Who are you?
What do you do?
Why do you do it?
Some days I bloody wonder this myself! The type of counselling I do is incredibly emotionally draining, working with vulnerable people with tragic pasts (often but not always) and I have always had a creative outlet. I have always been a “maker” since I was a kid but I never really ever thought that people would BUY what I had made. I do it because making and creating is always something I have done. Of course I do it for the money too, and for the freedom of working from home and being my own boss. I love where we live amongst the trees and I want to work from here! I love working in my pyjamas. I do it because I need to do it. it is my therapy.
How did it start?
I started my first business when I was on maternity leave with my oldest daughter. I made children clothes and softies under the name chunkychooky. I was also blogging at the time under chunkychooky and felt very supported by the other crafty bloggers around at the same time. As she got older I kind of grew out of the baby stuff and I have always loved homewares, then I thought about “wouldn’t it be good to print vintage maps onto fabric and make cushions!” that turned out to be a life changing idea.
Were you scared, or did you know it had that something that would see it through?
The business literally exploded overnight. The World Map cushion had only been on Etsy for a few days and it was featured on Apartment Therapy, then we got picked up by some other blogs and it went from 5 sales a week to 5 sales a day literally in a week. I think because I have always had a secure government job I have always had that as my back up plan, so the risk has always been minimal. It took me about 6 months and a visit to the accountant to realise I was actually running a business and not just “making things.’ But even as the business exploded I still just thought this could all end quickly, the map trend may end…then along came Hangry.
Firstly, let me explain very cleary I do not claim to have invented the word hangry, I have never said that, however I did make up the definition that is on my cushions and wall hanging. It has been copied so many times – there have been lawyers involved on more than one occasion, as the definition is my intellectual property etc etc ( insert boring copyright blurb here.) Anyway, boring stressful blah… I think I just see the business growing in different directions, but with the underlaying fabric love, there are so many things I want to do, but I have a 2 year old at home with me!! I have actually started studying graphic design in a more formal way as I am self taught in everything, and learning more about Adobe, and all the pain and tears that causes me. I have always had WAY more confidence than actual skill and am naturally very optimistic, but I am not a risk taker, the business has always paid for itself etc, I never had business loans and stuff. I still can’t beleive I have created something this huge from nothing.
Have there been rough patches where you doubted yourself and your choice to create your company? What did you do?
So. Many. Times. like on Monday when my husband BROKE HIS WRIST ( in 3 places!) ( Poor Neil!! His knife hand!) and it took me an hour to get the 2 year old to sleep and I knew after the end of a stressful day of counselling and all of that other life stuff and worry about Neil I then had to pack orders and cut fabric after everyone was in bed – I just wanted to cry! ( I know, lets put this in perspective, I want to slap myself for complaining but you know! hard day!!).
When my youngest was a month old and I reopened the Etsy shop as November sees our sales quadruple and she was needing a feed and i had a million orders to pack and fabric to cut and I just bawled with the overwhelming mental fatigue. I think having a 2 year old is the hardest time to be running a business – she is not exactly patient… so I literally cannot get anything done while she is awake. She will be in day care another day this year so that will help (my stress levels) a lot.
I think the convenience of having an online shop with a largely international market is great but also means you just never stop working, checking emails etc some days I think, why don’t I just close the business and work full time like a normal person, but then, the trees, the walks in the forest, the giggles with my baby, the school concerts, I would miss all of that so much. I love being at home when my big girl gets home from school.
What drives you to be so socially aware and to use your talents to help those less fortunate?
Ok. I will try to keep this very long story short. I guess as a background my parents were always the ones helping out at school and other activities we did, driving the car pool, P & C etc all that stuff so it was always what I considered normal.
Fast forward and I am 21, I had been in backpacking and working around Europe and the US for nearly 3 years. During these travels I had met a boy who literally made me fall over on first sight, I fell down some stairs (STAY CLASSY) he was older, beautiful and had travelled overland from Australia. I was so (niavely) impressed by him, I remember him saying “it takes a special kind of woman to travel around India by herself.” and others around the table who had been there agreed. I secretly took this as a dare.
I remember thinking (I was in Amsterdam at the time so my thoughts may have been obscured) I want to be one of those women. I want to be that brave! I am going to do that!! I am going to go to India BY MYSELF!! Later I saw these rajistani wall hangings in a shop in London and they were about $1000, and when I found out they were from India I felt like it was a SIGN! I must go there, alone.
So there I am in India, dying of Typhoid Fever. ( yes i had all my vaccinations and this probably saved my life) I am in Pushkar (a tiny lake side town) with a Doctor sitting by my bed. I have been visited by every single person i had spoken to in the little town where I had been hanging out for 2 weeks prior. They had decorated the room with hundreds of marigolds threaded onto garlands and incense were burning and candles were lit and people were praying for me. And I got better. No one thought I would but I did. And the doctor and his family who looked after me had had three of their own children die and they were so matter of fact about it and they were so beautiful to me, and so humble and wouldn’t take payment from me. And their son caught the bus back to Delhi with me ( 12+ hours) to make sure I was ok. And I got to the airport and I got all of my money I had left and I gave it to the people begging out the front of the airport. And I realised that I need to always always remember how much I have. And that so many people have NOTHING. And I was given so much by people with so little.
I think when we feel unfortunate we need to compare ourselves to people who have less not more. We are so lucky to have what we have in Australia, sure we have a DICKHEAD running the country currently but aside from all of that, we are so LUCKY! I came home, studied Social Work, and decided I have to always make a difference in people lives. Making homewares may be seen as flippant by some donating to Asylum Seeker Resource Centre and KIVA and MSF is not, so that was always part of my shop – from Day one. Days for Girls enables me to mix the crafty with the social justice stuff, its such a brilliant brilliant project.
How do you make it work with your family and your lifestyle?
We just juggle, we are both lucky that we work kind of part time (outside the home) and have done since our first child was 1. one takes the kids for part of the day, one takes them for the others, although I am a bit crap at that as I have FOMO and something cute might happen! As I complained earlier I often do a lot of work late at night. ( its 9.45pm now and everyone is asleep) We are fortunate that we don’t have a massive mortgage, we just lucked out that we bought this place when we did, we could never afford it now so this does allow us some flexibility. BUT the acres need a lot of maintenance, its like a whole other thing to take care of.
What does a regular day look like for you?
Would you recommend this work/way of life to someone else?
Etsy/ running your own creative business: Yes!
Living in the country: Yes! Yes!
Marrying a Chef: Hell yes.
Caring about the world and the way people are treated and running an ethical business FUCK YES!
What is the best piece of work advice you’ve ever been given?
Don’t be a dickhead.
Vegemite or peanut butter?
Im so conflicted by this. Either, BUT they have to be served on warm toast with butter and sweet english breakfast tea. ( in a nice mug on a nice plate of course.)