work of inspiring links, I’m in a Whatsapp group with a number of like-minded friends. I find having it curated is the best way to feel like you’re getting the feed you need, without the unnecessary death by data.

What is the opportunity or gap you’re hoping to achieve with your technology?

When you think about how e-commerce has evolved over the last few years, it’s incredible – we’re now able to see, like and buy goods on Instagram within the blink of an eye and a tap of a smartphone screen. With our ‘Powered by Flossie’ retail technology, we are enabling salons to create a similar experience for their hair and beauty treatments and give them a fully integrated, easy booking process that ultimately fixes no shows and lost revenue. The beauty service industry is notoriously backward when it comes to their retail technology, often relying on legacy systems, so we’ve created a platform that can plug in to their existing tech to ease the customer booking experience and boost revenue.

How have you managed to balance your time and relationships while living between two countries?

With great difficulty!  It’s a really tough gig and one that has real physical and mental impact.  I am fiercely protective of my time and ensuring that it’s spent wisely and that means I’m less of a ‘yes’ girl than I used to be.  My focus is laser-like and I only commit to the things that I absolutely have to – that way my family, husband, colleagues and clients get what they need and I’m still sane at the end of it.  For instance when I arrive in London (I come for 8 week stints, then head home for 2 weeks), I always put normality in place straight away and don’t treat it like it’s a visit, it becomes my home.

Launching into the traditionally male-dominated world of venture capitalism as a long-standing female tech entrepreneur must have its challenges – how have you overcome these?

I have so many wonderful and horrifying stories and one day they’ll make a great book.  In the meantime, I can say that I feel like I’ve been hugely supported and afforded an exceptional opportunity to pursue my vision and by people who generously and bravely believe in it too.  We have raised about £4m in seed funding and that has got us here. I’ve had my share of patronising remarks and more than a few low points, but I accept that the ups and downs are part of the job and I’m lucky that I get to do something I love. Sharing the vision of Powered by Flossie is a favourite past time.

What tips do you have for SMEs trying to make it into international markets? 

Pound the pavement.  Turn up as the customer and figure out where  the pain points are. I spent two years researching before I confidently understood what the market opportunity was.  Even then a lot of what I found out I stumbled upon, simply because I was coming at the industry with an open mind. I believe every market is always going to have new challenges and our best way to approach that is to ask a lot of questions and meet a lot of people.