Opening ‘Swensk’ in 2008 was a very carefully considered decision. My husband Mats and I were based in Sweden, and we spent many months researching current trends, investigating business opportunities and strategising about the best business for us to move forward with. Mats’ background in advertising and my marketing background gave us a great foundation for a creative enterprise
Our findings lead to us moving from Sweden to Melbourne to open a Swedish multi-brand fashion store in Melbourne’s CBD. All our research told us it was the perfect locality for the fashion brands we wanted to offer – Melbourne’s seasons and style suited the Swedish clothing sensibility. When we opened we never planned to be in the shop ourselves, but we soon realised that owners are the drivers of passion in a business and understand the story they want to tell. Slowly we took on ownership of the brand and ownership of our own business. We needed to cut staff costs anyway – we were bleeding money in the beginning. You have rent, stock, employees and you don’t have the traction and the traffic and the knowledge – people don’t know you exist.
We moved to Melbourne without knowing anyone. Normally when you open a business you have your friends to rally around you, support you and promote you to all of their networks, but we knew no-one really apart from a few key people who fortunately really helped us. One contact from the design industry was a fantastic ambassador - he got people into the store, he invited us to events and he made sure we were really a part of the Melbourne scene. Without him and two other key people we wouldn’t still be in business, they included us in their world and our name got out there little by little.
Mio was born in 2013, so the business was quite well established by the time he came along. I think our customers noticed the difference – they don’t see me in the store as often. The product on the shelves stayed consistent but the feeling in the store might have changed. The brand of Swensk had developed into what we used to call ‘the Jane and Mats show’ – because we were always in the store and we are very, very passionate. We bounce off each other and the customers love it. We’re very rarely in the store together now – one of us is always with Mio. So the experience in the store is different.
I love having my own business. Even though Mats and I work seven days a week, we don’t open until 11am so every morning we go to the coffee shop and we relax – our mornings are very, very calm. I am so fortunate to wake up to Mio every morning – I don’t wake up to an alarm any more. I look at other families that are rushed and have to get out the door early to get their child to childcare and then don’t get home until it’s dark – that would be hard. They don’t have flexibility. I’m so happy that I’m not answering to anyone else. If Mio’s sick I don’t have to put him in childcare, Mats and I are flexible about who goes to work. Having the freedom of choosing how I interact with Mio and when, is something I wouldn’t have as an employee.
Starting a business from scratch when you have children is absolutely do-able – I strongly believe that when you have children you have your priorities right. You don’t have your head in the clouds when you have a child, your time becomes very, very precious and you know how to allocate your time well.
You need to be very passionate about what you want to do, and be very well researched. You also need to be realistic that maybe you won’t make any money for quite some time. Be prepared with some savings so you’re not financially stretched - financial stress can ruin the family dynamic. Of course we still have financial stress, but the fact that we had our business for about six years before we had Mio gave us that foundation to be able to take time off.
The future for Swensk? Our dream was always to have stores around the world. We wanted to have a store in every city we wanted to live in - San Francisco, Seoul or Hong Kong or somewhere in Japan. The Melbourne Swensk store was always meant to be a case study – but it’s taken much, much longer than we thought to get the formula right and been much, much more expensive than we thought it would be. Importantly we have identified over the last seven years that if one of us leaves the business we really notice the difference in how we operate. We have five or six major customers a day and invariably one of those is a very big customer and they want to see myself or Mats. If we’re not here, they keep walking. Part of the new fit-out of the store with the upstairs office is that we can add another layer to the business – using our experience in consulting and business development - whilst still being in the store. We can see who comes into the store and we can be there for our special customers, and when it’s quiet we can continue to work on the other projects. We’re on a cusp of change and development, and it’s exciting to keep moving forward, with knowledge, experience, and priorities firmly in place.
Swensk is dedicated to slow fashion – timeless clothes for men and women in both quality and design. Whilst mainstream fashion comes and goes, the international brands stocked in Swensk all offer enduring sophistication. Interesting people never go out of fashion.
Shop: 1 230 Little Collins St, CH2 Melbourne Vic 3000
Tel: 03 9663 4376
Copy: Melanie Quirk Photography: SomedaySomehowStudios
To find out how you can get get your business started and become the next Business Mama head to www.businessmamas.com.au