Tenacious. If I had to describe Shar Moore in one word, it would be ‘tenacious’. If I were given two words I would add ‘stylish’ and given three I would add ‘on purpose’ – though technically that is two words … but let’s move on before we get confused. In short, Shar Moore is a woman who has seen her fair share of challenges and has consistently risen above adversity to become a super-successful entrepreneur, magazine publisher and business mentor. She is one clever cookie.
WORDS: Genine Howard
The story I most love about Shar is her childhood. These days many will have heard of Shar through her soon-to-be released book ‘Broke to BMW’, however it is the dark-haired girl in pigtails eating Samboy chips in the playground that intrigues me most. See, Shar, unlike the girls her age at primary school, happily munched away on her packet of crisps with a diamond engagement ring glinting in the sunlit schoolyard.
Coming from a traditional Indian family she was betrothed at an early age. “I didn’t know about it [the arranged marriage] til I was 11. I couldn’t understand why the other girls weren’t wearing their engagement rings. I thought everyone at that age was engaged.”
Once Shar realised that in Australia, arranged marriages were almost unheard of let alone the norm, she began to withdraw. This once vibrant honey-eyed girl become self-conscious and awkward. She says, “I realised I wasn’t normal – I became isolated and felt like the odd one out. I started to get a complex. I had to be dressed down, I wore muted clothing and didn’t draw attention to myself. I felt like my future had been decided for me.”
I felt like my future had been decided for me.
Shar was born in Thailand to traditional Indian parents. Following their divorce three years later, her mother remarried to an Australian man and moved to the Victorian country region of Gippsland. Shar was four years old. Her upbringing was typical of an Australian family … except the engagement part. Shar idolised her adopted father, a strong, positive-minded man who to date, has been the key influencer in her life. It was her father who advised her of her rights as an Australian citizen that lead to her decision not to proceed with the marriage. Shar recalls, “He gave me an opportunity to choose my destiny – he made it all happen and I called off the engagement. It caused a lot of conflict at that time in my family. But most importantly I was able to choose my future.” She adds, “That is why I am developing the orphanage project today. This also played a major role in the decision to adopt my daughter. I want girls to be able to choose their destiny, just like I did.”
This pivotal moment in Shar’s life had more of an influence than the then teen would realise. Years later, after suffering post natal depression after the birth of both her sons, not surprisingly Shar and her husband adopted their beautiful baby daughter from India. Shar says, “We adopted her from India when she was just six days old. My heritage educated me on the possible future of our daughter, should she be left languishing in an orphanage in her home country. I really wanted to give a girl a chance to choose her future.”
I really wanted to give a girl a chance to choose her future.
Shar is also on her way to her dream of building an orphanage in Thailand for 20 young girls, due to open in 2016. Her own upbringing and opportunities has given Shar a deep sense of giving back. Now a successful business woman in her own right, Shar is in a position to give others that same choice, as her father gave her.
But it certainly hasn’t been an easy road to success for Shar. In fact, strip away the high heels, the gorgeous bouncy hair and fabulous outfits, the young girl in pigtails trying to fit in still had a long way to go to success. Shar’s schooling finished at the end of Year 11 following all the up heaval. Without any real formal education, this young woman would have to learn to make her way in life via the School Of Hard Knocks. And make her way she did.
Shar married young. At 20 she met the man who would become her husband (for some 20 years now) while working at the same company. Plans however, were already in the making for a relocation to Thailand. A week after the overseas move, Shar received a telegram from her future husband (yes, people did things via telegram back then not Skype of text message) to say that he wanted to come over and be with her. She says, “We have been inseparable ever since.”
It was whilst in Thailand Shar rose to her first challenge. A brand new hotel was opening in Bangkok and she had landed the role of executive assistant. She recalls, “When I started at the Conrad Hotel it was literally still just concrete and dust. We ended up with more than 700 staff. Not long after the hotel opened, the spa manager left. My boss asked me to sit in and mind the spa for a few days while they found a replacement. I said, ‘You can just leave me here, thank you!’” she says with a laugh. But it was no laughing matter as Shar ended up making such a success of the spa in a few short days, the hotel manager did indeed leave her there. She managed the entire seventh floor of the hotel including the spa, fitness centre and swimming pool. This was her first experience with sink or swim, and it wasn’t to be her last, by any means.
Meanwhile, Shar was finding her passion and purpose in the spa industry. Not only was she excelling in managing the hotel spa, she found she had a gift for selling spa products. In fact, so much so that Shar was offered a new position with Elemis Spa products. She recalls, “I killed the sales and did extremely well.” An operations managers’ role was offered shortly after, for the largest five star spa chain in Thailand, encompassing 540 staff. She travelled the country whilst she maintained both roles.
I’m a pretty brave girl but I didn’t know anyone nor have a job. We had to sell up everything and leave our brand new home we had just built to move to Dubai.
Her husband, a successful sales manager was given an opportunity to move to Dubai for a new role. A great opportunity, but a major move for Shar. “I’m a pretty brave girl,” she says, “but I didn’t know anyone nor have a job. We had to sell up everything and leave our brand new home we had just built to move to Dubai.”
In true Shar style, it wasn’t long before her entrepreneurial mind sparked. With her longstanding relationship with the Elemis Spa brand, she sought out the local distributor and suggested that she oversee a recruitment section of the business through her existing contacts. Fortunately they agreed and Shar’s new venture was a success and gave her a real insight into the spa industry in the Middle East.
Armed with that knowledge and a gutsy attitude, Shar decided to set herself her biggest challenge yet – to open her own branded spa – in a foreign country where attitudes to women in business are quite different to the west. Shar recalls, “Abu Dhabi, the capital of UAE, was an hour away. I thought, ‘Now is the right time to launch a spa there’. I found a location in the middle of nowhere – in a residential area. We renovated a 16 room, three story villa and converted it into an Asian spa sanctuary. Expat women are often quite lonely and bored – needless to say in the heat! The spa was a place for them to come together. They would drop the children at school and arrive for classes on the third floor, move to the second floor for spa treatments such as facials etc., then head to the spa café and eat lunch with friends. We even had salons where they could have all their hair and nail needs tendered. All the while watching Desperate Housewives! It was a safe place for them – a place where they felt rejuvenated. A haven.
“Within six months (without advertising) we were fully booked. Some people say location, location, location, but I say that if you have the right product then you can do anything. We would even have one of The Abu Dhabi Royal Princesses regularly attend. She would bring all her entourage along – here they could disrobe and de-veil to relax in private.”
We simply just landed and said ‘let’s just make a life for ourselves here!
Shar and her husband spent the next four years working in UAE – all the while raising a family. Life was hectic but enjoyable, but of course with children there comes a time when a family needs to put roots down. “My husband and I always said we would travel and take them [our children] on experiences until it affects their education. My son was turning 16 – it was time to stop playing and settle down. After living in hot climates for years we decided on Queensland as our new home. We simply just landed and said ‘let’s just make a life for ourselves here!’” Shar explains.
Now based in Brisbane, Shar set about deciding on her next business move. She says, “How do you beat what I had achieved? I still wanted to help women so I opened a personal style boutique. On one side was a high end fashion boutique and on the other a styling boutique. I would bring women in, style them, kit them out with designer clothing and help them with their self-confidence. Things were going great, until the Queensland floods came …”
Shar is speaking of the February 2011 floods that devastated many parts of Brisbane. “The village where my boutique was located had no undercover areas and the only road in was partly washed away. People just stopped coming. I went from taking $3000 a day to $20 a day. People think you need to have water gushing through your shop to be devastated by the floods – it certainly doesn’t mean I wasn’t affected,” Shar remembers. Adding that, “People forgot about people like me, that were still trying to run a business. It was a terrible time. Just after the floods, all the winter stock started to arrive – I dreaded the days when the delivery man arrived. Emotionally it almost broke me. But I probably hung on for three months longer than I should have – I’m a fighter. Friends helped out and did their best to support me, but it just wasn’t enough.
I probably hung on for three months longer than I should have – I’m a fighter.
“With what strength I had left, I thought ‘there must be other business owners out there in the same position’. I then founded The Style Network Group (TSNG) on August 3, 2011. I’ve always been a believer that your network is your net worth (Now called YNetwork). This would be a way for me to network with other businesses and help them as much as they could help me. The next day and after some very deep discussion, I moved out of my shops and into my double garage at home – complete with cream carpet and a chandelier!”
With a new business underway and her styling business still running (from her garage), Shar set about paying off her debts accumulated after the floods. She says, “I just kept trading and trading.”
I thought, ‘I’m responsible, I have to make this work, I have to repay any money owing. I found 103 ways to cook rice and pasta. I took everything back to bare bones for 18 months to repay my debts. What I learnt is that everything is possible … and negotiable!”
Not only did Shar pay all her debts, she continued to think big. It seemed that no set back, great or small, could put a dint in her stylish armour. TSNG went from strength to strength, all the while with a potion of membership fees going towards Shars’ orphanage project in Thailand. This was taking her one step closer to her goal.
Shar also had another goal – to own her dream car, a BMW. It wasn’t so much the idea of driving a luxury car that was the crux of the goal. To Shar, being able to eventually own her dream car was a symbol of her having made it back from the brink of financial disaster. “I was always in the BMW showroom sitting in their cars, smelling them, feeling them and imagining driving them. I walked back in to the showroom in December 2012 ready to place my order. You should have seen the excitement on the sales mans’ face – he had been on the journey with me and he understood where I had come from. He knew that this emotionally, was one of the best sales he had ever made. It was the greatest day when the car arrived – I was debt-free. It wasn’t about the car. It was the fact that I had come back from facing bankruptcy and in- tact.
“I was a girl who was not educated, I had my schooling stripped from me and brought up by the School of Hard Knocks,” Shar says with passion. She says of her journey, “I learnt that just being able to ask the right people the right questions – if it’s a no then you haven’t asked the right question. There is always a way, always a key lesson.
“I didn’t go through all that humiliation, hard work and embarrassment for nothing. You have to turn up and put on a brave face. You don’t hide away. You tell people [your story] and ask for help,” Shar says.
And now Shar has told her story in her soon-to-be released first book, ‘Broke to BMW’ launching this month. She says, “I thought, ‘Maybe I should put this into a book’. It’s not about me – it’s about sharing the lessons I have learnt on my journey. It is a workbook where your input is invited and, your individual goals are set, so you can achieve the same result. It includes the key aspects and learning’s that got me through. I just know it can help other businesses.”
Lastly, I ask Shar to share her driver for always being able to come back from adversity. She puts it simply; “The difference between a winner and a loser, is the winner just got up one more time.”
And Shar certainly is a winner – and a stylish one at that.
Head to www.broketobmw.com.au to pre-purchase Shar’s book launching February 27, 2014.