Having East Village as the first Hills & West home has been an absolute privilege.
I was very excited to share our Hills & West, Australian Made Collections story with the East Village team. Following are some of the questions we covered;
- What has been the hardest challenge you have faced in business overall?
- What is the most important thing to get right in your business?
- What do you love most about owning your own business?
- Who inspires you every day and why?
I hope I can help inspire more people to chose Australian made. Even at least consider the Australian alternative once in 2021.
“It’s like the saying says, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” That is how I like to live my life and I don’t always get a slam dunk but at least I know I have tried.”
You can read the full interview below:
When did you first open your first business and what has been the journey since?
My journey was not a usual one to handbag making, however once I experienced the craft of producing beautiful leather pieces I was hooked J
Every year I try to learn a new skill to challenge myself; in the past these have included fashion illustration, interiors, DJing, dragon boat racing, meditation and a few other attempts including French. In 2014 my upskilling effort was a handbag making course at Arsutoria in Milan, between London and Singapore work trips, and when I returned I resigned as I knew this is what I had to do.
So, in late 2014, after 20 years working in a variety of industries in global strategy and communication, I decided to leave the comfort of a corporate role and brave it on my own to build my own accessory label.
I spent a year sourcing local makers, suppliers and developing my first collection, launching Hills & West online in October 2015. My passion has always been driven by a vision of creating Australian-made, sustainable, luxe, timeless and versatile lifestyle accessories with a minimal aesthetic.
Six years on it has been such a wonderful journey. I have created with so many amazing and talented people, I feel truly blessed. I know that the next five years are going to contain even more wonderful life learnings, no matter what challenges are thrown our way.
From the beginning my mission was always to create exceptional pieces, locally, while doing what I love, and making people happy along the way. It was always that simple.
What has been the hardest challenge you have faced in business overall?
When running a business, you have to juggle so many different aspects, including people, timelines and cash. Time and cash flow are my biggest challenges, looking at where to best to invest both your own time and money. I have always chosen to invest in product quality as opposed to marketing, to ensure I continue to develop the best pieces for my customers. Deciding where to invest your cash flow and what your priorities is always crucial and an ongoing challenge.
Also, the fashion industry is highly competitive and you need to help educate customers around the costs of quality, being sustainable and making in Australian. I am such a big advocate of Australian made and hope that I can continue this mission for us all to support local and the talent we have here in Australia.
Finally, with a background in online strategy and marketing, launching online was an obvious starting point as the investment in bricks and mortar were not feasible. This is a much slower way of connecting with customers with an unknown brand and higher price point product. Without big online budgets, I relied on my network, working with stylists, influencers, word of mouth, which are all wonderful, just a slower way to grow a business. You need patience and ongoing resilience to forever share your story, benefits and vision.
Have you faced any challenges being a woman in business?
In my previous corporate life, I used to work in tech and advertising, which was quite heavily male driven. To get my voice heard or strategies across the line, I needed to be a lot more assertive. Whereas running my own business, being a woman makes no difference. I actually find that women in their own businesses really support each other. And in running your own business it doesn’t matter whether you are a woman or a man, there is a respect amongst us all for taking the risk, backing your brand and for all the hard work we put in. There is sooo much hard work running your own business.
What is the most important thing to get right in your business?
Why you’re doing it! Running a business is really hard and if you don’t know why or have the passion for why, you will burn out.
Second is that you must truly listen to your customers and develop product they want…not just what you want.
And of course, cash! That definitely a big challenge in the first two years.
What do you love most about owning your own business?
The flexibility to make decisions quickly. Working with such inspirational and amazing people and the joy I get from making my customers happy. So grateful for all the smiles and lovely messages I receive.
What is coming up this year? What are you most excited about?
The fact that I started the year with a physical retail presence is such an amazing achievement and I didn’t anticipate this happening so quickly. I had a dream to help over 50 Australian made brands connect with more customers. With Hills & West East Village, we have already managed to help people discover 20 Australian made maker’s pieces. We also developed www.australianmadecollections.com to support the store. It has been so rewarding, beyond imaginable.
Coming up is where I take it next. How I can grow Hills & West and Hills & West Interiors, reach more customers and really driving the Australian made ethos forward. So much to be excited about.
How long have you been a partner with Mirvac? What do you like about working with Mirvac?
I started talking to Mirvac in June and we opened in December and this is just the start of future collaborations. What was so nice working on this new retail innovation is that it is a true partnership with genuine discussion around what we can do to make it a success together.
Who inspires you every day and why?
All the entrepreneurs, makers, designers, artisans and people I work with, because they are following a dream despite every day challenges; despite what the world throws at us. They’re following their passion and anyone who takes that leap of faith to back themselves and do things differently really inspires me. They each try to challenge current models and the way things are done and are all giving it a good go.
It’s like the saying says, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” That is how I like to live my life and I don’t always get a slam dunk but at least I know I have tried .
Big love xox