Lisa Messenger on start-ups, success & shaking the status quo
Australia’s answer to Arianna Huffington, “game changing” is too simple a description for Lisa Messenger. These days she’s most commonly known for being the founder and editor-in-chief of Collective Hub magazine – a print title found in 37 countries that taps into the current entrepreneurial spirit thriving globally. But that’s just the tip of her rather impressive resumé.
At the helm of custom publishing house The Messenger Group, a company she launched in 2001, Lisa also holds a collection of best-selling books to her name, is a regular contributor for The Sydney Morning Herald and Huffington Post, and is a co-partner in the Graduate Certificate in Collective Entrepreneurship program. Agree that “game changer” just doesn’t cut it?!
Having long been moved and motivated by this champion of the start-up scene, Husskie was thrilled to not only have the opportunity to do an in-depth interview with Lisa – but also be invited into the Collective Hub’s brand new offices in Surry Hills, Sydney to be the first photographer to shoot in the fresh modern space. And yes, you do spot a bunny rabbit in some of the pics – Pickles is the latest addition to the team and companion for Lisa’s cavoodle Benny.
Here, Lisa speaks exclusively to Husskie about being a disrupter, overcoming challenges, and what the future holds for the Collective Hub.
Congratulations on the success of the Collective Hub! Can you talk though the concept behind the company?
I have been in business for over 15 years, with my background in publishing, events, PR and marketing. Then a few years ago, I walked into the office and told the team I wanted to start a magazine. By the end of the day, we had all started work on the project and nutted out the overarching vision and next steps. It was a fun, exhilarating time and some of those original staff members are still with me today. The idea was to create something that looked like a glossy magazine but was in fact, something completely different; without salacious gossip but a message for entrepreneurs or anyone entrepreneurial by nature, to live their best life. I knew people wouldn’t buy it if it looked like another business magazine so it had to come wrapped in something else. The plan from the start was to create a global company with many verticals, but the vehicle to begin it all was most definitely the magazine.
What made you initially decide to start up the Collective Hub?
I saw it as a vehicle to create a movement that empowered others to live their best life. A few years down the track and I truly believe we are still 100 per cent on course.
Did you have any idea it would be the success it is today?
No, absolutely not. I am still overwhelmed at the success and also at the support of our readers and community. I’m grateful to them every single day. I knew the audience was there and that the idea was solid, but I didn’t expect the rapid response and even now, I pinch myself at the ricochet effect it has had on our lives. It proves that good news can – and does – sell, even when people said it wouldn’t. We all innately want to live a big, rich, full life, and that is the message of Collective Hub – that we can, and should.
When did you start seeing the Collective Hub gaining traction?
We launched without even a word to the media, so the first our competitors knew of us was when we sitting right beside them on newsagent and supermarket shelves. That was a bit of a buzz! The response was incredible both from readers and the media/magazine industry itself. We knew straight away that we’d struck some sort of chord and created a new magazine category (even if we posed some problems from newsagents unsure where to place us) – all we had to do was keep producing a good product and remain true to our values, which I believe we have.
What have been some of the key successes?
Staying true to our values which is harder than you would think in the media landscape, continually checking in with ourselves to make sure we are in our ‘why’ and living ‘on purpose’. Along the way, we’ve kept our nimble and agile approach to business, never afraid to try new things or change direction if we don’t think it’s right and that has been key to our success. A lot of big businesses can’t do that, as a start-up we were able to.
In a time where magazine publishing seems to be taking a back seat to digital – how have you managed to buck this trend?
I think it’s because we have offered more than a print magazine, which was always the intention. We wanted to create a movement that encouraged and empowered people to live their best lives. I personally want to be an entrepreneur who lives my life out loud as an inspiration to others that the impossible can be possible. That message is at the heart of the magazine, but it’s also pumping through the veins of all that we do – our website collectivehub.com, our events (which we love), our education offering with Torrens University, our other published products etc and there is more to come.
You’re a champion of supporting up-and-coming entrepreneurs. What drives this motivation?
I’ve always loved to help others excel in their journey and have been a natural connector of people to assist in any way I can. I think it’s something that comes naturally to me, but over the years, I’ve also become extremely grateful for those in my life who have helped me along the way – perhaps they connected me to another person who would help, or they offered solid advice in an area I had little experience in – and so, more than ever, I am keen to help others. That gets trickier as you get busier and have more demands on your time, but I hope that I’ll always harbour this penchant to support anyone who is around me, be they my staff, family, key business contacts or new people I meet.
Why do you think the start-up scene is currently at such a high?
Because we have proven globally, across many industries, that start-ups can solve some pretty incredible problems. Anyone who has used companies like Airbnb or Uber for example, will find it hard to argue against the value of a disrupting start-up – they make things easier and interesting for us! I hope we have done the same in the media landscape by showing people that there can be another way and that it’s most definitely a good one!
Do you think we are going to see this movement escalate further?
Yes, absolutely. Across the globe we are seeing a greater elevation of entrepreneurism and interest in this as a solid career trajectory. There’s even a great reception at the corporate level, where intrapreneurs are being celebrated and fostered rather than being seen as too difficult to manage or risky to invest in. Entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs are a powerful resource for society – we are passionately trying to make a positive mark on the world, seeing problems and choosing to solve them – we are can-do, will-do people. It’s a fantastic way to approach your life!
What has been your biggest “pinch me” moment?
So many, but a couple of stand-outs include presenting on stage with Richard Branson and being called to a meeting at the request of Anna Wintour in New York.
Have there been any low moments?
Oh yes, of course! Navigating the life of editor and CEO has been one of the bigger juggles – I’m not just a magazine editor but an entrepreneur running a business at the same time. While the design and editorial teams might need me to make a cover choice, I’m concurrently dealing with the everyday business pressures like cashflow and staff and ensuring we have the right systems and processes in place.
What are the five mottos you live by?
- Know your ‘why’
- Live ‘on purpose’
- Be true to yourself
- Change when things don’t feel right
- Put your health first
You believe in challenging individuals and corporations to change the way they think. How and why do you achieve this?
I am completely opened minded and I think I’ve practised it for so long that’s it’s second nature now. Ask questions, challenge the status quo, never take the first answer as gospel, try something new, then try again!
Where can we expect to see Lisa Messenger and the Collective Hub in five years’ time?
I hope that whatever we are doing, it is still 100 per cent on message and to our values. I do hope we’ll have shaken things up in a few more industries, but time will tell! Thanks for your time!