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2016 New Zealand Innovation Awards Most Inspiring Individual: Jenene Crossan

The winner of the Most Inspiring Individual is... Jenene Crossan!

It isn’t surprising Jenene Crossan is an inspiration to so many. In her 21 years as a digital entrepreneur, she’s built and sold multiple companies and shared her hard-earned knowledge with those following in her footsteps. And surprise, surprise: she’s strongly driven by a desire to innovate. “I love innovation,” she explains. “I just love creating things. Innovation is what gets me out of the bed in the morning. It keeps me form getting bored.”

For proof of innovation, one need look no further than Flossie, a ‘Uber of beauty’ app that lets users book in appointments at hairdressers, spas, nail salons and more on-demand. “It’s a billion-dollar industry in New Zealand every year,” Crossan explains of the app’s market potential. “It’s a lot like Uber. Mobile is where things are going. There’s no doubt about it. We’re increasingly seeing it. Customers want to get what they want, when they want it, and they want the convenience. The old model of booking a hairdresser appointment six weeks in advance is obsolete. You don’t know where you’re going to be in six weeks.”

Begun as an e-commerce site in 2012, Flossie shifted to a mobile app in late 2014. Although Crossan says she believed it always had the potential to be a “game-changer” because of its ability to disrupt the industry and its ease of use for customers and businesses, she only began to scale the company in April this year. And it’s caught on quickly since, she says. “We’ve had 400 percent growth in the last six months,” she explains. “Our target is 1,000 percent growth by the end of next year.”

Check out this podcast with Jenene Crossan and Idealog publisher and editorial director Ben Fahy:

Such a goal may seem ambitious, especially considering Flossie already has hundreds of salons registered and thousands of members throughout New Zealand. But Crossan knows a thing or two about getting companies going – and has some big names backing Flossie: Tim Cook (though not the same guy as the Apple guru), Adrian Burr, the co-founders of Hell Pizza, Peter Cooper, Stephen Tindall, Theresa Gattung, Scott Gilmour, the team behind Sonar6, and Rob Campbell.

Aside from some of the biggest names in business, Crossan has a proven track record of success, too. Her first foray into digital came in 1994, when she was just 16 years old, at Info Tools. Four years later, at 20, she launched nzgirl from her spare bedroom on a second-hand computer. The online outlet, where Crossan remains a director, has since gone on to become the largest social magazine in New Zealand.

And that’s not all. At 22, Crossan was backed by the late Lloyd Morrison on nzgirl and started her second business, 18 Ltd, which was later sold to Research International. Wellington-based venture capital firm Movac backed Crossan’s next venture, a female-led ad network (called Flossie Media Group – Crossan kept the Flossie name), which was later launched in Australia and merged with a technology company to form email platform Actual Dialogue. And, in 2014, Crossan founded Bloggers Club (now known as BC), a social influence agency. Headed by CEO Spencer Willis, the agency represents more than 400 influencers across a variety of sectors and industries.

And there’s more. Recently, Crossan became a director of Simplicity, a nonprofit KiwiSaver investment entity (and winner of Innovation in Financial & Professional Services, see page 106). Simplicity is disrupting the industry because of its, well, simplicity, both in terms of its platform and the transparency of its fee structure. “I love that story,” Crossan says of being involved with Simplicity. “You have your thing you’re into, and for me it’s always been, ‘how do you fix things?’ I love how we can harness data, technology, to improve lives.”

With such experience, it comes as no surprise that Crossan has strong views on innovation. If a business doesn’t innovate, she says, then that’s the equivalent of death. “Innovation should be at the heart of every business,” she says. “Change is what has to drive us. The status quo is what will kill us, and many don’t realise it. But it will be. We need to innovate. You should never sit still.”

Having a culture of innovation at a business or organisation is critical, Crossan says. And it’s not just to get an edge over any competitors – it’s to simply stay afloat and meet the ever-changing needs and desires of customers who demand convenience more than ever before.

“To beat your competitors, you need to innovate,” she explains. “The female consumer today is a really busy individual. If we were standing still at any point, that’d be it. We’d be finished.”

EVALUATOR'S COMMENTS:

I love the fact that the Flossie app has become the New Zealand marketplace for beauty treatments and therapy. This has allowed people to make fast easy transactions, saving valuable time of having to phone around for an appointment. I would love to see this app go global.

This story first ran in Idealog 63.