Maja and Tess of Polli
I love finding new handmade companies that make me stay on their website for nearly an hour oohing and ahhing over their products. Polli grabbed in me a few weeks back and I knew I needed to contact them so I could share their advice on running an extremely successful business with you! Maja and Tess were sweet enough to agree. You’re going to enjoy this interview on how these two ladies went from full-time jobs in design consultancies to full-time jobs for themselves.
Can you take us on the journey of your creative career path so far?
Maja and I studied Industrial Design at UTS in Sydney. We loved working together and collaborated at uni and became great friends. After graduating we were both lucky to secure full-time jobs in design consultancies, mine from a part-time job during uni and Maja’s from a prize we’d won from the Design Institute of Australia. The only problem was that they were competing consultancies with strict confidentiality. So we started a hobby on the side, with the vision that we could make things for our demographic, that were fun, usable and affordable. Polli grew for about 4 years very much as a weekend hobby while we worked-full time. It was a great luxury as we could reinvest any profits back into the business as we had full-time jobs. In 2007 Polli had grown into such a demanding hobby we had to choose between it and our day jobs and we took the plunge into full-time Polli. It was an exciting and liberating experience and in our first year we went on our first international trip to a trade show in NY and we had a team of friends working part-time. In 2008 we moved into our studio in Stanmore where we are today, still designing and making products with a great group of friends.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve overcome so far in your business?
In 2012 Maja moved to the US with her family and we’ve been working long distance ever since. It’s tricky running a small business this way but we’re intent on making it work as we feel we have a unique partnership with great complimentary skills.
What has been the biggest ‘fist-pump’/successful moment for you so far?
Probably moving into our studio in Stanmore. It was a huge achievement to move ‘out of home’ and really love this space. It’s a converted ginger beer factory with lots of great salvaged timber, exposed brick walls and polished concrete floors. It feels like a creative little oasis amongst the busy inner west.
Do you ever have doubts as to your future creative direction? Are there things you yearn to achieve, but haven’t yet found the time for?
Brands do need to evolve their aesthetic and we’re in the process of exploring new materials and products. It’s a really exciting time to think we can do something new but it’s also been strange to start a blank canvas with no knowledge of different industries.
Are there times when your creativity and inspiration seem to disappear? How do you handle that?
Certainly I think that happens to all designers but we’re lucky to be in a partnership and have a great team around us to bounce ideas and bring new inspiration.
How do you balance your work with the rest of your life ~ what does a typical day in your life look like?
Having children has really changed our work / life balance. (Tess) Generally we start the day early (like all mums), we’re often walking our dogs or enjoying a family breakfast. I’m at the studio just after 8am and the rest of the team arrive within the next couple of hours which gives me time to catch up on emails and plan my day. We have deliveries daily of new stock or samples so we’re often reviewing them over a cuppa. Chatting with suppliers and customers. Designing something: either a new product or something simple like a newsletter. We’re always busy on facebook and instagram, sharing our story with our lovely customers. I’m always home by 5 to start the kids’ dinner and catch up with them before bedtime.
What has been the best marketing move you’ve ever made for your own business?
Two words: Pistol. PR.
Kate does an amazing job promoting Polli to the press because she really understands Polli and has worked with us for a long time.
What is one piece of advice you’d like to give fellow makers about running a successful creative business?
Don’t try to wear all the hats. It’s often good to know when to call in experts like photographers, book keepers, web developers so you can get the best results and focus on the things you love and are really good at.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
Still here in our sunny studio, working side by side on new and exciting products. Travelling the world to promote our collections and visit customers and being inspired all the way.
You can find more of Polli’s work online in their shop
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