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What does it take to pursue impossible?

Jo Horgan

Founder, Mecca Cosmetica


Jo put her money on beauty and created an Australian cosmetics empire. Now, this UWA graduate tells us what it took to chase her dreams and her advice for pursuing impossible.

Colouring the faces of Australia

Jo fell in love with the world of beauty when she was a little girl watching her mother get ready for evenings out. Fast forward to Jo landing a job after university with cosmetics giant L’Oreal in London and in Melbourne, when she noticed the emerging global trend for innovative niche beauty brands which hadn’t yet reached Australia. It was a lightbulb moment. Jo sold her house and put it all on the line – creating her first purpose-built Mecca Cosmetica store to sell cult make up, skincare and fragrance that previously required an overseas trip to acquire.

Mecca Cosmetica has now become the country’s leading prestige beauty retailer with 70 stores across Australia and New Zealand.

While her UWA Arts degree was more focussed on the colourful world of literary characters and less on business acumen, Jo says its practical elements laid the groundwork for a young entrepreneur to build her career.

"It taught me how to be inquisitive, how to ask the right questions and how to find the answers; it taught me how to take on information, consider it, form a view and then argue my point of view. I learned to be flexible in my thinking, to manage ambiguity and overall it gave me confidence that I was equipped for whatever was thrown at me. It also taught me the art of independence – it was the perfect stepping stone from school into the big, bold world."

“I learned to be flexible in my thinking, to manage ambiguity and overall [my UWA degree] gave me confidence that I was equipped for whatever was thrown at me.”

Jo Horgan

Taking on the corporate giants

When creating Mecca Cosmetica and pitting it against the likes of huge department stores and beauty chains, Jo’s first thought was what her customer would want when buying beauty in an ‘ideal world’ – and so went about creating that ideal world.

“The only option for women wanting to buy beauty was the department store environment; and I thought there was the opportunity for an alternative where women could shop across brands in the one environment, where they could touch and play with product and be guided by expert, brand-neutral staff. That vision propelled me to put one foot in front of the other and just keep on tapping away.”

Jo says opening her first Mecca Cosmetica store in Melbourne was definitely the first, if not one of the biggest, impossibles in her life. While they certainly keep coming, it’s clear Jo has been given the trifecta of elements needed to stay the course – a solid education, experience in the beauty industry and a healthy attitude towards chasing her dreams.

“I always look for the possible in the impossible – I always think there is a solution if I look for it long enough and from enough different angles.”

Jo Horgan

Bringing Colour to the World

Helping others achieve their impossible has become a big part of Jo’s day-to-day work. She’s passionate about empowering girls and women, and all the different forms that takes.

Empowerment through education is everything at MECCA Brands and the company currently invests 3% of its annual turnover back into educating and training its people. Jo has implemented a successful Graduate Program that sees graduating students who work within Mecca’s store network completing a 12-month program for on-the-job business training opportunities in the business, with 95% of them going on to work in full-time roles within the company.

Jo is a passionate supporter of women and young girls and has been inspired by the work of The Women’s Donor Network which puts a gender lens on philanthropic giving in Australia. Through that network, Jo connected with the Australian arm of global organization The Hunger Project, which provides education and training to women in developing countries so they can feed their families and plan their futures. MECCA Brands is a proud supporter of this vital women’s initiative and helps to raise funds and awareness across its vast staff and customer network.

This desire for others to see success in their lives is something Jo has in spades. We asked her advice for others pursuing impossible. 

She says: “Don’t be afraid of failure, just make sure that if and when you do,
fail fast and fail forward. Often our mistakes are our biggest teachers. I’ve made plenty in 20 years of business!”

“Don’t be afraid of failure, just make sure that if and when you do, fail fast and fail forward. Often our mistakes are our biggest teachers. I’ve made plenty in 20 years of business!”

Jo Horgan

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