Building Your Dream Business with Ness Campagnaro

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Hello everyone! Welcome to another week of Feminine Wealth TV! My guest this week is a friend of mine who is living in and running her own business in Bali. Ness Campagnaro is a very savvy entrepreneur who knows many gems on the topic of building your dream business !

In this interview we discuss Ness’ entrepreneurial story – a great journey that has taken her all over the world. She talks about the need to adapt your business to change, to recognise early how factors such as the economy are affecting your business and how to choose a business partner.

Prefer to read? See full transcription below!

Barbara Turley: Hi there, I’m Barbara Turley and you’re watching Feminine Wealth TV. The show that uncovers the diamond tips on creating truly conscious wealth from change-makers world-shakers and wealth-creators. I’m joined on the show today from stunning Bali, where a friend of mine Ness Campagnaro has a beautiful business, an integrated jewelry design business. She’s been living on the island of Bali for the last five years. I’m excited that she’s on the show today. Ness, welcome to the show. Thanks so much for being on the show today.

Ness Campagnaro: Hey Barbara, thanks for having me.

Barbara Turley: I see that you’re in your lovely Balinese garden there where we were supposed to do the interview last week while I was there, but the weather went against us and unfortunately I’m back in Sydney now where it’s winter.

Ness Campagnaro: It’s a lot drier now and the sky is very blue. It’s perfect.

Barbara Turley: Perfect weather, I’ll have to get back there pretty soon.

Ness Campagnaro: Yeah.

Barbara Turley: Ness, look, I was so keen to have you on the show because I love your journey. You’ve had many, many different businesses, but they’ve all been in the creative space. You also have moved to many different countries. You’ve lived all over the world. I’m really interested to know where your entrepreneurial journey started. Did you always want to be an entrepreneur?

Ness Campagnaro: I always wanted to be an entrepreneur because my parents were entrepreneurs. They were both antiques dealers and they taught me everything that I knew about gems. My mom is a gemologist and I think several years of being a small child and sleeping under tables at the antique markets, gave me the bug of being interested in the jewelry business. Also, watching how much freedom my parents had to come and go and do as they pleased. That’s what I wanted.

Barbara Turley: They actually did have that freedom even as, because lots of entrepreneurs feel like they go into business to get freedom and then realize, ow, it’s not that freeing because there’s so much to do. They actually did have that sense of freedom?

Ness Campagnaro: My parents always felt that time was the freedom and to be able to spend time with their children and to also have a very get-up-and-go life. Being able to pick up and go whenever they wanted to travel. That bug just, I guess, rubbed off on me as well.

Barbara Turley: When did you start your first business then? Was it straight out of school?

Ness Campagnaro: Yeah. It was actually out of school and then just my first year of university. I started a jewelry business making small chokers that you could just wear around the neck on a piece of leather. It was actually at the time when the American-Indian big fashion thing was going on. I really just jumped, I piggy-tailed on the back of it really. I started just selling a lot of them at the student union. Then, another student said, “Why don’t you go to another student union and do it there?”

Then, that collectively ended up being seven, I think maybe ten student unions across London where we were setting up. I had a business partner. We were setting up stands and selling these chokers and bracelets. It went from there. Then, we made enough money. We actually parted ways. He went off and finished his MA and I went off and started working selling jewelry in night clubs in the early mornings. Then, a call came to go and do a bit of fashion work in Tokyo. I dropped everything and ran there.

Barbara Turley: That was the first big move I guess. Moving to Tokyo, wow.

Ness Campagnaro: After I finished my degree, but during my degree, I also worked in Paris for a little bit. Because we had a six-month period where we could do what we wanted to do. I also went to San Francisco and worked for a fashion designer over there during my period off I guess.

Barbara Turley: Tell me about Tokyo. You didn’t run your own business there did you?

Ness Campagnaro: No. I was actually briefly working as a patent cutter for another company. It was very brief because it was hard days and a friend from Australia had written to me. That’s when people used to write to each other and said, “Why don’t you come and check out Australia?” That’s what I did and I dropped my bags down there and said, “Wow, this is a really fantastic place. It’s somewhere I think I’d like to have my home.” That’s how Australia started.

I then decided to develop my skills, because at that time in the fashion market, Lisa Ho and Collette Dinnigan owned the space. I didn’t really come with a lot of money in my pocket and I knew it was going to take, and I didn’t know anyone either, so it was not easy to raise capital to do something like that, to have a fashion business. I realized that there was a need for graphic design. With another two partners over a period of six months, we clubbed together, put our heads together and set up our design studio in 1999.

Barbara Turley: Was it easy? You mentioned there was two partners that you’ve always gravitated towards having partners. I know because you have a partner in the current business as well, don’t you? Talk to me about that because partnerships are quite hard. A lot of people find partnerships very difficult. I’ve had a few people on the show that have had successful ones and they’ve given really good tips as to how to make them work. I’m interested in what your tips are there because yours have worked over the years as well, the partnerships.

Ness Campagnaro: They have. You have to decide. It’s all about strengths and not vying for attention and reducing ego. I think if you find someone who is the money person, they’re the money person. You’re the creative person, you might have a project manager who is managing projects. A sales person. Everyone has their own skills and their own talents, but the most important thing is that you all know each other’s talents and appreciate each other’s talents, and then collectively you can work together.

Barbara Turley: Yeah, that’s really good advise I think. Because I think the tendency particularly with women is, to have a friend and say, “Hey, let’s go into business together.” Sometimes they’re the same, and then that doesn’t really work because both of them are trying to …

Ness Campagnaro: Right. I’ve done that and it’s been really fantastic. It’s been a journey for me. Not too recently, I had a partnership with a girl friend and we both love jewelry and we both wanted to conquer the world, but both of us didn’t have the entrepreneurial skill. I had it, I had the freedom. She actually worked for someone else. She didn’t have the freedom that I had and I think the push came to shove was for me. I need someone who’s probably a little bit more hungry than that person was. Hence now, I have a new partner who is a match quite well. We have different skills. I’m actually marketing and the people, I’m the communicator and she is the teacher of our jewelry studio. It works really, really well.

Barbara Turley: That’s really good advice to give because I know lots of people, they don’t want to go into business by themselves, they’d rather have partners, but it can be a mine field. Absolute mine field. Tell me as well, you have obviously from the sense of it, you’ve gone more from different business. You’ve been very fluid and you’ve gone through different countries, different businesses, different business partners. How do you stay grounded? How do you stay the course?

Ness Campagnaro: I think it’s all about adapting to your environment. You have to go with the flow. There are going to be road blocks all along the way and you have to be able to think, “Okay.” It could be contingency plans that you have in place, “If this doesn’t work, maybe we’ll go with this.” In many cases, you don’t even know when those things are going to happen. It could be an economic crisis. It could be, in fact the graphic design studio that I had, that was our biggest problem. Economic crisis in Australia. Australia didn’t really get it as much as the rest of Europe, but graphic design and design in general, suffered quite a lot in 2007, 2008.

I was actually toying with the idea of leaving and going, I guess, home, which if you can think about what home is to me. It’s, home is everywhere, but England is where my family are from. Maybe I should whether the storm in Australia, come back, work for the family business and maybe then go back to Australia once the economy was better. Being the feisty person that I am, I felt, “I can conquer this. I’m going to change my life. I’m just going to change it around. Maybe graphic design isn’t what I should do anymore. Maybe I should go back into my passion of jewelry and where can I do that.” That’s how it all …

Barbara Turley: What I love about that story actually is that, two things I would say. Number one, I think lots of creatives, and I’m going to generalize here and say lots of women, because I think women look at things like the economy, the money markets, the investing world with like, “Oh, I’m not interested in that.” I was going to say, “Yeah, but you need to be interested because as things start to come down the tracks, it can really impact your business. If your eyes are shut, you don’t see it coming. You can’t morph and change.”

The other thing I just picked up from what you were saying is that, you quickly changed attack. You made a decision. You realized, “You know what? It’s the economy, it’s not me. The business isn’t working right now, so let’s go somewhere and do something that first of all I’m passionate about and second of all, I believe is going to work.” How quickly did you close down the graphic thing? Or did you?

Ness Campagnaro: Very quickly. It took a few months. I think being able to adapt, especially in today’s modern world, is really, really important. Tomorrow in Bali, there could be a crisis as well. You just have to not have the fear. It’s all about not having fear. I think always, a person starting their first business, there’s going to be fear. Feel it. That’s the most important thing.

Barbara Turley: Yeah, you’re afraid to make a mistake.

Ness Campagnaro: Yeah. It’s a hugger.

Barbara Turley: I think people are afraid to make a mistake, but the thing is, you will make mistakes. There will be road blocks. You will make mistakes. The economy will fall on the heap. Your clients will leave. It’ll be all those things.

Ness Campagnaro: I always looked to John Singleton who still has big advertising agency in Australia and hands in all kinds of other different businesses. He’s been bankrupted seven times.

Barbara Turley: I know. He doesn’t care. He doesn’t care. Yeah.

Ness Campagnaro: He gets up. he dusts himself off and he goes for it. I think we have to do that. You’re going to succeed at some point. Just get back on that horse and keep going.

Barbara Turley: A lot of people give up before the tipping point. They’re just on the verge of success and they give up. Actually, on the bankruptcy thing, it’s really interesting. I did a live Google Hangout a few weeks ago. I do live Google Hangouts every Friday and people can ask me questions online. One girl in America asked me, “How do you deal with the embarrassment or the judgment of others when you’ve had to declare bankruptcy?” I just said that to her, I was like, “Oh my God, do you think that Donald Trump cares about that? He went bankrupt twice for billion dollars.” It’s this whole thing of, as women, I think we, and maybe it’s a generalization again, but we tend to have all these emotions attached to this thing, this shame or guilt around bankruptcies or debt or failure or whatever. It really stops us from moving forward.

Ness Campagnaro: There is one very important point that I would like to make about bankruptcy, only because I’ve had a taste of it myself. In Australia, if you are no longer a company and you become a sole trader, you are liable for your debt. Now, if you are a company and you’re registered as a company, your company takes on the debt. With personal liability, it can shut you down as a person. My hope is that people listening to this will think very clearly, get a really, really sound accountant. Someone who can give them the very best advice on setting up their business. The cheapest is not nearly the best. The most expensive doesn’t give you everything either. Just find someone you can have a good chat to, someone that really understands your business or tries to understand your business and give you good advice.

Barbara Turley: Yeah, I’m really glad you said that because one of the things that I really talk about a lot is this, first two things. The importance of your, I call them your dream team, that’s the people around you that are going to help you on your way. Also, this thing of, everybody goes for the sole trader thing because it’s easy and it’s simple and accountants generally tell you to do that, and that’s fine. Actually, I think a lot of people are really not realizing that to save the couple of hundred bucks a year it might cost you in ASIC fees or company. Sometimes it’s just not worth it. Particularly when you have partners. Partners in business, which I know, I remember now that story with you that you had a partner involved in that situation.

Ness Campagnaro: Yes, and who wasn’t actually [going to pay 00:13:50] her director. All of the problems fell on the directors and I was one of those directors. Just make it really, really super clear from the beginning. Everyone needs to know exactly where they stand. As you said, a dream team also includes a really good accountant. A good bookkeeper.

Barbara Turley: Yeah. Do you think that was one of the hardest things that ever happened to you in business? That particular situation that … Did you go bankrupt or did you just come close?

Ness Campagnaro: No. Came close.

Barbara Turley: Dodged that bullet. Moved to Bali.

Ness Campagnaro: I know a couple of my girl friends who are also entrepreneurs that have seen many years of wealth are actually feeling the pinch now as well, and they’re having to rethink. They’ve had conversations with me about how do I do it. Again, we get back to that word adapting. Seeing where there are areas of your business that are much more lucrative, concentrate. Don’t span yourself out too far and wide. Or if you do, keep your overheads down as low as possible. Hence, that’s why I’m actually in Bali working from here now. Labor is cheaper, overheads are cheaper. I’m not saying Australia is a bad place to run a business, it’s not. It’s given me many years of love, but times are changing and we all need to …

Barbara Turley: Yeah, to move.

Ness Campagnaro: … adapt.

Barbara Turley: I like what you said thereabout because it’s very focused. I think so many of us get carried away with, “Oh, let’s do this and let’s do this and let’s do all these things.” Then you think, “Where is the actual revenue coming from?” I said to you when we were there, the numbers have no emotions. They never lie. If you stick to the numbers, the numbers never lie. Too many people get carried away on the ideas and they don’t watch the revenue lines and the costs, which is really the trick I guess with making it happen.

Ness Campagnaro: I like your trick which is, “Okay, what are the figures? Double it.” I like that.

Barbara Turley: Meaning the costs.

Ness Campagnaro: Because those are real costs. Yeah. The costs involved, double it.

Barbara Turley: Yeah, double them [crosstalk 00:16:06] and double the time involved.

Ness Campagnaro: … you have something to fall back on right?

Barbara Turley: I always say, when you’re doing costings, double them and triple the time it’ll take because it will take three times the length of time. Because so many good ideas fall over actually, not because the idea wasn’t good but the person ran out of money too early. That’s a classic.

Ness Campagnaro: That’s right.

Barbara Turley: That’s classic.

Ness Campagnaro: How we’ve started this new business is, slow and steady wins the race. It’s really very much an artisan-built business. We love what we’re doing. It’s very, very slow. Overheads are very low, but it’s slowly gathering speed now and it doesn’t feel stressful. That’s really important in women’s lives as well. We already have enough stress across the board. Try and reduce that stress. Do something that you love. If you’re banging your head against the wall every day and going, “Oh, everyone’s just not doing what I’m asking them to do.” Nothing is weaving well together. I think you need to take a deep breath, sit back, work out, take a snapshot view of your business and work out what it is that might not be melding very well together.

Barbara Turley: Because it might be you. It might be ourselves going, “I don’t like it.”

Ness Campagnaro: It can totally be you and health is a really, really important part of that as well. Keeping healthy. Stress levels can do horrible things to the body. You must be able to have a strong head for business and you must look after your body.

Barbara Turley: Absolutely. One of the things that I want to talk a little bit now about the actual, one of the things I love about the business you’ve built there is that, yes it’s a jewelry business. I said, “This is a jewelry business, but it has all these different elements to it.” You’ve got this jewelry workshop. You’ve got this beautiful guest house that runs jewelry inspired experiences. Then you’ve got the design studio. Then you have this, I know bubbling in the background, I know you’re working on something to do with more, a bigger distribution model behind the jewelry. Talk to me about each of those little elements and what you do in each part and then what made you decide to put each of these elements into the business.

Ness Campagnaro: Again, it’s this thing that was, go with the flow. Everything seemed to just go from one thing to another and they all connect as well. We started off with a guest house. That gave me a space to be creative. It’s a very calm environment. We moved onto building a little workshop next door. We didn’t know what kind of workshop. When I say we, it’s me and my husband. At first we were thinking, “Oh, it would be a really good place to have maybe a yoga studio. Someone would like to do yoga there.” Then, one day, he said to me, “Why don’t you just turn it into a jewelry studio. I mean, that’s what you want to do.” I said, “That’s a great idea. Now all I need to do is find someone to do it with because I’m much more motivated when I have someone working with me.”

I had started a Tuesday nights at the guest house for local people that had just moved to Sanur. It was called a Sanur Spring Board. It was basically for women who were feeling a little bit unsettled, have just moved to Bali. Needed a shoulder to cry on. Needed somewhere to have a glass of wine and have a chat with other women who were feeling the same way. When these women started coming and there was one moment I was looking around the house and I was thinking, “There’s thirty women here.”

Barbara Turley: All feeling the same way.

Ness Campagnaro: They’re all feeling the same way and they’re all feeling powerful. They all feel like they want to do something here. Some of them were here with partners and their children. Some of them were here working. Some of them were here on a Sabbatical holiday, maybe six months to a year and deciding what they wanted to do. They’re from all different walks of life … experiences. One of the women that came ended up being my business partner, Selenia. I’m very grateful.

Barbara Turley: That’s amazing. Do you know what I love thereabout that story as well is the power of what I call a mastermind. It’s the people that you surround yourself with. The power of that for your creativity and your stress level, I guess. We all, particularly when we’re running our own businesses, we need to have a group around us, of women who are doing the same thing and are feeling the same way.

Ness Campagnaro: Yes. The energy is so positive, everyone wants to either help each other or give advice. You walk away, you walk out the door feeling this was a really positive experience. I have my sisters with me. They’re backing me. They’re behind me.

Barbara Turley: The sisterhood. The sense of sisterhood.

Ness Campagnaro: The sisterhood. That’s right.

Barbara Turley: I want to talk a little bit now about the future of this business. I know you’ve been working on something in the background and this whole distribution model. What’s the big vision I guess, for you and for this business and for your future there in Bali?

Ness Campagnaro: The jewelry workshops are going really, really well. We’re teaching people that are here on the island to make jewelry, and it’s predominantly silver jewelry. We’re also offering packages to tourists that are coming to stay and want to open up a creative side. From that, what we’ve also found is, we’re getting a lot of inquiries for people that actually want to make small lines of jewelry themselves.

What we’ve done is, we’re helping them put their own designs together, maybe giving them a better understanding of dimensions and how to put pieces together and help them on their way. We’ve done that pretty successfully now for a couple of customers, Argentina and South Africa. We’re working with some Australian girls right now on getting their collection together as well. In the background, our main aim is to show at a big show, a gem show, and launch our own line from the studio. Which we’ll have to name at some point. We’re working on that took, but that’s the big plan. Then distribution, we’re looking predominantly at China and Malaysia as our market.

Barbara Turley: Yeah, huge market. Absolutely massive market. Yeah. Do you know what I love actually about your journey, I mean, we’ve really talked about your entrepreneurial journey is that, you started out with this jewelry love and design. You’ve come full circle and you come right back and actually, it’s your passion that’s pushing you forward.

Ness Campagnaro: It’s a total circle. It’s so bizarre. My mother for instance, I had that conversation with my mom because she’s been all around the world. She had been everywhere and she’s ended up back living where she lived when she was fifteen years old. She said that it’s exactly the same. She’s come full circle. I’ve come full circle in business. I feel this is where I’m going. This is my passion and my joy. Working with my hands every day is a meditation and also counseling people who come. I love doing that as well. Having a chat with women that are coming to the workshop. It’s predominantly women. We get men as well, but predominantly women.

The very first thing that they say when they walk in is, “Oh, I don’t have a creative bone in my body. I’ve never done anything like this. I can’t do it.” Then when they walk out with, they’re looking at a ring that they’ve made or a pendant that they’ve made, and they’re absolutely astounded with their creative ability. I know we’ve done our job.

Barbara Turley: Yeah, and that lights your heart up.

Ness Campagnaro: It does. Working with people really lights my heart up, yeah.

Barbara Turley: Ness, if people watching just love this idea and they’re heading to Bali on holiday and they’d love to either go to the guest house, do one of your experiences making jewelry or they are interested in looking at some of your lines and maybe taking on, getting you to design something for them, where should they go to get in touch with you?

Ness Campagnaro: We have a website. It’s It’s the English spelling of jewelry.

Barbara Turley: It should be here right now, so it should be showing.

Ness Campagnaro: Okay [crosstalk 00:24:30]. If you want to get in touch with me personally, it’s Really good to answer pretty quickly. If there’s anything that you want to talk about, please feel free to contact me anytime.

Barbara Turley: Particularly, anyone who in Bali who’s watching, who maybe has just gone there and is starting a business in Bali. That’s the other thing, we didn’t touch on that today, but you started a business in a foreign country, which is quite difficult to do.

Ness Campagnaro: That is another story in itself, but yes. There is a red tape involved in setting up a company here. It’s important again, to have good people behind you that can help you to do that.

Barbara Turley: A bit of a mastermind, I guess, around you there when you get there. Ness is the woman if you go to Bali.

Ness Campagnaro: If you need some help, I’m here.

Barbara Turley: Yeah. Ness, thanks so much for coming on the show and I’m just devastated I didn’t get to do the show from Bali when I was there with you, but it was good having a glass of wine with you anyway.

Ness Campagnaro: It was fabulous. It’s not going to be hard skipping a job. You’ll be back.

Barbara Turley: I’ll be back. I’ll be back pretty soon.

Ness Campagnaro: To do one of the workshops I hope.

Barbara Turley: Yeah, I’ll do you workshop next time, definitely. Definitely. Thanks everyone for watching for another week of Feminine Wealth TV. Remember that you can catch me later this week on my podcast Wealth Unplugged where I’m going to be giving you my key takeouts from my chat today with Ness. Remember also to come back next week for more Feminine Wealth TV.

Check out the interview above and let me know what tips you can use on your own journey! Please share in the comments below…


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