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Interview: Annabel Acton of Never Liked It Anyway

Monday 16 November 2015

As part of Global Entrepreneurship Week, we’re talking to entrepreneurs who made the impossible possible and now run some of the world’s most unique enterprises.

Today we talk to Annabel Acton, founder and CEO of LA-based Never Liked It Anyway – or, as you may have heard about it, ‘ebay for break-ups’. With the tagline ‘Shop. Sell. Vent’, Never Liked It Anyway is not just about selling presents from your ex, but providing a safe space to heal and ‘bounce back’ from heartbreak. Here, Annabel tells us about personal heartbreak, branching out into TV and being inspired by Salvador Dalí. 

What inspired you to start Never Liked It Anyway?

My boyfriend and I broke up five days before Christmas. We were meant to go back to London to have Christmas with his family, and suddenly I had these plane tickets that I no longer wanted. I started thinking about all these other things I had that I didn’t want any more – they were all perfectly nice – but I knew I wouldn’t want them anymore. I mean, who would want to wear  jewelry around my neck from your ex?!

I started joking about a site that would let you offload your breakup baggage – I wanted to make it playful and positive and warm. Everyone laughed (including my ex). I then investigated the world of breakups and found there wasn’t really anything out there. The things I found were either really mean, bitter and evil or a big soft (and pointless) group hug. There was nothing with attitude, cheekiness and something built around definitive action – sell something and use the money to buy something that will make you feel great! So, armed with this personal and universal insight, I set off to bring my idea to life.

Tell us a bit about your background – what led you to starting your own business?

I worked as an innovation and marketing consultant for about eight years in Sydney, London and New York. My job was to come up with ideas for other people’s companies. I loved what I did as it was the perfect blend of strategy and creativity. I find that running a startup requires me to flex both these muscles at all times – it was the perfect training! When it came to launching Never Liked It Anyway, I’m an entrepreneur at heart and had worked the concept up to a point where there were no good reasons NOT to go forward. I had shared the idea with anyone that would listen, and gradually incorporated their feedback so by the time I launched, I knew I had an interesting and differentiated product on my hand. I didn’t know it would work, but by that point, if someone came and took the idea away from me and said I couldn’t go forward with it, I would have been really upset. That was how I knew to dive off. It was still a scary leap, but one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Which entrepreneur or business has given you inspiration?

It may sound a bit odd, but Salvador Dali is a huge inspiration. He knew how to take a concept and launch it in to popular culture in a way so dramatic, fun and infectious that you just wanted to be part of it. He was a brilliant innovator and marketer and just the right amount of crazy!

Running a business is tough – what do you do when you aren’t working, and how do you manage the life/work balance?

Being your own boss can be tricky but the perks are immense. This is a small, but meaningful example – I’m not very good at working from about 3-5pm. I’ve always known it, but now I can do something about it. During these hours, I’ll go for a big beach walk with a friend. It clears my head and inspires me, and then I can get back to work. I’m also trying to work remotely for a month each year – and do that near my family. They live in Australia so making time to see them is really important to me.

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How big is your team?

I have a team of six and I adore them all!

What are your plans for the future growth of Never Liked It Anyway?

We’re turning it into more of an entertainment brand – think He’s Just Not That Into You! We’re working on a TV show, a book and even in talks about film. It’s VERY exciting and if I’m honest, quite surreal. We’re also continuing to get into the ‘Bounce Back’ space, not just the breakup space. We’ve just launched our next produce the Bounce Back Stack and it’s going better than we could have hoped

How do you find the balance of creative ideas vs commercial viability? Has there been anything you really wanted to do which wasn’t commercially viable?

Absolutely, this is something entrepreneurs face all the time. I think there’s a temptation to see every product you create as something that has to rake in the cash early on, but I think that’s a misnomer. Some of our products – like the Bounce Back Box – have generated very small amounts of revenue but have been an excellent talking point, garnered great press and interest for the brand, got our name out there and helped us open bigger, fatter doors that we had no permission to knock on weeks earlier. That to me, is a win.

What’s been your most successful form of marketing and promotion for your business?

We’ve started a new series called Woman Crush Wednesday where we interview a badass woman doing something fabulous – music, entrepreneurship, artist, educator… it could be anything! We ask questions like ‘what’s the best/worst gift you ever got?’ and ‘tell us about a time you bounced back better than ever’. Hearing stories of how people overcome adversity are always amazing, and I love how they focus our community around inventing your future rather than dwelling on the past.

Have you had any backlash or legal issues for Never Liked It Anyway?

I’ve had a few people say that it’s negative or question why people would want to buy someone’s tarnished gifts. And that’s fine by me. We’re not for everyone. If we were, we’d be doing something wrong!  I’ve only had to take two posts down to date – for the most part our community get our tone and vibe and don’t come to our site to badmouth, name or shame their exes.

What’s the best thing about running your business?

Everything! It’s a chance to apply everything you’ve ever learnt or picked up along the way and put it into action! Having a team that rallies around your vision is a very humbling and meaningful privilege. That’s something that I can’t quite describe. And very egotistically, I always get a rush when I meet someone at a party and they’ve heard about what I do!

What’s on your work playlist?

I need mellow or lyric-free stuff to work to. But right now it’s a mix of Blood Orange, The War on Drugs and Feathers.

What advice would you give to any budding entrepreneurs?

You have to know which battles to pick. You cant do everything and you cant get it perfect every time. I try to be very strategic about which areas to really focus on and which to let slide. I also try not to get too hung up on perfection – otherwise you get paralyzed. You just have to get going.

And finally, what’s your favourite Madonna song?

Burning Up!