Aussie beach life fuels exciting retail venture

Taking the plunge

A love of the Aussie beach lifestyle and a burning desire to start her own business provided the catalyst for a new chapter in Rafaela Salzer’s life.

Inspired by more than a decade of living on Australian beaches, Austrian-born Rafaela Salzer CPA left an executive role at multinational company Beam Suntory to spread the iconic Aussie beach lifestyle to the world. 

In 2015, she created Beach Life Australia, an online venture that curates boutique Australian swimwear and accessory labels for men, women and children.

Now based at Bondi Beach in Sydney, Salzer says her career move was driven by a long-held ambition.

“I’d been very fortunate and already had a successful career, so my choice was either get another corporate job or go out on my own. If I had never tried running my own business, it would have bugged me my whole life.”

“If I had never tried running my own business, it would have bugged me my whole life.”

Salzer came to Sydney from Vienna in 2003, and over the next 12 years held various senior business intelligence and IT director roles in the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) industry, including at Woolworths, George Weston Foods, British American Tobacco and Beam Suntory.

She also earned her CPA qualification in 2010 and believes her corporate experience, MBA and CPA equipped her for the entrepreneurial leap.

“I understood I had to set up a real structure and processes from the beginning,” she says. “I wasn’t going to just have receipts in a shoebox.”

As an accountant, Salzer says she is constantly on top of stock levels and cash flow and doesn’t let things slide. She also admits to putting in an unexpected number of long hours.

“Of course, the grass is always greener on the entrepreneurial side when you are sitting in a corporate job,” she says. “Somehow running your own business seems easy and relaxed.” 

The concept for her brand evolved during several trips to Europe when she saw how people were intrigued by the Australian lifestyle. Europeans were looking for a one-stop shop to buy gear for their holiday in the sun.

“In Europe, Germany and Austria in particular, there is a long tradition of buying from catalogues,” she says.

“When I was growing up, we lived in a regional area and that’s how we bought everything. So it’s a natural transition for people to buy online.”

At the end of 2015, Salzer launched Beach Life Australia, with her website and social media presence. For the company’s northern hemisphere spring and summer launch in mid-2016, she is temporarily relocating to Austria to oversee the sales and delivery of her products.

Describing herself as a discerning online buyer, Salzer believes in the importance of personalised customer service. Her customers’ purchases come wrapped in tissue paper in a reusable cloth bag and include a personal, hand-written message.

“I am giving this business three years,” says Salzer. “If it fails, I’ll just tick it off as a life experience and happily go back to another corporate job.

“At least now I can control my own destiny and am giving entrepreneurship a serious try.”

One piece of advice

“In hindsight, I should have continued in a part-time [corporate] role while I set up my business. Instead, I quit immediately and then had no income. A lot of the processes to register and launch your start-up take time and you can do this while holding down another job.”

Read next: 5 innovative start-ups founded by women

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May 2016
May 2016

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