12 Years of Few & Far with She SaidAug 31, 2021
I recently shared the story of Few and Far's journey on SheSaid. It always feels so nostalgic to reflect on just how far we've come in the last 12 years...
When my Husband Danny and I first started out in business, we had no idea what we were doing. We were young and ambitious and had big goals and dreams! But how to get started? That was the question.
It was in the middle of the GFC in 2009 and we had a lot of people telling us it may not be the best time to give up our well paying jobs to start something we didn’t necessarily know a lot about, especially during a time filled with so much financial uncertainty.
In our minds we had no choice. We’d both been working in the surf industry as Graphic Designers (Danny was my boss and quite an intimidating one at that - and not just because of his good looks!), in what I thought was my dream job. I mean what more could a young, beach loving, girl from the South Coast ever want? Well… apparently more.
Now don’t get me wrong. I loved that job, I loved the people I worked with, I had the opportunity to travel the world and I absolutely loved working on the South Coast… but I had more to give. As the years went by, the novelty slowly wore off and I felt stifled by being told how to be creative or what it was I had to design when I felt so strongly opposed to it. I felt trapped with nowhere to go. I distinctly remember standing in the shower each night knowing I was destined for something, but I just hadn't quite worked out what that was just yet. One thing I did know was that I couldn’t keep going on like this. I wasn’t happy and I needed to take control of that.
When I thought about going out in business for myself and following a passion I’d held for such a long time, it gave me an enormous sense of energy, excitement and a feeling of fulfillment. I’d always loved homewares and interiors, but had always thought owning a homewares store could only be a hobby. Before doing any research, I relied on the fact that I believed I was the typical customer - someone who’d go out for lunch followed by a ‘browse’ around the stores, wishing I could buy everything but leaving without actually purchasing anything. Surely you couldn’t make money from owning a retail store? But wouldn’t it be nice if you could?
I didn’t ponder on that idea for too long, and redirected my energy to looking into buying the local pizza shop. But after sitting back and thinking about what it was about that opportunity that excited me, I realised I was looking at it for all the wrong reasons. I just wanted to re-decorate it and plan the fitout! The vision of it excited me and I dreamt about how I could make it look and feel, but the thought of coming in each morning to light a fire, chop up veggies and knead dough just wasn’t floating my boat! Let alone the fact that the long days and late nights weren’t very accommodating when the pitter patter of tiny feet came calling. And so, I decided to go with my gut and to follow my passion for interiors… which is when Few and Far was born.
With a plan now in place, I resigned from my job and Danny stayed working full time, until we knew that the business would be a success. I sourced out a location and visited trade fairs to buy a range of products to fill the store. My Dad was a builder, so he completed the fitout, with reference to the Photoshop files I’d given him to show the look and feel I was after. Both Danny and I would help out after work (and well into the night) each day, pulling staples from the floor, sweeping up and cleaning and removing old layers of carpet and lino. It was slowly coming together.
I was comfortable with the concept, branding and design stage, but when it came to actually working out prices, who to buy from, how much to buy and what to do next had me a little stumped. Fortunately, we had a friend who had previously owned a homewares store, and she was generous enough to guide us through this process. If it hadn't been for her, this initial stage would have been extremely difficult and a lot more time consuming.
I’ll never forget the feeling we both had on opening night. It was one of the proudest moments of my life. We’d worked hard on transforming a very run down, dilapidated store into a magical space, full of wonder and curiosity, and the expression on each person’s face as they walked in was proof we’d done an amazing job. The store was an instant success.
But it wasn’t all smooth sailing. It wasn’t like a uni project that you do an all-nighter to complete and then sleep for the rest of the week to recover from. We’d had at least a week of almost all-nighters prior to opening, and then it was time to really work. 7 days a week.
Danny ended up resigning a month after we’d opened and joined me in the store each day. As hard as it was, we often reflect on how good it felt to finally have the freedom to work for ourselves. We could pursue and implement our own creative ideas and build our business the way we wanted to, on our own terms. It was such a feeling of accomplishment and relief. We felt like we’d made it!
But we didn’t stop there. Before we opened our first store, we put together a business plan that detailed our plan to open a second store within 5 years (also in Huskisson in order to ‘create our own competition’). That happened (quite unexpectedly) the very next year. In 2010, we opened a store we named Indigo Love. We imported a container of one-of-a-kind pieces of furniture and decor items from China to fill it with, and we shared a space with a well known cafe. The very next year, we purchased a cottage in Huskisson and moved Indigo Love there. We did our first trip to India where we imported another container of furniture and decor items so that each store would have a point of difference (that trip was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Doing business in India is very different to working with any other country!). We’d certainly learnt a lot during the first 2 years of starting our business, but through a series of small wins, we had gained a lot more confidence to make big decisions and to pursue goals like these.
The years that followed saw us expand even further, opening stores in Berry, Bowral and Leura, as well as starting our own wholesale business (which goes under the name Indigo Love and started as a result of others wondering where we sourced our unique product ranges). The pitter patter of tiny feet came calling (twice!), and we welcomed a son and daughter into our lives. Each time we opened a store, the footprint grew larger and housed even more product than the last. The business was growing, and quickly.
But it didn’t come without growing pains. Danny and I were fortunate to have family involvement in the business. My Mum did all of our bookkeeping and my Dad (a retired builder) completed all of our store fitouts and carpentry work that needed to be done, as well as working in the warehouse. None of us were afraid of getting our hands dirty, and we were all involved in the day to day activities of the business such as working in the stores, packing orders, setting up and renovating stores, moving warehouses (numerous times!), setting up and packing up trade fair stands, delivering furniture and unpacking containers. Dad would always remark ‘There’s got to be an easier way to do this’ as we all sat down for a cold drink and a slice of pizza at the end of a long day. Throw in a couple of kids and the struggle was real (especially when they go through the teething stage or develop croup in the timely event we decide to set up a new store or exhibit at a trade fair!)
I’ll never forget when Jonah was 3 months old and we were exhibiting at the REED Gift Fair in Melbourne. Children or babies weren’t allowed in the exhibition hall during setup, and I was breastfeeding at the time. Considering I was the only one who knew how the stand was to be set up and merchandised, this became quite the challenge. So we brought Danny’s Mum down with us to look after him between feeds. It was freezing cold and raining and she sat in a room off the side of the hall, reading a book while he slept and holding out for as long as possible before calling me to come and feed him. It was torturous for all of us. But we survived!
As the business expanded, roles within the business were created and developed. The physical side of running the business got easier, but the mental load was heavy. The bigger the business grew, the more people we had to hire which in turn meant more personality clashes and more ‘admin’ around sorting out those problems, which took time away from working on the business. But if there’s something both Danny and I are good at, it’s staying positive in order to overcome challenges. Speaking of challenges...
It was the end of 2019. We were on track for our best year yet. And then came the bushfires of 2020 and later, COVID-19. Our stores and warehouses were fully stocked, ready for our busiest period of the year. We’d invested in extra staff and had also invested heavily in even more stock that was expected to arrive in time for exhibiting at the February trade fairs (all due to be paid for by the January takings). But what was normally the busiest time of year was now ghostly quiet. It was hard to swallow and there was a constant lump in my throat as we worked out how to navigate these events.
Staying open throughout that period (where possible), enabled us to make the most of any opportunity. I guess the silver lining is that it had definitely been the push we needed to ensure our online store was the best it could be and we used any available down time to put even more procedures in place in order to maintain longevity and continued growth within our business.
While our plan was always to continue to grow and expand, sometimes you need to know when to ‘call it quits’ on something that’s not working in order to move forward. After 3 years in operation, we made the difficult decision to close our Leura store. While it was an extremely popular store, the rent was extremely high, the size of the store was too small and the location just wasn’t our target market.
However, for every negative there is a positive, and it was around this time that we were awarded the title of Global Honouree out of 32 countries at the Global Innovator Awards in Chicago.
In order to compete for the ultimate Award of ‘Global Honouree’, we were asked to complete an evaluation that assessed our brand vision, business development, store design, visual merchandising displays, marketing and advertising promotions, customer service initiatives and an emphasis on how we have been innovative. Through documenting our answers, it was clear that we had a strong brand with a clear vision that focused heavily on innovation. We have thoughtfully considered every little detail, and have always been aware of the need to offer a memorable and unique shopping experience with a personal approach.
To think that what started out as a little store in Huskisson on the South Coast of NSW would now be recognised on a global scale is completely mind blowing! We pride ourselves on our personal approach to all aspects of our business and our distinctive style that mixes the old and new in a curated and thoughtful manner. To be recognised for what we love to do is just the cherry on top!
So I’m guessing you’re wondering what’s in store for us now? Well, life is pretty amazing. We are now at the stage where we have the support of an amazing team (we’re no longer hands on in all aspects of the business like we have been throughout our business journey), Danny and I work mostly from home so we can schedule our work around school pickups and family time, we’ve just had our biggest and most successful year yet, and we continue to plan and dream ‘behind the scenes’ on what will come next… You may have gathered that we don’t sit still, so I’ll let you in on a little secret… there’s more to come!
Do you ever daydream about starting your own successful business, thriving online store or beautiful retail space but don’t have a single clue where to begin?
Is your excitement and enthusiasm continually squashed by confusion and doubt over what you physically need to do to get started?
Perhaps you feel like you don’t have the right tools in your kit to actually build your dream business?
Let me tell you right now - you are definitely not alone! In fact, when I launched my business back in 2009, I had no idea what I was doing. I am the living proof that you can start a business without any prior knowledge.
But… a little help never goes astray, right?
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