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Beauty Without The BS, From Gritty Pretty Founder Eleanor Pendleton

Creative People

I met Eleanor Pendleton last year during a media trip to Halcyon House in New South Wales, but I already knew who she was. The founder of Australia’s first digital beauty magazine and curated online store which promises ‘beauty – without BS’, El started Gritty Pretty as a side-blog while working as a beauty editor. What started as a passion project has now grown into a thriving business, and has amassed an audience of 100,000+ readers a month!

El and I got chatting about the shift from print to digital, and working in the online realm. I was SO impressed by her candour and deep knowledge of her engaged audience, and have been chasing her up for some words of wisdom ever since. Today, we stop by Gritty Pretty’s Sydney HQ to learn more from El and her team!

27th April, 2018

Inside Gritty Pretty HQ. Photo – Jacqui Turk.

Eleanor Pendleton, founder of the massive beauty website. She became the youngest editor in Australia at age 20! Photo – Jacqui Turk.

Details of the chic and sophisticated Sydney HQ. Photo – Jacqui Turk.

El quit her job as the beauty editor at InStyle three years ago to focus on Gritty Pretty full time. Photo – Jacqui Turk.

El’s team has grown from her kitchen table to six people in a studio in Sydney. From left to right: Morgan Tait, Wendy Hoang, Eleanor Pendleton, Eliza Hynd and Erica Wildey. Photo – Jacqui Turk.

‘We ask ourselves every day, “Do women want to know about this?” If they do, we’ll test and report on it.’ Photo – Jacqui Turk.

In addition to the ultra-popular website, Gritty Pretty has an online store featuring a collection of beauty products curated by beauty editors. Photo – Jacqui Turk.

‘As a startup, we were able to be more nimble than larger publishing houses, so we got sh*t done,’ says El. Photo – Jacqui Turk.

El in front of her EPIC BEAUTY CUPBOARD. This is the stuff of dreams, people! Photo – Jacqui Turk.

Sally Tabart
Friday 27th April 2018

From a young age (like, 9 or 10 years old), beauty editor Eleanor Pendleton made the steadfast decision that she wanted to work as a writer for glossy magazines. It wasn’t just a phase! After high school, she went on to study a fast-tracked degree that would take her into the workforce in two years instead of four (who is thinking of that at 18?!), and within her first year ‘called, emailed and begged’ publications like Girlfriend and Cosmopolitan for work experience opportunities.

Work experience led to an internship in Cosmo’s beauty department under the mentorship of beauty mogul Zoë Foster Blake, who El credits for her discovery of an ‘incredible industry that combined trends, technology and beauty with the art of writing.’ At the end of her first year, at the age of 19 (YES 19), El was brought on as Cosmo’s editorial coordinator and beauty writer.

El went on to write for major publications including Harper’s Bazaar, body&soul, Men’s Health, Refinery29, and later landed beauty editor roles at FAMOUS and InStyle. And SOMEHOW, amongst all of that, she started her then-blog, Gritty Pretty. After quitting her job at InStyle three years ago to focus full-time on Gritty Pretty, the team has grown, from Eleanor at her kitchen table, to a team of 20-plus contributors and six staff members in a chic, modern studio in Sydney.

What does a typical day for you involve?

There isn’t one! No two days are the same for me and it’s probably one of the reasons I love my work so much. Some days, I could be in back to back meetings with my editorial and business development teams. Other days, I could be at breakfast or lunch with a beauty brand, on set for a photo shoot, interviewing a celebrity or industry expert or traveling the country or globe.

Both you and TDF’s founder, Lucy, have been around since the Blogspot days (which is practically ancient in internet time! ). How have you noticed the online space change over time? 

The biggest observation I’ve made is the rapid pace in which consumers/readers/human beings are consuming content – literally everything is faster, sharper and more concise. The result is a decrease in our attention spans. Vying for the time on page and an engaged audience is now the objective rather than just numbers. I personally created Gritty Pretty Magazine because it didn’t exist and I wanted to be able to read it. As a startup, we were able to be more nimble than larger publishing houses, so we got sh*t done.

Practically, animation is a big thing for me. Digital can’t ever be tactile – our website can’t compete or replace the beautiful touch of glossy papers or the smell of ink. We innovate in other ways by doing things print magazines can’t – we animate products, we show women what they look like when they open and close, we show them visually step by step with moving actions how to apply a product and we provide them with an opportunity to shop and purchase at the click of a button – something no print publication can do.

What has the growth of Gritty Pretty looked like over the last five years?

Gritty Pretty has had two lives. Originally, I launched the beauty website back in 2010 when I was working as beauty editor at FAMOUS Weekly magazine. I wanted a website that would inspire,  yet talk in a way that wasn’t just spinning marketing BS.

After a couple of years of editing Gritty Pretty more so as a creative outlet, I took a beauty editor position at InStyle for three years, where it sat dormant. Once I re-launched the website at the end of 2014, Gritty Pretty had become the only beauty website in Australia to offer a beautiful, interactive digital magazine experience, which educated women on all things skincare, cosmetics, hair care and fragrance, but from the ease of their computer or smartphone device.

From then and to now, our beautiful audience of women has grown to attract 100,000+ readers each month – 70% of those are Australian women. We ask ourselves every day, ‘Do women want to know about this?’ If they do, we’ll test and report on it.

What is it about what you do that makes you say, ‘YES!’ this is what it’s about!’?

There are so many aspects to running a business that are equal parts rewarding and challenging. I thrive on the challenge; the moments where it doesn’t come easy (which is more often than not). I think this is a universal trait amongst all entrepreneurs and because of this, there is an unspoken understanding between business owners. It’s why I have so much respect and admiration for women like The Design Files’ Lucy Feagins and the beautiful space she has created.

For me personally, what truly makes me feel fulfilled is when I receive a reader letter from a woman who has cured her adult acne thanks to an in-depth skin care article one of our beauty editors has researched and written, or a new foundation or lipstick that instantly improved her self-esteem. I’m the first to admit we’re not finding a cure for cancer, but when we, as a publisher, can lift the confidence and improve the lives of our female audience that is what it really about for me! That is why I do what I do.

Being the boss can be challenging. What do you wish you had known about your business before learning it the hard way?

I’m a big believer in following your intuition and listening to your gut… and have learned the hard way that it’s so important to hire and surround yourself with those who are truly committed to your company’s mission. Working for a startup is not for everyone but regardless of the size of your business, company culture is paramount – so nipping issues in the bud is something I have learned firsthand. In saying that, I don’t wish I knew it from the very beginning, because if I hadn’t experienced through those challenging times and learned those things the hard way, I wouldn’t be a better business owner.

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The Design Files acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email bea@thedesignfiles.net