"I know you are all here to learn some new ways to become more business savvy and I think it is easier to imbed these tips into my background stories of where I have been and what I have done.
I had a fortunate schooling going to an opportunity school since I was 10 and then a selective girls high school after that. Both these taught me how to be independent, which is a good start. My career started as an infant’s teacher (to please my mother) but my desire was really to do something more artistic. After returning from my first trip overseas at the age of 21, I made my first leap.
I have had a lot of luck in my life and this has taken me in the right direction providing me with great teachers along the way. I had the opportunity to run a business within a business for the In Shoppes, a chain of clothing shops in Sydney back in the late 60’s. Prior to that I had set up and managed stores for them and done some overseas buying. This new opportunity was setting up a cottage industry knitting business, which gave me the chance to design. My team of Italian and Greek women worked from their own homes. I loved it, especially the once a month lunches because those ladies knew how to keep a great veggie garden on the go, bottle their own wine etc. Those times gave me a great sense of running a business, but unfortunately not the financial side of things… that would come later.
During that time I had a taste of the theatre by doing the costumes for the original stage production of Hair. What an amazing era that was!! And with two jobs at the same time it meant I had a great income. It didn’t mean I was smart enough to maximize by buying a home. I should have, but I was young and I was enjoying my life. My smartness for that came later. I am glad I didn’t in retrospect buy a house in Sydney, as it gave me more freedom to move up here 4 years later.
It is very important to make the most of opportunities that come your way to learn and expand your knowledge and gain from every new experience. Don’t worry if things don’t present themselves or you don’t have the luck as you can also create your own opportunities too.
Tip: You have to keep your eyes open.
Be sure you are alert enough to recognize a good opportunity when it presents itself. I lived and breathed my businesses for so long. One thing is for sure - passion is important to your success.
Tip If you are not doing something you love then change direction. I am now 65 and still love everything I do and part of that is because I am also evolving all the time!! Otherwise I’d be bored!
The early Sea Change to this area came 39 yrs ago, to follow a more alternative lifestyle, grow my own veggies (which to this day I am still doing …Hmm wonder where I got that from!!) raise two children and have as much fun as I could with the different work I was choosing to get into. When I left the corporate world in Sydney they all said, “You are a city girl, you will be back in 6 months”….Wow were they wrong!!
Fast forward: After 14 years I left my marriage with a 10 and 8 yr old and had to run my own business with no support, except child sharing, from the father. Sometimes hard times are good for us. As a result I became more independent and even stronger from then on. I continued on doing everything from designing, cutting, hand painting and sewing. It was all up to me now!
Gradually over the next few years I started to employ people until I had 12 casual employees. I sold Australia wide and to several shops in England. And this was all from my home base at Uki. I employed the same cottage industry setup I had learnt to do from Sydney.
My tip - reinvent what you know best! If I can do it you can too!
I can still visualize my workroom now, with walls covered in great ideas I wanted to execute, fabulous positive success stories pinned up, and inspiration around me as I worked.
During this time I took as many courses as I could to help me reach my goals. TAFE (for pattern making and sewing as other people had done that when I worked at the In Shoppes) and Byron Region Community College then ACE (for computers and bookkeeping… I couldn’t even type in the beginning). Tip it is so important to educate yourself to run your business. You must understand every aspect to hand over roles to other people.
I have never created a business plan because I envisage it all in my head. I plan the directions I want to take and where I want to be next year and the year after etc. If writing a business plan is the way you do it, that is fantastic too. I even did a course but somehow I just couldn’t get it on paper but I could in my head… I see new directions all the time. Tip: do it your way!
During this time I started to get a handle on the financial side of things. I remember crying on my bookkeepers shoulder so many times in the early days. “I am looking after so many local people by employing them and what is left for me “. I was a little impatient then, because in the beginning and especially if you don’t have a lot of capital, you have to pour so much back in to make your business grow. After a few years though, it all paid off and I was starting to reap the wonderful monetary fruits of my labour. TIp: never give up
Through all this I learnt to recognize how the finances worked and although I have always had a bookkeeper, in the beginning I prepared all the work myself. At the start I had trouble even keeping my dockets so I wasn’t a natural. My tip – work alongside your bookkeeper in the beginning to comprehend what works and what doesn’t and how it all fits together.
I have had 4 businesses during the past 25 years. Three in the clothing industry with the first manufacturing here in Australia (economically harder to do these days but I had a work ethic to keep everything Australian made…. I did that for 13 years).
After about 4 years to give myself a break from the big workload of 5-6 days a week, I started the second when I commenced manufacturing a winter range of my own designs in Northern Thailand.
I have a very good eye for what sells so for the past 10 years, after selling off parts of my manufacturing business and building a home for myself in Ewingsdale, the third business of buying off the rack in Thailand commenced. I have the buying down pat now. I put a lot of time into studying the trends by scouring the fashion magazines and creating the season’s look I want to follow and put it together. Then I walk the streets. I go to one of the most polluted cities in the world and I come home like I have been to a health farm. How can that be? Well I swim a km every morning and I walk all day long and I drink more water than I ever do here. It is so much fun and like I said you have to do something you love.
My market stall started when manufacturing, to sell off my seconds but I realized how much I enjoyed it and have kept it going ever since. I think people think I haven’t moved on in my business because I am still there. They say Oh you are still doing the markets but up until this year I had almost 25 shops around Australia that I sold to. If you run your business properly it is a phenomenal cash income. I thoroughly enjoy those two days a month at Bangalow and Byron Markets. Get my card at the end as it tells you where I am. Tip: Never go anywhere without your business card.
So to keep your business pumping you have to be constantly researching and identifying new trends. This includes online, in print media etc. My tip - read magazines so you can follow other successful peoples ideas. I remember in the early days cutting out articles of people’s success stories and pinning them on my work shop walls to inspire me.
My 4th business was the music events company Ku Promotions which I set up from scratch alongside Ku Clothing, 25 years ago. When I moved to Byron I scaled down the clothing and put most of my attention to the Promotions, doing only the markets in that time. Four years ago I sold the Promotions business, as I was starting to get tired of late nights and sitting in front of the computer for long stretches at a time each day.
I did a similar thing with that business. Again, my tip - If something isn’t working for you analyze what you can change to be happier and hopefully make more money. This is a very important thing to be able to do. Many people don’t like making changes but I have always embraced it. Dive into bringing new ideas into your business. You will be amazed sometimes how much better off you will be. As soon as I saw the results I had no fear anymore. My tip - don’t be afraid to take risks but assess them first. Don’t invest large sums of money into anything until you feel confident it is going to work. Sometimes a gradual approach is best.
In my opinion it is essential to have very effective branding to ensure you stand out in the marketplace. I am an extremely visual person so love to take part in this aspect of the business. I have a fabulous graphic artist who has been with me for the last 15 years so that I always get the look I want. Tip get the image you need together
As time went on I have learnt to get the maximum profits from the least work…. Takes a while to develop this skill and gain the trust of those working for you too. Choosing employees is important as you must be sure they are really giving their all to support you and your business.
Once you have found a good person treat them really well with bonuses and finding ways to motivate them. I have had so many great people working for me over the years and even now we have moved on, I consider them my friends.
Sharing information… now called networking is really valuable. Some people are still hesitant to share too much information I think they fear the recipient will steal their ideas… I developed sharing into mentoring other people. I assisted around 7 people in regional Australia to do the same music promotions as I had developed …. 2 are now running their own festivals and I helped them establish their business.
You will learn so much by talking to others about ways to do things.
I guess my forte is starting businesses from scratch and setting up my own systems and processes. I don’t think I am a natural at that, I have just thought so much about how to do things, I have formed my own systems. You can run a business from anywhere these days thanks to the internet. So Ku Promotions was only contacts and computer systems but so thoroughly thought out that it was fool proof. So many people have followed my way of doing things since then. My tip - I think making mistakes should be looked on as a good thing not a bad (not that I enjoyed it when it happened) as long as you view it the right way it will always takes you a step forward.
I am now semi retired but still love to progress new ideas all the time. I still work at the markets and travel overseas buying twice a year and sell to only eight shops now. I am currently setting up my facebook page for the clothing and have just joined Community Engine. I hope you will join me in both these."
Suzie Mylecharane ... view her collection here ku clothing or follow her on facebook or community engine