I studied fashion after leaving school, completing a clothing manufacturing course and a retail merchandising course, learning all about retailing product and consumer behaviours. From there I did a diploma in marketing and got my first job working for a small fashion wholesaler in Richmond dealing with high volume product for discount department stores. I continued to work with a variety of companies in production and production management including ‘Dialogue’ which was based in Collingwood. As well as a range of high volume product, the company had brands including Balance Menswear, Alannah Hill and PTO clothing (which I was the Project Manager for).
Prior to going on maternity leave when my son Darcy (now 9) was born, I had been working with Levis in a merchandising/buying role, and while I was ready to get back into full time work I knew I was looking for a new challenge. Whilst going through the interview process for a few roles, I became pregnant with Ava (now 7) which made it too difficult to go back to work. It was during this time that my wonderful girlfriends, who I’d been friends with for 30 years, encouraged me to start my own brand. I thought long and hard about it, and decided ‘why not’! They could see what I was capable of and they gave me the courage to launch my own clothing brand – and I thank them all to this day because without their encouragement and support I would never have done it. They trusted me and in turn I trusted them, and it gave me a lot of confidence in my abilities. So that was the inception of Little Rivet Jeans, which I started when my son was around 12 months old and I was pregnant with my daughter and whilst I was finishing my Masters in marketing at Swinburne. The brand officially launched when Ava was six months old.
Getting the business up and running wasn’t the hard part. I knew the product, I knew how I wanted the range to look, I knew the target market I wanted to aim towards and I had a supply chain to back me up from the contacts I had made from working in the industry for so long. Where I really needed to hone my skills and knowledge base was from a branding perspective – launching a new brand and building that brand equity. The first port of call was coming up with the name. Originally it was going to be Little Johnny’s Jeans but I wasn’t able to patent that name so I played around with the idea of Little River which became Little Rivet. One of the key branding aspects of my range was the use of an aqua branded rivet, and that became a part of making a product that was easily recognisable as being from Little Rivet Jeans. I patented the name and everything else fell into place. I woke up one night knowing that I needed a tricycle in my logo and that I wanted an earthy feel for my labelling and business cards – I was determined to have a cohesive feel throughout the range and across the brand.
It was challenging, raising two young children and launching a new business and brand, but it’s all about organisation. The wonderful thing about having your own business and being a mum is that you can manage your time a little bit more effectively and efficiently. I knew what hours I had available for work and those that I had to be available for the family. It did require long hours of course, but I’d do it again in a heartbeat. My husband is extremely supportive of what I do – he keeps himself apart from the day-to-day running of the business because he sees the success that it has – he gives me the freedom to be who I want it be. Having the opportunity to launch a brand or a product, and have consumer acceptance and support, is one of the most exhilarating feelings. That’s what drives me – to create product that consumers love and who return to my stockists or to my online store to purchase from again and again. Some days I’m reconciling accounts, other days I’m selecting denim washes for the next couple of seasons. For me, developing a range of denim that I have designed from conception to retail floor is tremendously rewarding and satisfying.
Our denim range of product is currently available via our online store on our website and through other online stores like www.hardtofind.com.au and through small boutique stores around Australia. About two years ago there was an opportunity to launch the brand overseas – a real cross road which happens in business - whether to push forward and make it into a big business or to keep the business at a manageable size. I had a short term and a long term business plan. The short term plan was to take grow the brand nationally, as well as New Zealand and going international was the long term plan – but it happened at the three year mark instead of the five year mark. I did go through the process of investigating expanding internationally, and decided I would focus on Australia and New Zealand rather than taking the brand too far. It was a conscious decision to be able to manage the business comfortably rather than to push it to being bigger than it was.
As a mother starting your own business, you need to be organised and flexible at the same time. No two days are ever the same and you have to be prepared to be a jack of all trades and wear a lot of different hats. You’ll also feel so fulfilled that you are using your own skills and capabilities to create a product or offer a service that consumers or clients want, and that opportunity doesn’t come along every day.
Understanding the ins and outs of running a small business is important. Having done my Masters in marketing gave me a bit of a business background and working with a big global brand like Levis certainly gave me a lot of insight into business management. Understanding the financial side was important as well, as it does take a fair amount of financial investment to launch a brand and you need to have a handle on cash flow, gross profit margin, earnings before interest etc. If you don’t have that background, you need someone alongside you who can assist you with it or you need to skill yourself up with that knowledge. In terms of marketing, having a clearly recognisable logo or symbol that visually stimulates recognition of your product or brand is so important. The internet is vital to a business these days – Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and definitely Bloggers - all play a part in getting your brand out there.
My vision for Little Rivet Jeans was to launch my own business, to be able to spend with my family on my own terms, and to have a successful, well known and well-regarded brand. It feels very satisfying to have achieved my goal and to be living the life I envisioned.
Little Rivet Jeans Melbourne is true and honest to the craft of denim. Their focus is on fit, construction and quality; with seasonally relevant denim range pieces for boys and girls 1-14 years of age.
Tel: 0419 618 445
Copy: Melanie Quirk Photography: SomedaySomehowStudios
Having a strong financial understanding is vital for the success of any business. Business Mamas can help get you on the right track with a sound financial plan.
To find out how you can get get your business started and become the next Business Mama head to www.businessmamas.com.au