Alexandra Matkowsy (Ali) is the Director and Founder of Milla Rose, a boutique dried flower arrangement company based in Melbourne, Australia. Growing up, Ali always dreamt of starting her own business after being inspired her father, who owned his own cabinet marking business.
After dropping out of university in her first semester, Ali worked in several industries including orthodontics, hospitality and more recently, digital marketing, where she specialised in SEO and worked with some of Australia’s leading brands. Throughout this period, Ali also started using social media to start small businesses. These included Places to Lunch – a food blog amassing close to 30k followers on instagram, as well as Places to Style, an events and catering business.
More recently in 2020, Ali utilised her new found knowledge of SEO, in conjunction with her ability to create ‘scroll stopping’ content to start Milla Rose, named after her beautiful daughter. The online brand has quickly risen to become the #1 dried arrangement specialist in Australia, having sold close to 3000 arrangements in 18 months.
Check out more interviews with entrepreneurs here.
WOULD YOU LIKE TO GET FEATURED?
All interviews are 100% FREE OF CHARGE
Table of Contents
Thank you for joining us, please introduce yourself to our readers.
Alexandra Matkowsky: Hi my name is Alexandra Matkowsy (Ali) Director and Founder of Milla Rose, a boutique dried flower arrangement company based in Melbourne, Australia.
After dropping out of university in my first semester, I worked in several industries including orthodontics, hospitality and more recently, digital marketing, where I specialised in SEO and worked with some of Australia’s leading brands. Throughout this period, I also started using social media to start small businesses. These included Places to Lunch – a food blog amassing close to 30k followers on instagram, as well as Places to Style, an events and catering business.
More recently in 2020, I utilised my new found knowledge of SEO, in conjunction with my ability to create eye-catching content to start Milla Rose, named after my beautiful daughter. Our online brand has quickly risen to become the #1 dried arrangement specialist in Australia, having sold close to 3000 arrangements in 18 months.
To get us started, can you tell our readers what does your company solve differently in the crowded marketplace? Give an example or share a story.
Alexandra Matkowsky: Have you ever gifted or received a stunning bunch of fresh flowers, only to be disappointed when you have to throw them in the trash within a week?
Well, at Milla Rose, our arrangements are made of REAL, beautiful flowers that are preserved or dried to last for years, not days.
In fact, our boutique arrangements are not only sustainable, but they’re also allergen free, bug free, and never have to be thrown away, which is why we have sold almost 3000 of them in the space of 18 months.
While your company is growing, what are some of the challenges you face? Hiring? Tech development? Raising capital? Branding? Tell us more about the journey.
Alexandra Matkowsky: The biggest challenge we have faced is around cashflow. As we are a bootstrapped business, we are constantly reinvesting our revenue into growth-driving activities, such as more stock to create the ever increasing number of arrangements being sold, warehousing and staff to fulfil on the orders and advertising to continue to attract new customers.
It can often feel like you’re on a hamster wheel, as the money you create is used to support bigger systems to take you to the next level of business growth.
Our second challenge is around supply chains. With the temperamental global environment, transit times and shipping costs are ever-increasing. We’ve actually relied quite heavily on local suppliers (despite being more expensive), as we can source stock far quicker, which has allowed us to remain agile and fulfil on orders in a timely manner.
What we’ve learnt is that you sometimes have to do unscalable things at the start to fulfil on your promises to customers. You can figure out how to systematise and streamline things as you go.
Everyone has a different story, what influenced your decision to be an entrepreneur, what would you have done differently?
Alexandra Matkowsky: Growing up, I always dreamt of starting my own business after being inspired my dad, who owned his own cabinet marking business. I still remember going to visit him at his warehouse to help out with administration and I can still hear the voice of his customers raving about their incredible new kitchen or bathroom.
I’d like to say I had’ve started earlier – instead of going to uni for the first few months out of school. However, I think those experiences were necessary to help me get to where I am today. Going out in to the workforce helped me understand how I DIDN’T want to run a business.
It helped me see businesses from an employee perspective and always allowed me to gain skills (SEO, content creation) that would later help me with my businesses.
Now for the main focus of this interview: what qualities or characteristics do women entrepreneurs have that make them great leaders? Please share some examples.
Women have an incredible ability to put themselves in the shoes of others, including their customers. They are great at deeply understanding their prospects pain points and writing copy and creating products that fulfil those emotional voids.
For example, offering a complimentary, hand-written card – despite being relatively unscalable – was a non negotiable for us. Having these cards allows us to empathise with our customers and ensure our product has the desired impact.
I believe that successful women entrepreneurs don’t actually think of themselves as a ‘woman’ entrepreneur, they simply think of themselves as an entrepreneur. If you are constantly in a state of feeling like you’re disadvantaged, whether due to gender, race, sexuality or upbringing, you’re going to operate from a state of inadequacy and scarcity.
The best entrepreneurs, in general, believe in their ability to drive change no matter what. Any woman who possesses this confidence and self-belief can achieve what they set out to achieve.
Take a look at the average man’s instagram feed compared to average woman. Of course I’m making generalisations here, but from what I’ve seen, many women have a natural tendency to make their instagram feeds and content look ‘pretty’.
Being a luxury brand, Milla Rose relies on great photography and editing skills in order to sell arrangements. I think many women possess the skill of creating ‘scroll stopping’ content which not only helps their social media feeds, but also helps sell them sell their product more easily.
What are some of the biggest challenges you still see women face while conducting business, compared to their male counterparts? What would you like to see change, and how would you make it happen?
Alexandra Matkowsky: The biggest challenge I personally faced (which many women also face) was trying to balance having a family whilst continuing to work. I ended up quitting my job in SEO because my boss wasn’t willing to compromise on my working situation. I wanted to work more from home to spend time with my daughter, but it simply wasn’t an option.
I actually believe that having your own business is a great way to manage having kids, as well as having a career, as it allows far more flexibility around the hours you choose to work and what kind of work you want to pursue.
I’d like to see businesses become more flexible around working arrangements for women. At the end of the day, it should be less about ‘when’ you work and more about the quality of the work you get done.
Secondly, I still believe there is a stigma around women being in leadership positions. I believe women have to do more to ‘prove’ themselves to other men, especially in business. I’ve found that some men can feel awkward and frustrated when a strong woman is their superior.
It’s certainly no where as bad as in previous generations, however, I still think there is work to do around the way men view women in the workplace.
With all of your experience as a business leader, what is the most important thing you can tell fellow entrepreneurs that you’d like to share with aspiring women entrepreneurs?
Alexandra Matkowsky: Back yourself and know your worth.
Most of the time, the biggest thing that holds us back from achieving whatever we want to achieve are our beliefs.
We have so many voices telling us we can’t do something, that we’re inadequate or that we don’t have what it takes. There are still people in my life that don’t understand why I quit my stable, full time job at a good company to do my own thing.
But I can promise you that having something of your own is the most fulfilling and worthwhile pursuit life has to offer.
What do you plan on tackling during 2022? Share your goals and battles you expect to face.
Alexandra Matkowsky: What aren’t we going to be working on! There is so much still to do.
Our priority is to get all of our fulfilment and operations completely automated, so I personally don’t have to touch the flowers or make any arrangements. After all, I made the first 2000 of them myself and definitely need to spend my time completing activities with greater leverage.
My husband and I are working closely to bring our company to new markets, as we are currently 95% direct to consumer using SEO and Google Ads. As well as scaling this arm of the business, we also want to become a wholesaler to gift shops around Australia and a go-to wedding destination for dried flowers.
Like we’ve spoken about previously, our biggest challenges will be cashflow. We want to keep it a family business that doesn’t ever need capital investment. We’re happy going a little slower to ensure we keep the business in our complete ownership.
How do you keep learning? Podcast? Books? Audiobooks? Videos? Share some of your greatest sources of inspiration? Share an impactful story.
Alexandra Matkowsky: We invested heavily this year into a business mentorship, called The Entourage who are based in Sydney, Aus. We highly reccomend investing in quality information from people who have achieved what you’re hoping to achieve (watch out for the fake online gurus).
Investing in your education is literally the best way you can spend your money.,
When you’re just starting out, it can be difficult to know what your blind spots are. In mid 2021, we felt really stuck and had no idea what we should be focusing on to take our 6 figure business to 7. The information from our mentorship allowed us to understand where we were weak and strong and spend time balancing these.
The Entourage have been incredible with helping us to see our blind spots and to look at the business as a machine that operates outside of ourselves. Their coaching, as well as content has been game-changer (highly recommend).
My husband is also a great source of information. I can’t tell you how incredible it has been doing business with a partner, as it allows us to bounce ideas off one another and discuss things as we go. Our skillsets also contrast one another’s, which is better than partnering with someone too similar to yourself.
For example, he tends to focus on the growth drivers such as marketing and sales, whereas I spend most of my time in product development and running the company as a whole.
I’m sure our readers will be very thankful for the insights you have shared. Where can our readers follow up with you?
Alexandra Matkowsky: You can visit our website millarose.com.au or my personal instagram is @alipaigej
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Alexandra Matkowsky for taking the time to do this interview and share her knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Alexandra Matkowsky or her company, you can do it through her – Instagram
Disclaimer: The ValiantCEO Community welcomes voices from many spheres on our open platform. We publish pieces as written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team and must meet our guidelines prior to being published.