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    Interview: Sarah Thornton & Brooke Johnston, founders of The Finders Keepers market

    By Tess McCabe

    Today we interview two ladies whose business I’m sure many of you will be aware of, as either a visitor or stall holder. But how did The Finders Keepers market begin and what have been some of the highs and lows founders Brooke Johnston and Sarah Thornton have encountered along the way? Let’s find out…


    How did you two meet and what prompted the decision to launch a business together?
    Brooke and I met in the Summer of 2002 when she moved to Sydney from Lennox Head and started dating my cousin (who she has since then married). She was pursuing a creative career in jewellery design. We hit it off instantly, sharing an equal love of all things creative. At the time I was studying and working in the fashion industry.

    It wasn’t until a conversation in 2006 about how Brooke was frustrated at trying to launch her contemporary jewellery labe. At the time there was generally a lack of support and good places to sell for small labels. An idea sparked in us! We came up with our ‘dream event’ that would combine all the things we loved – design, art, music & wine in a friendly market atmosphere. We wanted to create a social atmosphere that supported creativity, community and inspired others. We launched The Finders Keepers just that with only 20 curated stalls, live music and a full bar. We had no idea how to run an event, or curate anything, we just learnt along the way.

    We’ve always worked so well together, both sharing the same passions for creativity and community and we seem to have the perfect blend of patience, kindness and encouragement with each other that has made our partnership truly flourish.

    How long has The Finders Keepers market been going now, and how has it changed over the years ?
    We’re six years old now, and we’ve had our fair share of struggles and hurdles along the way! Finders Keepers we believe has organically grown, from just having a small offering of stalls in Sydney, to expanding interstate to Brisbane & Melbourne, and then improving and growing as the years go by. We’ve really learnt everything along the way and can credit our strength to learning from mistakes too and never giving up. We also have such an amazing community of supporters that really keep us going, when times have been tough we know how important our role has become for designers and shoppers alike!

    It just started with the two of us, running Sydney markets, then when we took on Brisbane and Melbourne, we recruited two more event assistants and now we have a great little team of six part-time workers and a casual team who just do our events. Everyone in the Finders Keepers family has other jobs and creative roles. We love that.

    What have been some of the challenges of keeping FK running for this long?
    Many challenges! Gosh too many to name… I think the biggest one was when we outgrew ourselves. Our markets were getting too big, and too popular (not necessarily a bad thing!), but it just meant the logistics of managing it all was increasing and then came the massive increase of expenses and demands.

    Every event we got bigger and had to upgrade, and one point we were just scraping through financially and we couldn’t get ahead. We had absolutely no money to invest in our next events. It was at this time we were facing major decisions and at a cross roads of being burnt out and ready to pull the pin. Sometimes those moments have to happen, we re-evaluated, re-worked our planning and asked for help to get us out of a rut.

    It was a hard time, but it was also the best time for us to come out of it, and realise how strong we were at the end of it all.

    What roles do each of you take on in the running of the business, and do you both work on FK full-time?
    Our roles have changed over time. Originally Brooke and I did most of all the event work, but we now have the amazing Alischa who helps us with the national event management and logistics (a life saver). This has given us a bit more of a directors role, which lets us oversee all the curation of the markets (which includes us going through all the applications and final approvals), new event concepts, vendors, seasonal artwork, decor, signage and marketing of the event. We still work very closely with Alischa on all the event decisions and direction.

    I also work with our little web team and oversee all our website’s blog content and social media. Brooke and I also have a retail venture, Follow, that Brooke mainly manages. Between being creative and everything else we do (I’m also a mum to a toddler), we would probably work on Finders Keepers around 3-4 days out of the week, and more in peak times.

    What advice do you have for makers and designers who might be considering showcasing their work at a market this year?
    Give it a go! We always love seeing new designers and makers at the markets and if they are just starting out we have an excellent opportunity called ‘debut’ for the little guys to give the markets a go for the first time at a discounted rate. For more seasoned designers who are interested we also have a pretty thorough criteria and FAQ section on our website. We encourage people to learn more about what we do at Finders Keepers and what kind of talent we’re looking for. We even have our tips and market guides that might help too.

    Thank you Sarah and Brooke for sharing your story with us! If you’re keen to apply to be a Finders Keepers stall holder, applications for the Spring/Summer markets in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne are open now. And if you’d like to visit and see all the beautiful maker’s products Sarah and Brooke curate for you, check out the market dates here!

    Posted by: Tess McCabe
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    Interview – Anna Ross of Kester Black

    Interview Anna Ross Kester Black

    By Andrea McArthur

    Recently you may have noticed that there has been an unprecedented rise in the level of interest in nail art and nail polish. You’ll find that there’s even a strong nail art blogging community on the rise (take a look on Kester Blacks Pinterest to see a few Bloggers work). If you were asked to describe nail polish in just one word, I would use – fun. Nails are no longer just manicures, they can truly be coordinated to any look and have become the finishing accessory to an outfit.

    Launched in August 2012, Kester Black nail polish was borne out of a passion to run a creative business and create an ethical, all-Australian product. In this interview, Anna Ross – CWC member, founder and director of the fabulous Kester Black – tells us about her background and her personal passion for her product.

    Interview Anna Ross Kester Black Nails

    What led you to starting Kester Black?
    Kester Black began 4 years ago as a clothing label while I was studying a Bachelor of design, majoring in fashion in the South of New Zealand. When I graduated, my wise mother dearest suggested I broaden my horizons overseas which would bring more opportunities than staying at home and working on my label. I packed my bags and began searching for a job in Melbourne. The experience didn’t quite work out the way I was expecting it to.

    After landing myself a job in retail, I thought I’d better get something creative happening to keep my portfolio growing. I began making jewellery and selling it back to New Zealand where that seemed to be quite successful for a few years. After a year in retail, I finally landed my dream job: design assistant for a well known Australian fashion label. I worked in that role for just over a year until I was offered a production manager role for another large company in the industry. The pay they were offering was more than double what I was on, but the catch was that I would have to give up my own little business. I felt like I had worked so hard for the last two and a half years to just give it all up. So I turned down the job, and worked on building my business.

    In the mean time, I had decided I was bored of merely working with sterling silver and began researching enamel paints to use on the jewellery I was making. It led me to looking into nail polish, and I really saw a gap in the market. I decided to manufacture and sell my own nail polish line to complement my jewellery. It was a major turning point in my career when, as the jewellery market had become really saturated and my nail polish sales were going through the roof, that I decided to focus solely on the nail polish side of things and lay the jewellery to rest.

    How did you go from an idea, to tracking down a manufacturer, to launching your own range of nail polish?
    It was pretty challenging to begin with. It took me eight months just to do the research, and in the mean time I had to save my pennies to get enough money to invest in the business. It was also a massive risk. I didn’t know how my product would be received, and I’m just lucky people have really supported me and my business. I couldn’t have done it without the constant advice from my friends and family. When I finally found a manufacturer who took me seriously, it was such a relief and things just naturally began flowing. I had my website redesigned, and engaged an amazing photographer (Eve Wilson) whose photographs really brought the presentation of my brand to the next level. I still feel like I have a really long way to go but I am excited about what the next phase is going to bring to my ever growing little business.

    How have you managed the carcinogenic-free side of the production process? Did you come across any manufacturers who weren’t flexible enough to develop your ethical product with you?
    I have actually been working closely along side a chemist who helps me with that side of things. I wanted my product stand out and meet all of my ethical values while still maintaining a durable quality without sacrificing the fun colours. I researched the industry and manufacturing processes in depth and was a little afraid I wouldn’t be able to achieve what I wanted my final product to be. I wasn’t  impressed with what some of the bigger corporate companies manage to get away with these days.

    It’s just so silly that consumers should even have to think about it, so I did a lot of research on how to make my formula non toxic. Before choosing a manufacturer I asked every one to supply me with their core company values. It was really easy to narrow the field down when I asked to create a non toxic nail polish base. There were definitely some manufacturers who we not willing to change the way in which they do things.

    Interview Anna Ross Kester Black Book

    It appears that you surround yourself with like minded business women. Can you explain how the co-written and self-published book “The Hand Book, A guide to nail art” with Chelsea Bagan come about?
    When I received the first of my six colours of nail polish from the manufacturer, I was interested to see if my product was as high quality as other brands. So I sent out some sample packs to nail artists I found online. Chelsea happened to be one of them. We were in touch over email for a month or so before I decided I would like to create a book on nail art. I asked her on a bit of a ‘blind date’ to propose my book idea. After the classic ‘I’ll be wearing light blue jeans and I have dark hair’ line we met up and I pitched my idea to her. From that initial first meeting, it only took us 6 weeks to write, shoot and print the book. Chelsea and I have very similar aesthetics and that made working together on such a big project really easy. We have since become great friends and are in touch almost every day.

    Originally described as the “Hipster Mani”, how would you describe the new style of nail art seen in your book?
    After seeing so many awful manicures trending while I was researching, I was excited when I stumbled across Chelsea’s slick work online. I don’t know if I can give you an exact phrase, but the style of nail art that featured in our book seems to be a little more simple, refined and fun. I love the colour combinations we use. I like the cartoon-style nail art much better than the really realistic palm trees and sunsets you see elsewhere. I also believe the nail art in Melbourne is reflective of our creative and artistic culture.

    What does a typical day at work involve for you?
    Well I’m usually awoken at the first sign of light by my little brown Burmese cat George Von Whiskers, nudging me to let him get under the blankets for a morning cuddle. This is the point in which I grab my laptop from beside my bed and set up shop for the morning. I check my emails, do my accounting and try to clear my inbox before it gets swamped again later in the day. I’m always surprised at how many emails I get overnight. After breakfast and a shower I pop into my home office and pack up all the orders I need to send out for the day. Then depending on what time of year it is, I could be mixing up colours for a new collection, researching photo shoot ideas, updating the website and all the while trying not to move too much as to upset the cat sleeping in my lap.

    Interview Anna Ross Kester Black Trophy Wife

    Being a creative I find that my personal and professional life seems to blur. Do you find that Kester Black is a reflection of who you are as a person?
    Absolutely. Kester Black’s aesthetic is just a combination of all the things I love. My Pinterest and Instagram accounts are a bit of a reflection of that. I am also a very efficient and fast-working person and I think that reflects in my work. I can often be too hasty in evolving my business and I think that shows sometimes. I’m working on improving that!

    The people I surround myself with are often other creatives or professionals. I find myself going out for a glass of wine with friends and instead of talking about holiday plans or what has been happening at home, we are devising ideas for an upcoming photo shoot or a list of people who I can approach for collaborations. I’m constantly picking the brains of my ‘not so creative’ friends about investments, accounting software or website coding, all things which I would love to know more about to better my business. In my experience as a business owner, there is no ‘off switch’ at the end of the day, although I do think it’s important to have balance and I have been working on that a lot over the past year.

    What was the best piece of business advice given to you over your journey that you can share?
    I was once told to begin your business the way you intend to run it. I was lucky enough to get it right the third time round. While my business was in it’s clothing and jewellery stages, I was doing everything myself. When I made the switch to nail polish I really made the effort to refine my procedures. For starters, I upgraded to Xero for accounting which has actually made accounting pretty enjoyable. I created a marketing plan and began thinking long term. Kester Black was officially an after school job no more.


    Interview Anna Ross Kester Black Lilac NewWhat is your personal favourite Kester Black nail colour?

    I’d love to quote my mother and give the democratic answer “I love all of my children equally” but I won’t. Lilac is my current fave, the new winter colour just released this week.

    Thank you Anna! Fall in love with Kester Black at www.kesterblack.com and keep up to date with what Anna is up to by following her adventures on Instagram.

    Andrea McArthur has a passion for all things visual and works as a Senior Graphic Designer at a branding agency in Dubai. Type is her true love and goes weak at the knees over beautiful design. You’ll find her sharing design related musings via Twitter and Instagram

    Tags: business, Creative, Interview, nail polish
    Posted by: Andrea McArthur
    Categories: interview, regular columns | Comments Off
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    Interview: Magdalena Franco of Unleash Creative


    In March, CWC Member Magdalena Franco is putting on an exciting event in Melbourne (soon to be followed by events in Brisbane and Sydney). It’s called Unleash Creative, and in essence it’s about getting the time, space, materials and hands-on expert help to take your creativity to a new place (or even just coax it out of its shell!). Magdalena has gathered a bunch of different skills working in various facets of creative industries, and this new venture brings them all together, with an added dose of passion and determination. Let’s meet Mags!

    Tell us about your background. What creative industries have you worked in and what are you passionate about?

    I always find it interesting to hear about people’s journeys and where life has taken them. Where people start out is not generally where they finish up and I love that; knowing that there’s an adventure to be had is all part of the excitement. My career started out in administration. A dry and monotonous career path full of numbers, schedules, word processing, paper-pushing and spreadsheets. Don’t get me wrong, I adore all of those things in an odd way, but they’re not exactly the kind of things that dreams are made of.

    A couple of years into working admin I landed a fantastic and gruelling job at a busy PR agency in Brisbane where I worked my way up the ranks and scored major brownie points on my CV. Those brownie points helped me secure some exciting marketing gigs when I relocated to Melbourne in my early twenties. Over the course of 12-odd years I built up my PR, marketing and event skills, knowing that one day they would be of great benefit to something more fulfilling I wanted to do. But I never really knew what I wanted to do, other than I wanted to focus on my creative passions.

    Ever since I can remember, I have drawn, scrapbooked, painted, collaged, collected, stitched and made all sorts of things. But I never dreamed that I could turn my passion for making things into money. In 2010 I started sewing and selling my wares at markets. Something that gave me immense pleasure for a short amount of time. I realised that having a day job, a family and an under-paid hobby on the side was taking its toll on my passion, mojo and life. So I stopped. Not the making, just the robotic making-to-sell process. I don’t think I will ever give up making. Albeit for very different reasons than monetary.

    What is for the format of Unleash Creative and prompted you to launch it?
    Unleash Creative is a full day of creative, crafty, colourful madness full to the brim with absorbing new skills in an intimate workshop environment.

    I realised that with the popularity of Instagram and Pinterest, many people were and still are admiring things that others have made, hoping to one day make or learn the skills to make similar beautiful things. But those pins seemed to turn into boards full of forgotten projects that “I’ll make one day” and some didn’t even know where to start or didn’t want to commit to a 6 week course to learn sewing if they weren’t sure whether it was really for them.

    Then there’s the other side of the creative pool, the people like me who have been making for years either to sell or for family and friends who have lost their creative mojo, have gotten stuck in a creative rut or would like to expand their craft skills, but don’t know what to try or where to start.

    Unleash Creative was created as a result. It’s a roundup of four talented creative mentors who will inspire, pass on their skills and give attendees a taste of something they may not have tried before. It’s essentially a day of creative taste testing. I want people to walk away feeling refreshed, inspired and excited with a hunger for making and embracing handmade. And maybe a passion to further one of the new skills they’ve learned.

    Who runs the Unleash workshops and what can people expect to learn?
    Each attendee at Unleash will get to experience all four workshops run throughout the day. The workshops are run by awesome crafter types who are passionate about sharing what they know and helping people to find their own creative groove.

    At the Melbourne event, for example, we have Allira of Freckles and Ginger who’ll be showing people how to go crazy with pom poms to create something wearable. Emma van Leest will be helping everyone make their very own layered silhouette paper cutting which can be framed at home. Gemma Patford’s paint and rope-coiled-baskets will be influencing what she shares on the day and Kitiya Palaskas will be throwing a whole bucket of her colourful paper skills at everyone.

    I just can’t wait to see what everyone walks away with at the end of the day!

    Unleash Creative Table Shot

    What have been some of the challenges of pulling together an event like this, especially as you will be holding it in Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney over the course of 2014?
    My biggest challenges will definitely be the interstate events. I’ve been lucky so far as 90% of the organisation has been done via email and Skype, but I know that closer to the event dates for Sydney and Brisbane I’m going to be relying on the expertise and assistance of local people to help me out on the ground before I arrive. That in itself is a little daunting for me as I like to be involved in every aspect of managing and setting up events. But I will just have to put those fears aside and have faith that my helpers will do me proud.

    Where can people find out more and get along to an Unleash event?
    There’s plenty of information on the website www.unleashcreative.com.au, people can follow along on Instagram @unleashcreative, or tickets can be purchased through www.unleashcreative.eventbrite.com.

    Posted by: Tess McCabe
    Categories: interview, member-run event, workshop | Comments Off
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    Interview: Helen Roe of The Orange Lantern


    Meet CWC Member Helen Roe: a marketing master, business strategist, mentor and mum. She helps creative people capture and plan their business so they can make a living from what they love to do. She’s coming to Melbourne soon to run one of her much-loved creative business planning workshops (details of which can be found at the end of the post), but before she lands we thought we’d get some insight into how she came to do what she loves for a living.

    You describe yourself a ‘corporate refugee’. What is your background and what is the focus of your business now?
    My career has included management roles in marketing, sales and business development with global brands like Coca Cola, Colgate Palmolive and Nivea, in Europe. Whilst I enjoyed the journey and amazing experiences my corporate life offered, I felt the need for change in latter years, especially after having my second daughter.

    I wanted my work to be an extension of me and the values I held important in my personal life. I wanted to change from mass market marketing to community, connection and customer care. I love being creative in my spare time. I’m a qualified interior designer, I’ve had my own home baking business and have experimented with various other creative endeavours! I also really enjoy connecting with the customer and creating something of value for others.

    It wasn’t until I moved to Australia a couple of years ago from Ireland, that it came to me. I found a way to incorporate my skillset and love of all things creative, into a service that helped other creatives with their marketing and business planning. The Orange Lantern was born.

    What does a typical day at work involve?
    A typical work day can vary greatly, which is why I love it! I work mornings and finish early afternoon for school pick-ups. I like to squeeze a morning run in there a couple of times a week, otherwise the day slips by. I’ll do a few hours on the laptop, check in with emails and social media, work on planning, creating or implementing my online programs or business planning workshops. I’ll also schedule some client sessions during the week, either in person or on Skype. Then it’s taxi service for the afternoon, out and about with my daughters for various after school activities. I try and get some work done in the evenings too, when little people are sleeping.

    What are some of the challenges you encounter or have encountered in your own business, and how did you work through them?
    Certainly, when you’re starting out in business it can so exciting but also very overwhelming. There is so much to do and so much to learn that there never seems to be enough time. It took me a while to realize that running your own business will always be a work in progress.

    The to do list is never really done. I work on long-term and short-term goals now, so I can see my progress, even the small wins, which helps me stay motivated.

    I see perfectionism a lot amongst creatives in business too. Unfortunately, I know it only too well! It leads to procrastination and the ‘it’s not ready yet’ syndrome, where products or programs are never launched or marketed. This ultimately leads to little or no progress in your business. Yes, it’s important to maintain standards but it’s also important to be realistic about what you can achieve on a regular basis.

    What’s the one mistake you consistently see creative’s making in their businesses?
    It has to be pricing. Getting your pricing right in the beginning can save you so much heartache down the road. I’ve had clients in my business planning workshops unable to plan for growth, expansion into wholesale or third party selling because their pricing strategy is missing key elements. Implementing an effective pricing strategy and understanding how it fits with your overall brand strategy is intrinsic to the success of your business. Yes, your pricing, like your product or designs, can evolve over time but only when it’s based on solid foundations.

    In your opinion, what are some of the first steps creatives can take toward making a decent, full-time living from their work?
    Be fully committed to your work as a business and not just a hobby or something you enjoy doing. Ask yourself what value you have to offer and who is willing to pay for it? What solution do you solve for your customer? It can be a tangible thing or an intangible emotion or feeling. Know what makes you and your offerings unique in the marketplace. One of my favourite quotes from Maya Angelou captures this importance: ”People will not remember what you said to them but they will remember how you made them feel.”

    Have a vision and a plan.Your plan can take any format. It doesn’t have to be a manuscript but it’s important to have something that connects you to your business vision. It may be a vision board, a yearly planner with key events, a visual of your perfect customers, your sales target in big numbers posted on your wall, whatever works for you. I demonstrate lots of tools and strategies in my planning workshops and generally, no two people plan the same way.

    Be prepared to market your product and tell your story. Sales & marketing may not be your favourite activities but without them you will not have a business. Pick one or two platforms that work for you and do them consistently. Get help here if you need to. Outsource where you can. This is hard in the beginning when budgets are tight but try and spend your time doing the things you are good at and get help in the areas you’re not so good at.

    What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
    It would have to be this quote from Chris Brogan: “Your year is made up of days, and those days must be treated like your only hopes and chances exist within them”.

    I was just back to work after the holidays and in the process of pondering and planning the year ahead in my biz when my eyes fell upon these words. I love this, life is just too short for regrets. Live each day to the fullest and step outside your comfort zone, that’s where the magic happens!


    Helen is running her Right-Brain Business Planning Workshop on 1 March here in Melbourne. Early bird tickets finish on January 31! If you book via this link, Helen will generously donate a portion of the ticket price to CWC to help us continue to do the things we do here. Thanks, Helen!

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    Posted by: Tess McCabe
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