Sydney-born entrepreneur and stylist Hayley Bonham has a CV that would be impressive for a person twice her age. But this 30-something dynamo definitely isn’t resting on her laurels, hatching new business ideas and finding inspiration all around her to continue creating and growing all the time. We sat down with Hayley and asked her to reflect on her younger self and the advice she’d give herself if she could, with the benefit of hindsight and the wisdom that comes with it.
The early signs of tenacity were there for Hayley. By her own admission, she was a kid who couldn’t keep still. “I was creative and inquisitive,” she recalls. “I just wanted to get involved in everything I did.” And she did, with Hayley’s first job out of college in international sales for Sass & Bide, travelling the world and taking in every experience she could. As she reflects on this valuable time, “looking back I’d tell myself to take note of all the things that keep your creative fire alight, because you’ll use them.”
Hayley went on to work extensively in PR, magazines and styling, then founded her own PR agency Bonel PR with some of fashion’s biggest names as clients – all before her 25th birthday. While there were times when self-doubt and external forces challenged Hayley’s drive, she was spurred on by her close inner circle including her parents, husband and business partner Rory Elsom and stylist Steve Cordony. “There were times that were hard,” she recalls. “Especially as I was so young. But I would reassure my young self to learn from everyone. Soak it up. With your family behind you, Mum and Dad’s guidance and a trusted partner by your side you’ll push on. And I did.”
The idea for Hayley’s next project was sparked four years later on an overseas work trip. Noticing the rise in shared workspaces and seeing a gap in the Sydney market, Hayley developed the concept for La Porte Space. “I didn’t know if it was going to work,” she says. “But I had to trust my instincts and put my fear aside.” Today, La Porte Space is a thriving shared creative workspace in Sydney with luxury facilities including 30 serviced offices, a café, photographic studios and a co-working facility for collaboration, as well as a Pilates studio and meditation space.
She’s got more projects on the go and the future is looking bright for Hayley. So, knowing now what was to come, what else would Hayley say to her younger self about her journey so far? “I would tell myself to trust your instincts,” she says. “Don’t worry about the years ahead. You’ll make it, the way you want. Don’t people-please. And when something doesn’t feel right, say no. Nobody’s going to hold it against you.”