Success Stories ~ Cath of My Bearded Pigeon


Cath of My Bearded Pigeon amidst her wares

When I first started selling on Etsy, I quickly found the shop of My Bearded Pigeon, one of the top sellers.  Her pillow covers  were so beautifully photographed, it was easy to see why everyone wanted on them for their home.  When Jess asked me to come up with a list of full-time makers to interview for Create & Thrive, I knew this Aussie seller HAD to be right near the top of my list.  I’m so happy today to share the advice of Cath from My Bearded Pigeon.

**Cath also wanted to give Create & Thrive readers a special treat!  Use the coupon code CTFRIENDS in her Etsy shop for 15% off!**

Can you take us on the journey of your creative career path so far?

I have always liked making things, from a really young age I loved craft. It was always what I did but because I was never good at drawing in the sense of ‘draw this bowl of fruit so it looks exactly like the bowl of fruit’. I never saw myself as artistic. Looking back I would have loved to study fine arts after high school but due to my lack of drawing skills, I didn’t.

Fast forward a hundred years and a move from the inner city of Sydney to a town of 2,000 people, and I find myself at home with a baby. I am a bit bored. I am completely in love with my baby and so happy but I feel so idle, and I keep looking at baby toys and clothes and thinking how all the stuff I can afford is so hideous and all the stuff I want is so expensive. So I start sewing simple clothes and toys for my baby and I discover crafty blogs and Etsy and chunky chooky  is born…. as my baby became a toddler and then a little girl I realised I wanted to do something for grownups. Then one night I had the idea of putting maps onto cushions and My Bearded Pigeon was born.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve overcome so far in your business?

Actually seeing it as a real business. When I started My Bearded Pigeon I was still in lala land about record keeping, etc.  I was quite half arsed about it, but very quickly My Bearded Pigeon got busy and I had to get serious about keeping records of expenses and GST and get ready for BAS, etc. SNORE!!! After a visit to the accountant – who is great – he suggested I make my husband my business partner and he could cook the books so to speak (he is a chef, see that hilarious pun). I think the accountant saw my eyes glaze over every time he started to explain things to me…

bp 4

Giant Vintage World Map Floor Cushion

What has been the biggest ‘fist-pump’/successful moment for you so far?

Having my cushion featured on the front cover of Real Living magazine.

Featured seller on Etsy was also so exciting – although the timing was horrific I had the worst morning sickness/ tiredness and it was so busy – there was a lot of tears! But it was great!!

Having 2 of my cushions in the Taubmans’ ad campaign which meant huge exposure with my cushions in the paint sample books in every Bunnings Australia wide.

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?

I want to improve my photography skills.
I want to be a whiz at Photoshop and Illustrator.
I want to learn graphic design.
I have an idea bursting in my head but it’s beyond Etsy really….. And I am still looking at HOW to do it in an eco way.

Are there times when your creativity and inspiration seem to disappear? How do you handle that?

Not really, I always have lots of ideas… It’s important to let you mind wander I think… I spend a lot  when it’s just the baby and me in silence. No TV, no radio, etc. I think that helps new ideas float into your head.

bp 2

Hangry Decorative Pillow Cover

How do you balance your work with the rest of your life ~ what does a typical day in your life look like?

BALANCE is typing this one-handed on my iPad while I breastfeed the baby.

A typical day is:
Awake  to baby gurgles, crawl from bed and start encouraging the 6 yo to get dressed, brush her teeth, etc. while shoving food and coffee into me and simultaneously reading the SMH online, breastfeeding, and getting ready to leave the house. Walk to school which involves a big hill.

Then I collect stock from the studio (We built an amazing studio for me so the baby could have her own room. I don’t get to go down there much at the moment as it’s too far from the house to leave her in here asleep by herself so I go to and fro a lot and she sleeps with us but I am so glad it’s all finished!) to either cut fabric for sewing or pack orders.

Then it’s just all that mum and baby stuff: feeding, playing, reading, singing, taking photos,  having silly and inane texts with Neil that make me laugh, reading articles online so my brain doesn’t stop working, reading blogs… more baby stuff…..checking emails, maybe meet a friend for a coffee. If the baby has a sleep in the afternoon, not on top of me, then I will do some more MBP stuff as well as running around like a crazy person washing dishes, wrestling the washing piles, sweeping up the tumbleweed size dust balls. Neil gets home with our daughter at 3:30 and the whole homework, reading, feeding, bathing, etc. routine starts again. Once my daughter is home from school MBP is on hold until the next day.

What has been the best marketing move you’ve ever made for your own business?

I am not a fan at all of Facebook. I don’t like some of the groups they allow and I hate the bullying that can go on so I am not great at maintaining my Facebook page and I am often confused about how it all works…. but from a marketing perspective, it is potentially amazing!

However, I do like twitter. Yes, there is the same amount of bullying but you don’t see it in the same way. You only see the comments made by people you follow (except for re-tweets) but I just find it a lot less frustrating than FB and I have had some great exposure. I ending up talking to Shaynna Blaze one night on twitter and she  used my cushions in a nation-wide Taubmans campaign. I have also had a few people with a lot of followers RT something I have said… this CAN lead to people looking at your profile and then hop skip jump to my Etsy shop, or they start following you and will work out what you do eventually….. so  I would have to say Instagram as well has been great marketing. I put all new products on there and I get instant feedback and a lot of sales from the people I know via instgram, many of whom I met through blogging.

I have heard twitter and instgram referred to as microblogging, I agree, I do like that about it but, you cant just tweet or IG your wares, its so boring when people do that! Did I answer the question? Yes: twitter and Instagram but see below!

bp 1

Pixel Rose Decorative Pillow Cover

What is one piece of advice you’d like to give fellow makers about running a successful creative business?

I can’t stop at one!

Ask yourself :

  • Is there a market for what I am making?
  • How many other people are making stuff like this?
  • What is my point of difference?

Have excellent branding, logos etc. if this means paying someone then do it. I met the graphic designer I still work with via etsy, she helped me with my chunkychooky logo, 5 years ago. I cannot stress to you enough how important I think this is. Have things professionally printed, business cards ( I use moo) which I put a hole in and also use as hangtags. I have sew on labels made too. Have everything consistent with the same name. So your twitter, FB, IG, blog etc all has the same name. The name must be catchy I think. Easy to spell and easy to remember… Think outside the box a little you are creative so be creative with the name! If I called my business Cath Young Homewares… its just not very interesting is it? When you come up with something Google the name to see if it is taken!

This horrible word ‘networking’ I do not like this word. I heard someone describe it as you need to form relationships with people and be authentic. Be real. I totally agree. I get regular sales from people that I ‘know’ via social media, its really nice, I buy there stuff too. I think if you are going to be running a handmade business its great to shop handmade too and generally support handmade.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?

(My baby will be starting school and I will be crying!!)

I will still be learning and hopefully my business will still be growing. To be honest I don’t really know, but that’s exciting I think!

You can find more of Cath’s work on her website: My Bearded Pigeon

In her Etsy shop

On Facebook: My Bearded Pigeon

On Twitter: @mybeardedpigeon

On Instagram: My Bearded Pigeon

In her sometimes shop of random goodness

And on her blog: Chunky Chooky

Ask me your questions, I’ll tell you no lies…


{by Norman Rockwell}

Morning all!

I’m suffering from the dreaded lurgy today, so my brain is not exactly in prime ‘answering questions in an in-depth, no-nonsense, and thorough matter’ mode, (plus Nick is harassing me and telling me to go back to bed).


I thought I’d do a call-out for questions for our Friday Q&A posts. I’ve got a couple still lined up to answer, but more is better, because I know you’ve got them, and I want to answer them 🙂

If you’ve got a burning question you’re happy to ask publicly, please just leave it in the comments of this post. If you’ve got a more sensitive question that you’d like to ask me privately (I’m happy to keep you anonymous when I answer your question) just shoot it to me via email – jessica AT

Have an ace weekend, and I’ll see you next week!

5 Tips On Setting Up A Referral Program for Your Business

This is a guest post by Ashley Griffith.

When we started The Gnarly Whale, we didn’t have a solid marketing plan set up. Sales would fluctuate from nothing to more than we could handle on a regular basis. A random review, or a mention on a bigger site, or even a smaller celebrity getting their hands on our products was usually the cause. And while we loved the high sales volume when it happened, it wasn’t the perfect way to run a business. It wasn’t intentional which made it impossible to anticipate our sales or the supplies needed. And we’d go from feeling ho-hum about our business to pulling our hair out because we couldn’t keep up.

We knew something had to change. We knew we needed a strategic marketing plan that kept steady sales and prevented us from the rollercoaster of a ride we’d been on. Unfortunately for us, anything expensive wasn’t an option yet as we were still a relatively new small business. Our only option was to figure out an inexpensive yet beneficial marketing plan, if one of those even existed.

About this same time, I saw a pattern with our customer notes. Customers would say “so and so referred me” or “my sister sent me this product and I love it so much I wanted to get more.” It didn’t take much for us to realize that our customers were by far our best, and most under-utilized, marketing team. They were already doing the job we needed to do without any incentive other than a love for our products. I couldn’t help but wonder what they would do if they had an incentive.

So began the idea for a referral program.

Referral - Header

Today I wanted to share with you five tips on creating a referral program for your business today because it is by far one of the most valuable tools that we have for our business.

Not only is it inexpensive, easy to set-up and manage, and a great way to track your sales – it’s the perfect way to reward your customers that are promoting you.

After having it for even a few short months, I don’t think I could ever justify not having one (in some shape or form) for our business. And if you need an idea for how mine is setup, you can view it here.


1.  Promote the heck out of it. There is no point in creating a referral program, linking to it on the sidebar of your blog, and waiting for the people to come rolling in.

If you want people to be promoting your brand or your products, you have to let them know why they should AND what’s in it for them. Shout it from your social media rooftops, write a blog post about it, tell your friends and family about it, mention it to customers you speak with, and include a note about it in all of your outgoing packages.

Make sure that there is absolutely no reason that anyone looking at your shop, using your products, or even knows you’re a business owner wouldn’t know about the program. Just remember: the more you put into this, the more you will receive from it. Because the more people that know about it, the more people you can reach.


2. Keep your information organized. There’s a lot of tracking that goes on with this program. The initial information, the setup of referral codes, the sales that come in with the referral codes, and the reward thresholds.

If you don’t have a way to keep track of this information, it can be incredibly daunting. We setup the program using a contact form plugin through WordPress on our blog.

The customer fills out the information and it’s submitted to us via email. Then, we plug all of the information into an Excel spreadsheet and send the customer their referral code. In the spreadsheet, there’s cells for tracking all of their information and the purchases that they bring in. This way, we have everything we need in one document whenever anything needs to be updated.


3. Make sure it’s worthwhile for everyone. This means you, your customer, AND the potential customers that they are hopefully referring.

You need to ensure that you aren’t going to lose a ton of money through the program, that the customer has a solid incentive to promote your brand, and that the person they are referring has incentive to use their code. We set specific thresholds for certain products and specific order amounts that would qualify as a referral order to ensure that we wouldn’t lose too much money.

We set our free product tiers that went from least expensive to the most expensive so that the customer would be encouraged to refer more people. Lastly, we decided to offer a free item to anyone that used a referral code to encourage the people that are referred to us to actually tell us that someone sent them over. It’s a win-win-win situation for everyone by covering all three groups.


4. Set standards and don’t budge on them. This one can be a hard one for people that aren’t accustomed to saying no and/or want to do everything that they can to please their customers.

Despite how hard it may be . . . it will save you many future headaches if you set the rules in the beginning and stick to them. Set order minimums, set rules on orders (such as a referral code has to be included in the notes), require your customers to keep you up-to-date on personal information changes, etc.

Put some of the responsibility on them to follow the rules. Your job is to provide them with the opportunity to promote your products with this – not micro-manage them. Even if they ask you to bend the rules – just this one time – you need to stick with whatever you set up in the beginning.

It may sound harsh, but it’s the only way that you’ll keep a successful program running. Because one time can turn into two times, then five times, and then their best friend wants the same exceptions. Trust your gut with whatever you decide in the beginning and make it clear that there aren’t any exceptions.


5. Plan to follow through or don’t do it at all. This one may sound like common sense, but it’s truly important when you’re working so closely with your customers.

Someone that signs up for a referral program most likely has people they want to share things with. Good deals, promotions, awesome products – you name it, they have friends and family they are waiting to share with. That’s the good part of it.

The tough part of it is that these people are equally as likely to share their bad experiences with those friends and family. And if they have a bad experience with your referral program, you can bet that they will share that with them, which completely defeats the purpose of it and has negative impact on your brand. So if you set-up the program, know you have the means to provide the customers with rewards for their help and know that you’ll do it in a timely manner. Know that you can keep their information organized and know that you’ll be able to easily provide information to people about the program whenever they ask it.

* Bonus! Although not required, give ideas to your customers on ways to promote your brand/products! Offer them images, promotional codes that they and/or their friends and family they refer can use, product selling suggestions, etc. Most of us are not born salespeople so the more ideas you give them, the more likely they are to help spread the word!

Referral - Biz Card

Have you set up a referral program for your business?

What are your tips for managing a successful one?



Ashley Griffith is blogger turned business owner.

She co-owns The Gnarly Whale – an all vegan, minimal-ingredient eco-friendly bath and body shop – and spend her days experimenting with new ingredients, new scent combinations, and new product ideas. When she’s not working, you can find her blogging over at After Nine To Five, dreaming of the ocean, and enjoying the great outdoors.


I want to feature YOU on the C&T Facebook page! Here’s how to be part of it…


{image source}

It’s really important to me that Create & Thrive is about something larger than just me and what I can teach you… what I can share with you.

I want this place to be for, and about, YOU.

I want C&T to be a community of people with a common goal – to take the path less travelled and live a life that allows us to make a living doing work we love.

I want to help you and your business grow.

I want to put you centre stage.

I want to help you get your name out there!

So… I’ve come up with a bit of a fun way to do just that 🙂

I want to feature you + your work on the C&T Facebook Page Cover!

Here’s how we’re gonna do it.

  1. Choose a photo to share with us. It needs to feature your product, your workspace, and/or you. Any of the 3 is fine, though obviously if it’s a photo of you, it’s good if you’ve got your product in there too! (Please don’t submit any photos with kids in them unless they’re models in product shots and and you have EXPRESS PERMISSION to share their photo, or they’re your own kids. Ideally, I want photos of the maker – that’s YOU!)

  2. Edit it to the correct facebook cover size – 851px wide by 315px high. You can do this easily online using PicMonkey.

  3. Email the photo to me (jessica AT is the best email to use). In your email, include your name, the name of your business, a link to your website/shop, and a short blurb about what you do (no more than one paragraph). This info will go up with your photo.

  4. Keep an eye out on the C&T Facebook Page for your image to be featured! The timeframe of image rotations will depend on how many submissions I get.

Please make sure you pick an AWESOME photo. If you send me a photo that I don’t think is up to scratch, I’ll email you back and let you know.

Here’s an example of one of my photos that I’ve got up there at the moment.

Jess Working

Now, this is from a professional photo shoot, so I don’t expect yours to be quite as awesomely lit (I know I couldn’t get a photo that good on my own!) but it needs to be bright, beautiful, crisp, and have good contrast.

I plan on making this an ongoing thing if you guys are keen!

Also, please don’t hesitate to send in a few different images – I’ll either choose my favourite, or hold on to them and feature them spread out over time.

If you like this idea, please let me know in the comments below, and share it with your peeps – I’d love to feature as many people as possible!


In Brisbane? Come to one of my crafty biz workshops or talks in May – first one this Thursday!

brisstyle talk gidget dress

{me talking it up at a BrisStyle Creative Info Session}

If you live in or near Brisbane, and you’d like to learn with me in-person, you’ve got oodles of opportunities coming up in May!

Some are free sessions, some are Master Classes with a small cost, and all of them will be jam-packed with info to help you grow your creative business. All these sessions are hosted by BrisStyle – the most excellent craft collective in the world, in my humble opinion.

ALL of them require you to book, and the Master Classes have very limited numbers – so if you see something that you know you need, make sure to book a spot pronto…

Here’s what you’ve got to choose from:

May 2nd – Social Media Master Class

What: This four-hour intensive session will focus solely on Social Media for promoting your small business. It’s for people who already know the basics, but need to get a cohesive marketing plan together. This instructional session will give you hands-on tips you can apply instantly to take your networking to the next level.

  • Learn how to effectively and efficiently use social media as tools to build trust and relationships with your customers.
  • Learn which tools to use to streamline your social media use, as well as create an integrated plan that uses use instagram/twitter/facebook/pinterest and your blog to build your customer base.

If you’ve been floundering on social media, not quite sure how to harness it to steadily grow your business, this session will help you get focussed and make social media work for you.

Where: Chermside Library, 6:30pm.

Cost: $80 – 4 Hours. Small intensive session with very limited numbers. Bring a tablet or laptop!

Booking Info


May 18th – Social Media Unearthed – Blogging, Facebook, twitter, Pinterest.

What: Get the beginner info on blogging, Facebook, twitter, Pinterest and all the latest social media tools to get the word out about your small business.

Where: Kenmore Library, 10am.

Cost: Free – 2 Hours

Booking Info


May 24th – Social Media Snapshot – Facebook + Pinterest

What: I’ll share my top tips for using Facebook and Pinterest to market your craft business. What should you be sharing? How can you build your audience? Learn how to spend time, not money, building your business in this session.

Where: Brisbane Square Library, 6pm.

Cost: Free – 1 1/2 Hours

Booking Info


May 30th – Building a Website & Blog Master Class

What: This four hour intensive session will focus solely on building a website or blog for your small business.

In this hands-on session, I’ll take you through the basic steps of setting up a blog/website as you follow along instantly on your own laptops or iPads etc. This is a session not to be missed – you’ll walk away with all the knowledge you need to run a basic blog/website (including shopping cart!).

We will be using WordPress as the base software for the class – you can choose to use the free version (, OR buy hosting and a domain and set up on your own piece of internet real estate. I’ll also teach you how to set up a shop on your site (using software that is free to start with at a basic level).

Where: Chermside Library, 6:30pm.

Cost: $80 – 4 Hours.  Small intensive session with very limited numbers. Bring a tablet or laptop!

Booking Info


It’s going to be a big month – I hope to see you at one of the sessions. Make sure to introduce yourself and let me know you’re a C&T reader!

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