When asked about the most rewarding part of her job, Alex Fevola explains that, to her, it is much more than just a job.
“It’s not like it’s work for me. It’s something I’m obsessed with that is actually my hobby as well as my job,” she says.
While many of us who work in office jobs have learned to switch off after a certain hour, Fevola can be found researching trends, keeping up-to-date with the beauty industry or learning a new skill during her non-existent leisure time.
“As an entrepreneur and a founder, there’s no, ‘Oh, I’m clocking on at nine and clocking off at five.’ It is nonstop. But that’s what I love about it,” she says.
Since founding Runway Room in 2012, Fevola has captured countless transformations of clients who have experienced firsthand the idea that makeup is more than skin deep.
“It’s not just about looking pretty,” she says. “I know from experience the way it can change someone’s mindset and someone’s opinion of themselves.”
The foundation of Runway Room was built during Fevola’s 20s when she soaked up all the knowledge she could from Bill Jackson-Martin, one of Melbourne’s top makeup artists and fashion photographers.
“I ended my modeling career at the same time I started photography. I found that was more my passion, and I was better at that than I was at modeling, so that’s what got me into the whole beauty world,” she says.
Back then, social media had not come into play, so Fevola grew her clientele from a combination of word-of-mouth and industry connections she had acquired during her modeling days.
“Prior to our existence, there wasn’t really anywhere you could go to get an affordable, all-encompassing service.”
“I really loved that time of my career,” she recalls. “I was working on my own. I would have an assistant for weddings, but predominantly I worked on my own. And, yeah, it was incredible. I became very busy with the wedding side of the business, so I was booking a lot of weddings, and I was doing the makeup artistry and hairstyling as well, and then shooting the entire wedding.”
Thinking like a true entrepreneur, Fevola knew what women were looking for was an affordable, all-inclusive package that would deliver consistent results for their weddings and other special occasions.
“Prior to our existence, there wasn’t really anywhere you could go to get an affordable, all-encompassing service,” she claims. “So you would have to go to maybe the Napoleon or Mac counter at Myer or David Jones, and then you would have to book a hair appointment to get your hair styled. So, we really connected the two.”
Branching out through Runway Room
While Runway Room began as a service that catered primarily to brides, it soon became the go-to destination for women attending other events as well.
“The mindset was you would only get your makeup done for your wedding day or a very special occasion,” she says. “We really were instrumental in changing that because we grew quite rapidly to five stores, and our presence made it accessible for the everyday person. It suddenly became a more reasonable thing to do for a night out.”
Fast-forward to 2023 and the ethos of uncomplicated, affordable luxury for the everyday woman is reflected throughout the brand’s comprehensive product offerings.
“Making the products premium, using premium ingredients, manufacturing here using premium packaging, but trying to keep that price point at a reasonable level to make it more accessible to more people,” Fevola says in explaining her point of difference.
With easy-to-use premium products and DIY kits women are able to achieve the same professional results they would encounter in one of the brand’s stores from the comfort of their homes. This philosophy ensures that even the biggest makeup novice can leave the gym, their home or the office feeling confident in their skin.
Turning a passion into a career is certainly a luxury and, in Fevola’s case, her entrepreneurship journey is akin to the formation of a pearl that is birthed in response to an irritant. The resilient businessperson she is today is tied to a traumatic past that catapulted her into adopting a mindset for overcoming any type of obstacle.
As a mother to four daughters and the author of her recently published memoir Silver Linings, Fevola reveals how her success as an entrepreneur is underpinned by the incredible struggles she underwent throughout her life, especially in her early 20s.
“My eldest daughter’s biological father passed away, very shockingly, at a young age. I was 22 and I’d just had Mia. She was only four weeks old. And so, at that time in my life, I was definitely drowning in grief,” she admits.
Navigating single-parenting, divorce, infidelity, financial stress and health issues has taught Fevola that having your security ripped away from you doesn’t have to cripple you. It can become the fuel needed to grow your dreams into something tangible and rewarding with a step-by-step approach.
“It’s like climbing a ladder, and I felt as though every rung that I climbed, I was getting further and further away from that pit of grief and heading toward the light,” she recalls. “I think I had so many things going on that focusing on small things and being able to tick them off really helped.”
Tapping into passion
While, on the one hand, Fevola was motivated by the desire for financial independence and providing security for her daughter, she attributes the long-term success of her business to her unwavering passion and vision.
“There was the need for independence, so it was a bit of an essential thing for me to do,” she says. “But the other thing is I’ve paired it with something I’m so incredibly passionate about, and I think that’s why I’m still going today, because I actually love what I do.”
“The other thing is I’ve paired it with something I’m so incredibly passionate about, and I think that’s why I’m still going today, because I actually love what I do.”
It makes sense then that one of Fevola’s biggest tips for budding entrepreneurs is to be driven by a force that’s greater than money.
“I think, as much as that’s a really important part of business, it can’t be the sole reason,” she says. “I think you must know about what you’re doing, know it really well, know the industry, know your product or service, and mostly be very, very passionate about it, so that motivation, that drive doesn’t wane. Because when things get tough, it’s very easy to want to give up.”
With plans to launch Runway Room in the United Kingdom this year and investments into new Italian-inspired sustainable packaging, Fevola’s grand plans have shifted over the years from a service-based business to offering premium products designed for achieving great results from the comfort of your home.
“Working as a makeup artist for many years and stocking other brands, I really saw a gap in the market for affordable, premium, Australian-made makeup,” she says. “We’re still one of the only Australian manufactured brands that have a full-color cosmetic range.”