Do you love learning about successful entrepreneurs who have made their dreams come true and their brands not only a recognised name in their industry but a true experience for their clients?
The ENTREPRENEURIAL WISDOM series are back another month, and this time I am delighted and honoured to have Karen Adie and Georgina Lewis from CONVICT, sharing their entrepreneurial journey, business tips and new projects with us.
I don't only find their journey fascinating, but I highly admire them as 'women in business', how their creations truly connect you with the magnificent land that we live in and, how their brand is contributing so admirably to the Australian handmade industry.
I hope that you enjoy this interview and I invite you to share any feedback you may have in the comments section at the bottom of the page.
How did the CONVICT journey begin?
As friends, we share a love of creative ideas, design and the raw Australian landscape. We had worked together on a number of small projects and often discussed doing something bigger together. But it wasn’t until we were both at a personal crossroads that we decided to jump. CONVICT wasn’t the first idea, and, as luck would have it, that initial idea fell through and we decided to pursue another mutual love, handbags!
Did any of your (or any of your family members) already have experience in the industry?
No, we had no previous experience in the making of handbags (and we’re still learning), but we both have complementary experience and skills that we felt confident would transfer to the accessories category. That hasn’t always been the case, so when we don’t know, we reach out to others.
Why did you decide to use the name CONVICT for your brand and in which specific way/s is the brand reflected in the CONVICT products?
We believe customers are looking for more in a brand, they want something that has meaning, a connection to the land we live in and our culture. So, we had this in mind when developing the brand. We brainstormed and discarded a lot of names, but as soon as Convict tumbled out, we knew it was the one!
We name each of our designs after a Convict from the transportation era and on purchase you receive their story. We’ve worked closely with the Female Convict organisation, Fremantle Prison and our friends and customers and are very proud to continue to tell their real life tales.
Neither of us knew of any ‘Convicts in the family’ however Karen recently discovered a great, great grandfather who was transported to Western Australian in 1858.
Which were the biggest struggles when you were starting your business?
Cashflow, time and confidence. Be prepared to put everything into the business for quite awhile before you expect a return. Keep your confidence, review and adjust your business plan as you learn.
What have been the greatest joys so far?
Undoubtedly seeing how our handbags are received and the great feedback we get from our customers.
How does CONVICT go about building a great team?
It’s just the two of us. We meet weekly for meetings and are constantly in touch. But it’s very important to remember to have fun, to celebrate successes and not always talk about business!
For anyone thinking about starting a business with a business partner, what would be your key piece of advice before committing to this type of business structure?
Have a broad structure on roles, be tolerant, respect what the other does, be prepared that it will not always be smooth, and also to let things go.
In your industry, how do you stay in the know about how to attract more clients and to convert them into loyal clients?
Through mentors, workshops, online courses, and following companies and bloggers with the expertise we may be seeking.
What distribution channels do you use to sell your products and which one is more effective for you?
We have a multi-channel distribution which reflects our target market segments: Convict online store, wholesale (by target customer type), design markets nationally, and from September, a Convict retail outlet.
We think you need all of them to build your brand awareness. Retail direct to customers is more profitable from the bottom line, but wholesaling spreads your distribution much further. We also find our customers love meeting us in person and hearing our story.
What marketing tactics work best for your business and why?
We’ve used PR and Google Adwords from start up and they remain top priorities. PR builds credibility, awareness, shows your brand in the right context and supports your wholesalers.
Adwords as we are in a very competitive category with much bigger brands – we need to ensure that when you search, you find Convict. There’s much more that we need to do either better or implement as we grow.
What trends are you noticing in Western Australia right now in your industry?
We don’t want to be trend focussed or part of the disposable fast fashion sector, we’d much prefer that our handbags last many years and become a treasured item!
Have any books, in particular, helped you run your business better and if so, how has it done it and what are the names of the books?
Yes, a book I loved was from the founders of Innocent Juice drinks. A Book About Innocent: Our Story and Some Things We’ve Learned.
It was about the passion behind a concept and building their brand. I read it quite a few years ago, but it stayed with me. It was inspiring with great tips and how to sections.
You both must have learnt a huge deal about starting a business since launching CONVICT. What advice would you give to anyone who is thinking about starting their own business or to those who have just started?
Have a business plan and constantly review as you grow, you will make mistakes – learn from them, keep your vision and you have to take risks sometimes.
Moving forward, where would you like to see the CONVICT brand heading?
We would a little hole in the wall in each Australian capital city, we also see brand extensions into other categories and exporting. It’s one step at a time.
Any exciting near future projects that you can share with our readers?
The launch of our very own retail space in the State Buildings on St George’s Terrace. It’s a beautiful renovation and very exciting concept that will attract a lot of people. Pop in and say hello from September 1.
Links & special thanks:
CONVICT online store
Sincere thanks to:
Karen Adie and Georgina Lewis from Convict
Matthew Jordan and Melanie Brown from MotherandFatherPR agency.