Looking back I loved school. I am still friends with all my girlfriends from school which is pretty amazing, we catch up a lot and we’re really close. I was always interested in fashion and I did a lot of business subjects at school like accounting and economics, and I went to Uni and did a Business Degree specialising in Marketing and HR. I went to Canada as an exchange through Uni, and in Melbourne I worked part time at Country Road and when I finished Uni I worked at Kookai. I lived in London for four years which I loved, working in a variety of roles including with Harvey Nichols and Nicole Farhi, so I was always really in the fashion arena. I was pretty focused on the idea of business, but I hadn’t planned to have my own, that just happened.
When I came back to Melbourne, I was offered a role with Globe which operated Hardcore and Die Hard at the time, managing a new brand they had just licensed called Paul Frank. It was just me launching the brand and I had no idea what I was doing, and that was the best experience I’d ever had. I worked so hard for them learning everything from sales to production, and it paid off because it was a great brand to work on. I got to travel to the USA a few times a year and I grew Paul Frank in Australia to a $10 million dollar brand.
When Finn was born (he’s now 11) I had about three months off but I was still having meetings at home during that time and going into the office (pumping breast milk in the toilets!). By the time Finn was around nine months old I realised it was all too hard and I decided to leave. It was about five months afterwards that friends from Bali, Sean and Anita Cosgrove, contacted me about their children’s wear label called Little Horn. They were based in Bali and needed someone to look after the label in Australia, so that’s really how Simone Agency started. And I love Bali, so going back and forth was wonderful. I had worked with Sean at Globe (he was the founder of Mooks), and he’s always been a great mentor and he was the one who suggested that I start my own label in addition to having the Agency. And when my daughter Chilli was born in 2007, I started working with Fiona Scanlan, consulting to her when she had her label Big. That was great because she’s a true creative.
Looking back, starting my own Agency and a children’s clothing label with two small children was a massive juggle. I’m really into yoga and exercise too – making it all fit in was hard. My husband Paul has his own business as well, so trying to make all the elements of our family life, work life and personal goals balance out was our biggest challenge. It was so full on, but I had really good family support from my mother-in-law and my mum. We just made it work I guess.
When Chilli was about one year old the Agency expanded, with me taking on the labels Minti and Coco & Ginger. We have an office in Bali with two staff there, who were originally working with Little Horn before the label was bought out. So what with the business, raising two little ones, travelling back and forth to Bali and renovating our house, life was pretty crazy.
From all the work I had done at Globe I had a really good understanding of buying timelines and showings and the structure required to work effectively with retailers – and my skills are really focused on building brands. When I began working with Minti they were just starting out so we have really grown the label together which is really fun. And it was the same with Coco & Ginger – I don’t just help them sell, I help them merchandise too, and make sure the range is tight and ready to sell into retail. As well as Minti and Coco & Ginger, Simone Agency now represents Acorn, Peggy, Atelier Child, Fallen Broken Street, Fieyue Shoes and Tutu Due Monde.
Initially we exhibited at trade fairs like Life Instyle, and then we started hiring a space for showings, before setting ourselves up in a beautiful space in Fitzroy for a while. We recently moved to a great space in Eaglemont which is where we do our Melbourne showings, and in Sydney (where we show in February to coincide with trade fairs) we rent a gorgeous house in Paddington. Simone Agency has grown significantly, so during our two peak periods life is pretty intense and the craziness lasts about six weeks, during which time we meet with all our retailers showing the new ranges from all our clients.
With the continued expansion of the business, I now have a partner working with me. Caitlin has come on board to help move the business forward and she has breathed new life in to the Agency. Being able to bounce ideas off each other is great and she brings different strengths to the business - she’s very practical which is really good. With the Agency having been operating for 10 years now, fresh eyes can liven up the business and help me to see what else is possible. We get emails all the time from new labels wanting to join Simone Agency, and we’re at a point now where we could perhaps take on a new range. With the growth of Instagram and social media in general, retailers can see all these new brands popping up from the USA and Europe and the UK, and they all want to stock something that’s new, and the latest thing, and whatever is photographed really beautifully. Instagram seems to create a frenzy of buying which is so different to when we started. So we almost need to have new labels to keep our offering fresh as well. However the key to our success is that we have strong relationships with our clients, and our retailers trust what we put forward to them because we do understand what sells, and how to sell it.
The biggest challenge being a mum in business is balancing everything. I try to make time for doing it all, which for me means getting up at 5.30 in the morning to be at yoga by 6am. The financial side can also be stressful, it’s on your mind the whole time whereas when you’ve got a job you can leave it behind at the end of the day. When you have your own business it can be hard to be 100% with the kids or 100% focused on the business. I do try and have that separate time where I am present at whatever it is I’m doing. The flexibility is probably what I love the most – being able to attend sporting activities or having time off during the school holidays. And the creativity of what I do is something I really love. Simone Agency is at a really great stage where we love the brands that we work and we have wonderful relationships with our clients. It will be interesting to see what the future holds.
For mums wanting to start their own business, I would personally suggest waiting until the kids are at school, so that there’s not too much madness. I would really recommend doing lots of research before starting, and to do a really thorough business plan. I see so many people starting clothing labels or different businesses without realising everything that is involved. It’s really tricky and it’s a big sacrifice having your own business, so be aware of the road you will have to travel.
Simone Agency takes their clients beyond the traditional sales agent experience. From brand identity through to marketing and business development, they love watching their brands flourish. They work closely with their clients to deliver the smartest approach to distribution. They are respected by the Australian children's fashion industry at large - beautiful, imaginative and clever children's fashion excites them.
Simone offered some really sound advice about how important it is to have a thorough business plan before embarking on your business dream. Business Mamas can work with you, and help you develop a carefully structured business plan that sets you on the right path to business success.
Copy: Melanie Quirk Photography: SomedaySomehowStudios
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