See you at Life InStyle

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We will be exhibiting at Life InStyle next month! I am very excited!

We exhibited at Life InStyle at Sydney 3 years ago and we didn’t do very well. Looking back I can completely understand why. We were immature in a lot of ways. We were a bit desperate and not knowing where we stood.

This time I feel like I am finally ready to give it ago again! We have a wider range of products. We know exactly what sells what doesn’t in our shop at South Melbourne and why. I feel more confidence talking to retailers as well.

By saying that, it’s still very nervous to put myself out there to give this a go again. Courage doesn’t mean you don’t get afraid. It means you don’t let the fear stops you.

Fingers crossed for the show!

Stress to the max!

I am sitting in my shop today eating cake, drinking coffee and reading Frankie. I look normal from the outside but deep down I am freaking out!

We are going to Brisbane Finders Keepers next week and unlike the other Finders Keepers we did before, this is the first time we do inter-state market. We dropped off our stocks at the freight company on Tue and I supposed to feel relieved after that. The truth is before I packed up, I worry we don’t have enough stock. After we packed up, I worry the freight company missed part of our stocks. Now sitting in the shop I worry the weather in Brisbane next week. I worry people won’t buy. I worry people won’t come. I worry about EVERYTHING!

I know I know. I am making myself crazy. But before you think I am insane please read about what I have to deal with this month.

The bamboo swaddle I ordered in Feb supposed to arrive at the beginning of June so I can bring them to Finders Keepers but in fact they haven’t even printed yet.

The bamboo dining set – the best seller in the shop, have been delayed after delayed and people on the other side of the world are not cooperative at all. I have been organising this since November last year and things are still not here. I am so upset.

I am freaking out not only because I know they sell well and I feel like missing out but also I am going to exhibit at the trade fair in August, even if they managed to finish everything by the end of this month, it still takes a month to ship here, and my trade fair is on the 2nd of August. I don’t think I can make it and that trade fair costs me $10k.

There are other things too like training new person to work at the shop, miscommunications between orders and delivery, never-end-to-do-list, emails, invoices, housework, walking the dog, losing weight, etc the list goes on… haha

I don’t even know who’s reading this but please don’t worry about me. This blog is my outlet, it’s my personal diary to share my tears and my joy. I feel much better now writing about my stress. Everyone deal with their stress differently, I am very lucky that writing helps me feel better. The world is fair. We all have 24 hours a day. We start new the next day.

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Never stop working

I always want to write a book or at least a diary about running a gift shop but I’ve never got the time.  On one hand I have so many ideas I want to share on the other hand I feel like I am still very new compare to others who had their shop for like 30 years.

Since we have the pop up, we’ve never stop working. It’s like I am busy before I even get out of the bed.

Opening a shop isn’t as fancy as I thought. Years ago I was day dreaming with my best friend, dreaming we’ll open a gift shop/ book shop/ cafe and we thought we would be chatting to customers, drinking coffee, open and close whenever we feel like. Well obviously we’re very stupid and dreaming too much!

Running a shop is HARD WORK and it’s even harder for a designer! Getting products in from other suppliers are difficult enough but designing your own is even harder. I have to draw, source the materials, communicate to factories (if I am getting them made in bulk) getting samples, more communication, more samples, and things are not according to plan you have to find another factories. The process may take 6 months to a year! In between this process, it’s a lot to learn and there’s also a lot of self-doubt. I don’t know if people will like my design, whether people will like that particular product, and I don’t know if people prefer this colour or that colour, the lists go on.

Behind the sense there’re also lots of invisible stress because I have emails to reply, social media campaign, stocks to order, photoshoot to organise and if I am late for one thing, everything will delay. As an artist or a writer, I draw or write when I feel like this, as long as I submit the work before the deadline is fine but running a shop is doing different things in daily basis. it’s particularly hard for me because I can’t break up a drawing to do in different days or weeks, but sometimes I just don’t have the time to do one drawing in one day! Not to mention I need to get into the right time right mind set to draw. It’s all very hard.

I hope sharing this insight with you make you appreciate independent designer more. It’s  not that easy.

 

 

Melbourne We Love You!

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It’s been two years since we move from Sydney to Melbourne and WE ARE LOVING IT!

Two years ago we moved to Melbourne for a dream. Now I think about it I realised how crazy this idea was. We came here to chase a dream – to open a shop, to have a successful business and to be rich and famous 😀

We were very lucky that we’re making a great progress towards our dream and we’re very thankful to all the people that encourage us and support us all the way. Living in a new city is hard and running a business is even harder. Melbourne has given us the best opportunity to shine and I cannot believe how far we have came.

Thank you. Thank you all for all the generous support, kindness and friendship.

Work In Progress

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I know I won’t be the first one to tell you this but I still have to say it- managing your own business is HARD WORK!!

Every business is different and I can only tell you how hard MINE is. Before we started to make money we worried that we won’t survive. Once we were starting to feel alright, another wave comes and and we need to paddle a little harder to try to keep our head above the water. We constantly worry about different things, timing, marketing, stock etc.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s a dream come true for me to have the shop and be able to showcase my work to people, while putting a smile on their faces. EVERY coin has two sides. When you see me sitting in the shop looking at the computer, I am not always online shopping (just every now and then :D) I am constantly designing new products, getting new stock and thinking what can I do to make this better.

And when it comes to designing, I actually have no idea what I am doing. (Not that I know what I am doing with other things either!!!  😀 ) I may be good at drawing a picture but when it comes to professionally designing something I am clueless.

For example, I needed to re-deign our packaging for our children’s dining set, bamboo coffee cup and muslin swaddles urgently but I don’t know how to turn a template into a box!

Without a professional training it’s very very hard. It’s like asking someone to make a Croquembouche with no recipe. I just don’t know where to start.

I am glad that I get it all done in the end but man it’s HARD WORK! There are so many times that I wish I have more proper training in different parts of business but I think my brain and my time don’t agree with that. I will just try to do my best to learn on the job!

Sydney Life InStyle

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We took a little day trip to Sydney yesterday to visit Life InStyle. Life InStyle is a trade fair for retailers to find their products all in one roof. We have exhibited there the year before but we didn’t do well. To be honest though we weren’t very well prepared back then, we only had mugs, notebooks and cushions to sell and we didn’t even have any packaging! We had no experience in wholesale and we didn’t know what we were doing.

Now we have our own shop and we know so much better what we are offering and who’s our target market, we also have better packaging. We are more certain what sells than what doesn’t. I feel like we are in a better position to give wholesale another chance. That’s why we’re up to Sydney yesterday to have a look of the venue and other exhibitors to see if that’s worth giving it another go!

I must say, doing wholesale isn’t easy. When we first started we had this great idea that we only wanted to do wholesale, so we didn’t have to bear the costs of having a shop and we could work at home. But life isn’t that easy. There are so many things we have to consider;

* The wholesale price of our products

* Do we provide enough mark up for the retailers?

* If we manufacture our goods, (to make the costs cheaper) do we have enough space to store all our products?

* What should we charge for postage?

* What’s the payment terms and conditions?

We’ve learnt some important lessons at the first trade fair. We were very silly when it came to money, it almost feels like as long as you buy you can have everything. So we didn’t take any deposits for some of the orders and were silly enough to post our goods to the shop before we get payment. Of course, some people took forever to pay and even one shop never paid us! I cannot imagine anyone would do this to a new small business, but shit does happen and there are plenty of bad people out there.

There is a positive to this story, what happened to us before really motivated me to do something to help new start ups. Our ultimate goal for this business is to provide a retail consult to new start up, provide Give feedback in terms of packaging, pricing and sourcing. It’s because I have gone through all the trouble and it would be nice to help the others.

Oh I think I am a bit off the track. We haven’t decided whether we will exhibit at Life InStyle Sydney next year but we will definitely give it a go for the Melbourne one this year.

Have a great week!

Suki x

Creation

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As an artist & creative-mind-business-lady, my passion is about creating illustrations and products that will put a smile on people’s faces. The original and fundamental idea is to create something that I love first. Then if I am lucky, I can develop the artwork into different products. Otherwise I am just happy as it is.  To me the most important principle for a “creator” is to be true to yourself.

When people walk into my shop they straight away think this is a children shop. Honestly I don’t usually draw things specifically for children or adults. I’ve never thought of something that would make lots of money then drew it (maybe that’s why I am still very poor).

All the illustrations that you see on my website and in my shop, they’re individual drawings reflecting that moment of my life. I love colours because they make me happy and I hope my products make people happy too. Colours shouldn’t just belong to children. They belong to everyone.

As an artist, I believe, we should always focus on the originality not the commercial side. It’s very weird for me to say that because I really want to be rich and famous but if I draw solely what’s trendy and what makes money then I feel like I am a fraud – I’d rather not do it at all.

People come to me everyday and ask if I can draw specific things for them. Sometimes I have people ask for wedding invitations, children’s books, cards, posters. Sometimes I say yes and sometimes I say no. It really depends.

If the reason for a drawing isn’t coming from love and passion it doesn’t really mean anything to me. When you have a really good piece of work, you can develop it and market it into different things but if you don’t even like the work you produced you won’t be able to make it into anything else – you need to love what you do!

I know it’s very contradicting coming from a business point of view but I am the soul of the business and if I don’t make something that I am truely passionate about and love, the business will have lost its soul.

I am very grateful that people love what I do. Every time when I sell something it’s like giving you my baby and knowing my babies are going to a good home. This feeling cannot be replaced.

This post means a lot to me because I explain why I do things and why there are no black and white trendy products in my shop.

Thank you for loving what I do. I really appreciate that.

Suki x

Happy 2018

I hope everyone had a great Christmas and New Year with their family and friends!
We feel refreshed after our little break in Sydney and we’re ready for an exciting year ahead!

We are excited for 2018 as it is shaping up to be one of our biggest years yet! We are planning on making some changes to our product range which will see several new products and new designs.

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Something I am extremely passionate about is the environment and our impact on earth. As such changes are being made to our packaging so we are more environmentally friendly and sustainable.

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We’re planning to apply for more big markets and events nationally, like Finders Keepers, The Big Design Markets and One Fine Baby. It may sound crazy to talk about all these events at the beginning of the year, but honestly there are is so much involved when you’re exhibiting around the country. Money is the main thing however logistics, staff and other resources are also very important. We need to plan ahead!

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We will also be focusing on the wholesale side of the business, meeting with new retailers and building important relationships. We are wanting to get our products into retail stores around Australia and hopefully around the world.
If you know any retail stores that would like to carry our product range please feel free to forward my contact information onto them.

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A few years ago, before we moved to Melbourne, we showed at Life InStyle and Reed Gift Fair  . I can’t say it wasn’t a success however we didn’t receive many return orders. I put this down to the fact we hadn’t defined our brand. Our product choices were very limited also.
Since opening the shop at South Melbourne Market, I know exactly what business owners want and who my target market is. Now is the time to go back to the trade fairs and reintroduce Suki McMaster to other retailers. Now is the time to make this happen!

This is going to be an amazing year for us! Keep an eye on our Facebook and Instagram.
I can’t wait to share more news with you in the future.

Suki x

Written in conjunction with Renee Harvie (@thehappyorganicgirlau)

 

The audience makes it best

We went to watch the tennis few days ago. It was Nadal and Monfils and the two players were both amazing! The match was great but the audience made it even better! The emotions – the cheers, the sigh, the yell all together makes the match so much fun and appreciated.

I feel the same with our business. It’s a great adventure and it’s been awesome but the customers make the whole journey even better. It’s a nice feeling when people remember us. It’s great when people came back and asked how we are and how’s the business going. It’s the best when people keep coming back with their friends and family. Every time I see people come back I am just over the moon coz it just means we’re doing the right thing. It just mean all the hard work behind the sense really worth it.

I am looking forward to share my journey with you all.

 

We’re moving!

We are so excited!!! We’ll be moving to our new shop at South Melbourne Market next week. It’s going to be a longer term lease so no more packing for awhile!! Yay!

It’s a mix feeling because we’re going to miss our lovely neighbours at shop 120. We have a great time around these great people around us. We’re going to miss that for sure.

At the same time we’re very thankful and excited. We can finally plan our lives ahead. We will bring in more new products. We will be teaming up with social media guru in the next 12 months. We will have some exciting projects that involve the creative community and general public.

Once again we have to thank South Melbourne Market for giving us the opportunity to extend our stay at the market. We know there are lots of creative business out there fighting for the spot and we are very thankful that we have the support. This is really a dream come true for us.