Having been made redundant while on maternity leave, Finland-born watchmaker Susan Galvin took the opportunity to launch her own micro brand watch company, and embarked on a Kickstarter campaign to help fund her dream.
Galvin Watch Company smashed its $15,000 target in a mind-blowing six minutes, and the campaign has now raised more than $50,000. It’s still up and running until the end of the month.
What’s more, backers are not pledging pocket change — 50 people have pledged $299 to get their hands on a watch from the first Alku Collection, named for the Finnish word for ‘beginning’. Another 50 pledged $399, and another 22 have pledged $499 apiece.
In March, Galvin was almost halfway through her maternity leave when she was made redundant, she tells SmartCompany.
The redundancy wasn’t actually COVID-related. Rather, the business Galvin worked for was moving its operations from Sydney, where she is based, to Melbourne.
But, with the coronavirus starting to spread in Australia the timing couldn’t have been worse.
“It was definitely a shock to the system,” she says.
But, after taking a few days to gather her thoughts and weigh up her options, at the same time as looking after a small baby, she decided to take the plunge and launch her own business.
Launching her own micro brand of watches was something that had always been in the back of her mind, she explains. While she had been working as a watchmaker, designing and producing a product from start to finish was appealing to her.
“Watchmaking itself is very rewarding work, but it can also be very routine-like,” Galvin explains.
“Doing the designing process is definitely much more creative. That was definitely something I wanted to introduce into my life,” she adds.
“Maybe this is the perfect opportunity, actually, to start pursuing my own dream.”
Quick off the block
Before the Kickstarter campaign launched, Galvin was feeling fairly confident that she would meet her target. But the sheer speed of the raise, and its continuing success, still took her by surprise.
“It’s been absolutely beyond my expectations. It’s been fantastic,” she says.
But, she had done the groundwork.
In the watchmaking world, a micro brand is one that produces between about 300 and 3000 pieces a year, Galvin explains. And there’s a whole community of enthusiasts focused on this particular niche sector.
“I think it’s a growing trend,” she says.
“People are interested in small businesses, and micro brand watch companies in general.”
She’s been talking with potential customers on social media every day since the Kickstarter campaign began, answering questions and responding to comments.
It’s this kind of contact and communication that makes the sector so appealing to watch lovers, Galvin explains. They get to actually chat to the watchmakers themselves.
“It’s the customer service that is on a completely different level,” she says.
Clearly, the watchmaker had a captive audience ready to pre-purchase products before the campaign launched.
Being in the business already was a big help, she says.
“I was an enthusiast myself, so I knew where to look, and where to find my target audience.”
But there are two main things she believes helped her stand out.
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First, she’s a woman operating in what has traditionally been a male-dominated space. In fact, as far as she’s aware she’s the only woman operating a micro brand watch business in Australia.
Second, a lot of micro brand watches are passion projects headed up by enthusiasts. Galvin is a trained watchmaker, meaning she boasts a combination of passion, skill and entrepreneurial flair.
“That definitely made a difference,” she says.
Taking your time
The funding will allow Galvin to put in an order to get her watches manufactured. She will then personally quality test and regulate the watches, tinkering to ensure utmost accuracy beyond the factory standard, with an aim to get them shipped out by Christmas — although, in today’s COVID-19 landscape, that’s not a promise.
She will also be updating her website to create an e-commerce store.
Now the campaign has surpassed the target by so much, so fast, she will also be able to embark on new projects, creating new designs and expanding her collection, “which I’m extremely excited about”.
Having previously balanced building the business around caring for her son — mostly in the evenings, she says — Galvin will also be able to start working on it full time. Her son, now eight months old, started attending daycare this week, she explains, and it seems that’s just as well.
“I’m getting increasingly busier and busier … the evening is not enough anymore, I do need to work during the daytime as well.”
In the long-term, she hopes to introduce more designs, and she’s already fielding interest from retailers in the UK and Finland.
But, global domination is not necessarily the goal. Galvin expects to remain a micro brand, at least for the time being.
She’s not necessarily interested in becoming Australia’s biggest producer, or getting a Galvin watch on every Aussie wrist.
It’s more about offering a quality product, and continuing to personally ensure that quality.
“I want to pinpoint extremely good customer service,” she says.
“I do wish growth for my company, but everything is starting at the moment … I don’t want to rush into things. I just want to take each step as it comes,” she adds.
“It’s hard to say what the future will bring, but I’m following my dream.”