Women with GRITT
December 07, 2020
by Rose Garnett

WOMEN WITH GRITT: Gritty Pretty Founder And Editor-In-Chief Eleanor Pendleton On The Value Of The Intern, Going From Employee To Employer And Her Driving Force

by Rose Garnett

“I’ve always been really tenacious. I’m one of those annoying people who just knew what I wanted to do with my life from a rather young age – I knew I was going to work in magazines and I was determined to do everything possible to make my dream happen.”

Welcome to Women with GRITT: a series where we interview the resilient, hardworking women who have kicked in the glass ceiling and inspire us to do the same.

We know you’re all familiar with Gritty Pretty because, well, you’re reading this right now. From the outside looking in, the beauty publishing industry looks like it’s all glitz and glamour; however, there’s a lot of grit, determination and sheer tenacity behind the scenes. Just ask Gritty Pretty Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Eleanor Pendleton.

A beauty industry veteran (despite being only 32 years of age), Pendleton had her heart set on magazines for as long as she can remember. When she was growing up, her father owned a newsagency on the New South Wales Central Coast – so from a young age, Pendleton has fond memories of magazines. Eternally fascinated with the people behind the glossy pages, she had her passion pegged at just eight years old.

Fast forward 10 years and the tenacious teen had one thing on her mind: publishing. After emailing every editorial coordinator she could find she finally landed an internship at Cosmopolitan and the rest, as they say, is history. Now counting the likes of Miranda Kerr, Phoebe Tonkin and Elsa Pataky as Gritty Pretty cover stars, it’s safe to say that Pendleton was born for the beauty world. She has a drive and passion engrained so deeply in her DNA that failure just never seemed like an option. 

This year has been a challenging one for Pendleton – she’s running a business, managing an ever-expanding team and navigating new motherhood. (That’s before you add COVID-19 to the equation.) However, she’s determined to expand Gritty Pretty and continue to create an online environment where every woman feels included and seen.

In this interview, Pendleton speaks to Gritty Pretty (this interview was surprisingly easy to organise) about the significance of the intern, the surprising journey to the launch of her business, the threat of COVID-19 and why Banjo Wilde Wilson is the driving force behind everything she does.

 

Hi El! Thank you for having us in your office today. Before we dive into how this incredible business came to be, we would like to learn a little bit more about you. Where do you think you inherited your drive and passion from?

I’ve absolutely inherited a lot of my work ethic from my parents. My dad ran small businesses his entire life. My mum was incredibly selfless and raised my sister and I, caring for us full-time. I think my parents certainly instilled a mindset that it was important for me to work hard to achieve what I wanted in life. But also, I do think I was just born with a level of tenacity that is just part of me, it makes up who I am as a woman.

 

That’s a lovely full circle moment for your dad to have run his business and for you now to run your own. How did you get your foot in the door when you realised magazines was what you wanted to do?

I was extremely tenacious. I was one of those really annoying people who knew what I wanted to do from a really young age. So, once I finished school, I would track down every single Editorial Coordinator I could find and ask them to do work experience. In my mind, there was just no other option. I was so hell bent on it. I didn’t have any family connections in the industry, so I knew, inherently, that it was up to me to create them myself. I knew the value in forging relationships and in turn I also knew one’s reputation would always precede them so maintaining professionalism has always been important to me. 

 

In the world of publishing, it can be hard to stand out as an intern. So, how did you make sure they knew you were seriously committed to making this your career?

When I landed my internship at Cosmopolitan, it was because someone else had dropped out of the program. I was a last minute call up and at the time, it was common to have four or five interns in one week so I was prepared to work hard going in because I knew I had to make myself stand out. When I got there, though, I was the only one. So it provided me with a really amazing opportunity to stand out. I did one week of work experience and I relished the opportunity. I was there early every single morning (despite taking a one and a half hour train ride into the city from Gosford) and would greet everyone with their mail and coffee. It was like living in an episode of Devil Wears Prada minus Miranda Priestley. 

I would cut out newspaper clippings of anything I thought might be relevant to the Entertainment or Features Editor and pop it on their desk. And I did all of it without ever expecting any sort of acknowledgement – I was just so excited to be there. It was all so magical. 

 

It obviously paid off because after almost a year of interning at Cosmopolitan and Cosmopolitan’s now-defunct sister titles, you were offered a job as Editorial Coordinator & Beauty Assistant and then went on to have a very successful eight year career as an editor. What made you take the leap of faith and start your own business?

To be honest, there wasn’t really a leap of faith. I didn’t leave my nine to five at InStyle magazine thinking I was going to start a business. I left to work for myself and become a freelance writer. In doing so I relaunched Gritty Pretty because I wanted an outlet to write about all of the products, ingredients and trends that I was passionate about. And very quickly, within a couple of months and because of the relationships I’d established over my career, I was starting to get some revenue coming through the site. That’s when I had the lightbulb moment that I could turn Gritty Pretty into a beauty platform that women all around the world could go to. That was six years ago now and the growth of the Gritty Pretty team has happened organically. I never rushed to hire. I really didn’t consciously intend on becoming an entrepreneur, it just happened.

 

 

In terms of funding your business, how did you get Gritty Pretty off the ground?

I actually don’t even know. [Laughs] Honestly, I’m amazed that I did get it off the ground at all. When I resigned from my role as Beauty Editor at InStyle, I was banking on getting my annual leave payout to survive and pay my rent. I had been financially independent my entire adult life and I didn’t want to borrow money from my boyfriend (who is now my husband). I think I might’ve had a couple of thousand dollars to my name as a 25-year-old. I’ll be honest – that’s not something I would recommend to anyone looking to start a business nowadays! I would advise saving that buffer of cash or seed capital so you have that funding or safety net behind you first. Finding the fine balance of cash flow is imperative in any business’ survival.

 

How has your role evolved over the years now that you manage a team?

At Gritty Pretty, our team is made up of a Beauty Director, Art Director, Designer, Special Projects Producer, Beauty Assistant/Editor’s PA, Head of Partnerships, Brand Partnerships Manager and myself, Editor-in-Chief. Prior to building this team, I did all of those jobs! Every single one. I organised every shoot, I wrote every article, I booked every freelancer, I made every sale. I did everything. In those early years that meant I would work until 2:00am and be awake at 7:00am every single day. I didn’t pay myself a wage, I put everything back into growing the business. 

Now-a-days, because I have a team, I am able to work on the business rather than in the business, so to speak. This allows me to continuously have an aerial vision on the business and use my commercial mind to think about other ways we can connect with our audience. I really enjoy working on digital strategy all the while ensuring our content pushes creative boundaries and story-telling. I’ll never settle for mediocre. Our readers deserve quality and that’s what we aim to give them every time.

 

You’ve come a long way! Was there ever a time when you thought that Gritty Pretty might not make it? Because, like most small businesses, the market can be quite tumultuous.

Does 2020 count? For the first time since starting Gritty Pretty, I absolutely had moments throughout March and April of this year, where I worried it would all crumble apart. There were so many unknowns about the pandemic. Without a doubt, the Australian media industry took a hit. On a personal level, it was a really challenging time. My son, Banjo, was only six or seven weeks old when COVID-19 reached Australian shores and I had no choice but return straight back to Gritty Pretty to develop a Business Continuance Plan.

They truly were and still are unprecedented times. In reaction to lockdowns across the country, advertising clients put all of their activity on hold. Every business, including this one, relies on cash flow for survival. It’s how we have jobs and are able to produce the spectacular beauty content that we do for our readers. Whether you have a small business or run a large corporation that answers to a board, to survive you need more money coming in than what is going out. And, when COVID-19 happened, we took a massive hit. What I’m grateful for is the time of reflection it gave me and the Gritty Pretty team. The silver lining has been that the team has created some incredibly innovative content: a podcast channel, virtual photo shoots and virtual beauty events. I’m feeling really optimistic about 2021 and with the re-launch of GrittyPretty.com, this is just the beginning. We’re excited to continue creating content for our readers.

 

That would have been extremely challenging to come back to work so early after having the beautiful Banjo – and to deal with a global pandemic, no less. How have you gone about juggling motherhood and business?

Banjo is my driving force now. Everything I do, I do for him and to make sure we can provide the best possible life for him as he grows older. But in terms of practical tips? My biggest one is to look at anxiety like it is your friend. When you feel moments of anxiousness or overwhelm, look at that as a signal to slow down. It’s a sign that you’re losing your equilibrium and that you need to address what needs more of you. And more often than not, it’s you that needs more of you. The juggle has also been challenging because my husband and I don’t have any parent support around us. So, we’ve really had to navigate this time without having the luxury to call upon grandparents. I do think that if you’re in a position to outsource, you should. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I think that is something that we as women, and particularly mothers, struggle to do. But I will ask for help if I need it. And I’ll ask you know, my closest friends, my close family when I need that help.

 

How has your motivation changed since becoming a mother?

As a young girl, I grew up in a working class family. At one point, I watched my family lose everything. My family was forced to file for bankruptcy and I even spent time living with family in Government Housing before I was able to assert my own independence. I believe a lot of my drive comes from that – in never wanting that to happen to my own young family and to be financially independent. Being a mother now, my son has become my greatest motivation. I am motivated to give him a beautiful, happy life and ensure he always knows that he is loved. He inspires me to do what I love and is the reason I work so hard. I want him to see both his mother and his father contributing equally to the home.

 

That is truly inspiring, El. To wrap up, we’re sure that with motherhood comes a lot less time for your beauty routine. So, what are your top three products that make your day a little easier?

Definitely a tinted sunscreen. I’m currently loving Ultra Violette, Emma Lewisham, La Roche-Posay and Mesoestetic. Then I love a face serum. One that is so hydrating that it would be okay for me to skip moisturiser. One of my perennial favourites is the Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair ($110). And then a multipurpose salve, like the Lanolips 101 Ointment ($18.95), because I can put it anywhere: lips, cuticles, my baby’s skin, my brows and even my cheekbones. 

 

We know you’re all familiar with Gritty Pretty because, well, you’re reading this right now. From the outside looking in, the beauty publishing industry looks like it’s all glitz and glamour; however, there’s a lot of grit, determination and sheer tenacity behind the scenes. Just ask Gritty Pretty Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Eleanor Pendleton.

A beauty industry veteran (despite being only 32 years of age), Pendleton had her heart set on magazines for as long as she can remember. When she was growing up, her father owned a newsagency on the New South Wales Central Coast – so from a young age, Pendleton has fond memories of magazines. Eternally fascinated with the people behind the glossy pages, she had her passion pegged at just eight years old.

Fast forward 10 years and the tenacious teen had one thing on her mind: publishing. After emailing every editorial coordinator she could find she finally landed an internship at Cosmopolitan and the rest, as they say, is history. Now counting the likes of Miranda Kerr, Phoebe Tonkin and Elsa Pataky as Gritty Pretty cover stars, it’s safe to say that Pendleton was born for the beauty world. She has a drive and passion engrained so deeply in her DNA that failure just never seemed like an option. 

This year has been a challenging one for Pendleton – she’s running a business, managing an ever-expanding team and navigating new motherhood. (That’s before you add COVID-19 to the equation.) However, she’s determined to expand Gritty Pretty and continue to create an online environment where every woman feels included and seen.

In this interview, Pendleton speaks to Gritty Pretty (this interview was surprisingly easy to organise) about the significance of the intern, the surprising journey to the launch of her business, the threat of COVID-19 and why Banjo Wilde Wilson is the driving force behind everything she does.

 

Hi El! Thank you for having us in your office today. Before we dive into how this incredible business came to be, we would like to learn a little bit more about you. Where do you think you inherited your drive and passion from?

I’ve absolutely inherited a lot of my work ethic from my parents. My dad ran small businesses his entire life. My mum was incredibly selfless and raised my sister and I, caring for us full-time. I think my parents certainly instilled a mindset that it was important for me to work hard to achieve what I wanted in life. But also, I do think I was just born with a level of tenacity that is just part of me, it makes up who I am as a woman.

 

That’s a lovely full circle moment for your dad to have run his business and for you now to run your own. How did you get your foot in the door when you realised magazines was what you wanted to do?

I was extremely tenacious. I was one of those really annoying people who knew what I wanted to do from a really young age. So, once I finished school, I would track down every single Editorial Coordinator I could find and ask them to do work experience. In my mind, there was just no other option. I was so hell bent on it. I didn’t have any family connections in the industry, so I knew, inherently, that it was up to me to create them myself. I knew the value in forging relationships and in turn I also knew one’s reputation would always precede them so maintaining professionalism has always been important to me. 

 

In the world of publishing, it can be hard to stand out as an intern. So, how did you make sure they knew you were seriously committed to making this your career?

When I landed my internship at Cosmopolitan, it was because someone else had dropped out of the program. I was a last minute call up and at the time, it was common to have four or five interns in one week so I was prepared to work hard going in because I knew I had to make myself stand out. When I got there, though, I was the only one. So it provided me with a really amazing opportunity to stand out. I did one week of work experience and I relished the opportunity. I was there early every single morning (despite taking a one and a half hour train ride into the city from Gosford) and would greet everyone with their mail and coffee. It was like living in an episode of Devil Wears Prada minus Miranda Priestley. 

I would cut out newspaper clippings of anything I thought might be relevant to the Entertainment or Features Editor and pop it on their desk. And I did all of it without ever expecting any sort of acknowledgement – I was just so excited to be there. It was all so magical. 

 

It obviously paid off because after almost a year of interning at Cosmopolitan and Cosmopolitan’s now-defunct sister titles, you were offered a job as Editorial Coordinator & Beauty Assistant and then went on to have a very successful eight year career as an editor. What made you take the leap of faith and start your own business?

To be honest, there wasn’t really a leap of faith. I didn’t leave my nine to five at InStyle magazine thinking I was going to start a business. I left to work for myself and become a freelance writer. In doing so I relaunched Gritty Pretty because I wanted an outlet to write about all of the products, ingredients and trends that I was passionate about. And very quickly, within a couple of months and because of the relationships I’d established over my career, I was starting to get some revenue coming through the site. That’s when I had the lightbulb moment that I could turn Gritty Pretty into a beauty platform that women all around the world could go to. That was six years ago now and the growth of the Gritty Pretty team has happened organically. I never rushed to hire. I really didn’t consciously intend on becoming an entrepreneur, it just happened.

 

 

In terms of funding your business, how did you get Gritty Pretty off the ground?

I actually don’t even know. [Laughs] Honestly, I’m amazed that I did get it off the ground at all. When I resigned from my role as Beauty Editor at InStyle, I was banking on getting my annual leave payout to survive and pay my rent. I had been financially independent my entire adult life and I didn’t want to borrow money from my boyfriend (who is now my husband). I think I might’ve had a couple of thousand dollars to my name as a 25-year-old. I’ll be honest – that’s not something I would recommend to anyone looking to start a business nowadays! I would advise saving that buffer of cash or seed capital so you have that funding or safety net behind you first. Finding the fine balance of cash flow is imperative in any business’ survival.

 

How has your role evolved over the years now that you manage a team?

At Gritty Pretty, our team is made up of a Beauty Director, Art Director, Designer, Special Projects Producer, Beauty Assistant/Editor’s PA, Head of Partnerships, Brand Partnerships Manager and myself, Editor-in-Chief. Prior to building this team, I did all of those jobs! Every single one. I organised every shoot, I wrote every article, I booked every freelancer, I made every sale. I did everything. In those early years that meant I would work until 2:00am and be awake at 7:00am every single day. I didn’t pay myself a wage, I put everything back into growing the business. 

Now-a-days, because I have a team, I am able to work on the business rather than in the business, so to speak. This allows me to continuously have an aerial vision on the business and use my commercial mind to think about other ways we can connect with our audience. I really enjoy working on digital strategy all the while ensuring our content pushes creative boundaries and story-telling. I’ll never settle for mediocre. Our readers deserve quality and that’s what we aim to give them every time.

 

You’ve come a long way! Was there ever a time when you thought that Gritty Pretty might not make it? Because, like most small businesses, the market can be quite tumultuous.

Does 2020 count? For the first time since starting Gritty Pretty, I absolutely had moments throughout March and April of this year, where I worried it would all crumble apart. There were so many unknowns about the pandemic. Without a doubt, the Australian media industry took a hit. On a personal level, it was a really challenging time. My son, Banjo, was only six or seven weeks old when COVID-19 reached Australian shores and I had no choice but return straight back to Gritty Pretty to develop a Business Continuance Plan.

They truly were and still are unprecedented times. In reaction to lockdowns across the country, advertising clients put all of their activity on hold. Every business, including this one, relies on cash flow for survival. It’s how we have jobs and are able to produce the spectacular beauty content that we do for our readers. Whether you have a small business or run a large corporation that answers to a board, to survive you need more money coming in than what is going out. And, when COVID-19 happened, we took a massive hit. What I’m grateful for is the time of reflection it gave me and the Gritty Pretty team. The silver lining has been that the team has created some incredibly innovative content: a podcast channel, virtual photo shoots and virtual beauty events. I’m feeling really optimistic about 2021 and with the re-launch of GrittyPretty.com, this is just the beginning. We’re excited to continue creating content for our readers.

 

That would have been extremely challenging to come back to work so early after having the beautiful Banjo – and to deal with a global pandemic, no less. How have you gone about juggling motherhood and business?

Banjo is my driving force now. Everything I do, I do for him and to make sure we can provide the best possible life for him as he grows older. But in terms of practical tips? My biggest one is to look at anxiety like it is your friend. When you feel moments of anxiousness or overwhelm, look at that as a signal to slow down. It’s a sign that you’re losing your equilibrium and that you need to address what needs more of you. And more often than not, it’s you that needs more of you. The juggle has also been challenging because my husband and I don’t have any parent support around us. So, we’ve really had to navigate this time without having the luxury to call upon grandparents. I do think that if you’re in a position to outsource, you should. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I think that is something that we as women, and particularly mothers, struggle to do. But I will ask for help if I need it. And I’ll ask you know, my closest friends, my close family when I need that help.

 

How has your motivation changed since becoming a mother?

As a young girl, I grew up in a working class family. At one point, I watched my family lose everything. My family was forced to file for bankruptcy and I even spent time living with family in Government Housing before I was able to assert my own independence. I believe a lot of my drive comes from that – in never wanting that to happen to my own young family and to be financially independent. Being a mother now, my son has become my greatest motivation. I am motivated to give him a beautiful, happy life and ensure he always knows that he is loved. He inspires me to do what I love and is the reason I work so hard. I want him to see both his mother and his father contributing equally to the home.

 

That is truly inspiring, El. To wrap up, we’re sure that with motherhood comes a lot less time for your beauty routine. So, what are your top three products that make your day a little easier?

Definitely a tinted sunscreen. I’m currently loving Ultra Violette, Emma Lewisham, La Roche-Posay and Mesoestetic. Then I love a face serum. One that is so hydrating that it would be okay for me to skip moisturiser. One of my perennial favourites is the Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair ($110). And then a multipurpose salve, like the Lanolips 101 Ointment ($18.95), because I can put it anywhere: lips, cuticles, my baby’s skin, my brows and even my cheekbones. 

 

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