“Design that Grows” – a more apt tagline would be difficult to come by! This is exactly what Michelle Brady’s pretty products do. Thoughtfully designed gift cards which one can plant. In issue 4 we collaborate with Michelle to create an interactive promotion for Sow ‘n Sow‘s latest product in the popular Gift of Seeds range. The Australian Native range celebrates local blooms like the Kangaroo Paw, Golden Wattle, Everlasting Daisy and Wisteria.
In our interview with her, Michelle shares a little bit about how she started Sow ‘n Sow and gives us a glimpse into the everyday running of her business and the lifestyle it allows her.
As the owner of Sow ‘n Sow, we’d love to know about what got you interested in starting a company that combines the joy of gardening with design? Why this particular product? When did you come up with the idea and how long did it take to come to fruition?
I’ve always wanted to do something creative and was certainly that way inclined when I was younger but I ended up studying Media and Communication at university and became a TV journalist, working at both Channel Nine and the ABC before moving to London and working in branding and advertising. I had a harking to get back to creating and I had a burning desire to be independent of 9 to 5 work. I really wanted to be my own boss, to come up with an idea that combined a passion with a business idea so I could support myself. While living in London I came to love gardening and plants and flowers and started to give friends packets of seeds for birthdays, so the idea stemmed from there. I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea or if it would work but I decided to give it a go anyway.
I had been saving my pennies for a business venture and when I’d had enough of my previous job, I decided to just throw my energy into this idea and give it a go. Initially I worked part time while developing a website and 2 initial products, then I quit my job and worked full time on Sow ‘n Sow, fully supporting myself and my business through the money I’d saved over the years working for the man!
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and the work you do on a daily basis? Do you work out of an office space? How do you divide the time/responsibilities of running a small company?
I used to work out of our spare bedroom but it became very cramped with all the stock that I keep, so I now work from a fabulous light filled studio space in Fitzroy North, alongside artists, photographers and graphic designers. I’m a lot more productive now and the house feels a lot less like a box factory!
I live in Northcote with my partner and our four legged daughter Maude. We have a small courtyard garden in which I attempt to grow herbs, vegies, flowers and a collection of succulents. We are dreaming up a move to the country so I can have plenty of garden and my partner can build himself an eco-house, he’s a building designer and is dying to put some of his ideas into fruition. We are both self employed which means we have fairly flexible lifestyles. Sometime we are both so busy that things get really stressful, and other times its all very laid back and we sleep in a little more than we should.
A normal day involves walking Maude in the park, then heading to the studio preferably by bike if I don’t have too much to carry. Then a cup of tea before getting stuck into organising the orders for the day. If I have a lot of orders and custom jobs on then I’ll get my fabulous employee Catalina to come in and she will look after the orders while I do all the admin. There’s usually some stock ordering to do, some liaising with printers and suppliers, booking of couriers, customer enquiries etc. At the moment I’m trying to focus more on the bigger picture, on growing the business and marketing, on new products and better systems. Having Catalina on board has allowed me to do this which is great. The working day ends usually with a trip to the post office and another walk with Maude.
Have you always had a love for gardening? What aspect of Australian flora inspires you most?
I certainly didn’t love gardening when I was a kid. I grew up in a leafy suburb in Brisbane with a lovely garden tended to by my Mum, so perhaps that has a subconscious impact, but it wasn’t until I lived in London that I started to become interested in gardening. The parks in London have stunning displays of flowers and daffodils pop up everywhere in spring which I found completely mesmerising. We had a little courtyard garden which my partner and I tended to and made it our little oasis. The flowers and herbs would bring me so much joy when I arrived home from work!
Australian flora is so incredibly unique and we can really take it for granted as we see it all around us so often. I love the colours and tones of Australian flora and I find it very inspiring in an art and design sense. The crazy shapes, sizes and textures are really amazing! Putting the Australian Natives collection together was also because of demand, lots of stockists and customers were asking if we had any natives, so we were more than happy to give them a go and expand our Gift of Seeds offering.What challenges and/or barriers did you have to overcome to establish Sow ‘n Sow? What was the learning curve like? What has starting and running a business taught you about yourself?
The biggest challenge initially was self-doubt and fear of failure. Also just being proactive! It is difficult to do something when there isn’t a deadline or anyone to run ideas past so I would procrastinate for days or weeks just on making a simple decision. When it’s all new and you’ve never done it before it feels like there are a million possibilities. This problem was confounded by the fact that I was trying to do everything myself, from photography and web development to finances and marketing. In hindsight I probably should have sought assistance for some of these things earlier.
I am now so lucky to have a few people around whom I very much feel are a part of the Sow ‘n Sow team. Just to mention a few, my partner Nick is now my bookkeeper and ‘Business Manager’, a title we came up with one night complete with job title so he would more seriously help me to make strategic decisions, something I so desperately needed and am so grateful for. And Daniella Germain, the amazing illustrator and graphic designer who brought the latest Gift of Seed collections to life through her incredible talents. When we are in ‘create’ mode we collaborate from my studio over a few weeks or however long it takes. These times are the best part of my job, putting creative ideas into reality while hanging out with a friend!
Do you have any advice for other folks interested in starting a small business of their own?
Be innovative; don’t be afraid to give it a go. Have a clear vision of what your dream life looks like, and then work out how your business fits into that picture. Read ‘The E-myth’ and have a solid mentor. My dad is an entrepreneur at heart and while he’s never done anything similar to what I’m doing, he’s always been the biggest fan of my business and has helped me stay on track.
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