Lucy Glade-Wright co-founded homewares business Hunting for George with her sister, Jo Harris, back in 2010.
The pair originally wanted to set up a bricks-and-mortar store but ending up creating an online retailer that specialises in bedding, rugs and decor by Aussie designers.
Hunting for George is now on track to turn over more than $1 million this financial year.
SmartCompany spoke to Glade-Wright to find out how she got the business off the ground and why she recommends never going in for the hard sell.
I started the business with my sister. We wanted to create something we would be passionate about and enjoy going to work every day.
I was living in London at the time, so it was a good two years of planning, research and thinking.
Initially, we really romanticised the idea of having a physical space that was fun and inspiring. But we looked into the financial reality of setting something like that up, and we didn’t have enough money to invest in it. So we put our money towards an online store instead.
We both had $10,000 so we put that in and it went straight towards our first custom-build and a small collection of products. Because we had been so consumed with this fantasy of having a physical shop, we focused on that feeling of walking into a store but putting that in an online space.
We wanted our customers to experience us and know what type of people we were and what products we liked.
We didn’t realise it at the time but our voice was our brand voice.
Our first website was very simple, but very professional.
We were working full-time jobs and doing Hunting for George on the side. You’ve just got to fake it until you make it.
What changed Hunting for George for us was when we actually decided to put our own products online.
I designed a print for a friend’s birthday and they liked it, so I photographed it and put it online to see what would happen. Within a couple of weeks it became our bestseller.
We noticed a bit of momentum building with the business and that’s what changed the direction for us.
The more products we designed, the more we created our aesthetic. People engaged with us because we were doing something different.
That’s something I suggest people do if they’re just starting out. If you’re using a [website] template, think of how you can make that your own rather than turning it into a cookie cutter website.
You need to be able to find that point of difference to keep going.
We don’t have huge marketing budgets, so we’ve been very strategic with how we spend our money. In terms of return on investment, one of the best things for us has been targeted campaigns on Facebook.
But our best marketing campaigns are when we do something fun and creative, and just create content that is interesting.
We’ve never been ones for the hard sell. Customers are savvy and know when they’re being sold to.
Instead, give people something to talk about.
In the early days, we made quite a few mistakes but everyone knows that you learn from your mistakes. We didn’t let the mistakes get us down too much; we just ploughed on through.
If you are crazy enough and passionate enough you just keep going.
What’s the thing that keeps me up at night? Cash flow is up there for everyone. I’m a designer and a creative person, so numbers are not my forte. My sister’s background is nursing, so her forte is people and customer service.
We have to work at it but that goes back to learning from your mistakes.
Learn what your limitations are. If you can recognise those, and not have en ego about it, that’s when things start moving again.
The most important thing when you have tough times is learning how to fix it and putting a procedure in place so it doesn’t happen again.
Don’t be too consumed about not knowing everything and not having all the answers. I think that holds people back a lot.
We didn’t have the answers at all; no one has the answers.
Just give it a go and if it’s something you really want to do, then you’ll make it work.