Tell us a bit about yourself
My name is Ange and I am busy stay at home mum to two adventurous but totally lovable little boys under 4, two cats and a boisterous Border Collie. I live in a gorgeous federation house on the lower north shore of Sydney in a very leafy, lovely community. I used to work as a Diagnostic radiographer pre children but always found something was missing. I've always loved creating and sewing and found that I could combine both with the possibility of earning a little bit of money from something I loved to do, thus Coco & Milo was born.
Can you explain your craft/art and the material you like to use? Coco & Milo started out as a jewellery business before switching to homewares when my little boys started eating the jewellery components...I figured fabric was a much safer option! The brand started out using vintage materials or fabrics resembling vintage grain sacks ,ticking etc. I still try to source vintage trims and fabrics as it makes the cushions different and one of a kind, something I was keen to retain as there are so many mass produced homewares out there that I wanted Coco & Milo to be unique. I also love sourcing fun, vibrant fabrics in beautiful patterns as they always make me happy and if I smile when I make them, I know they will make other people happy. I particularly use bright colours and clashing fabrics for my children's ottomans and cushions as they brighten up nurseries and rooms and kid's homewares should be fun. The fabric I also use has to be durable and hard wearing as they have to withstand lots of rugby tackles in my house! Some of my cushions are handprinted so I use a lot of fabric paint and linen as it fabulous to print on and gives a great vintage feel.
Where do you get your inspiration and what is your creative process? A lot of the inspiration behind Coco & Milo comes from my boys, particularly for the kids homewares. They are very good at telling me what would be cool in a cushion or an ottoman or what doesn't work! Coco & Milo specialises in English and French vintage homewares and I get a lot of inspiration from looking in antiques shops,fairs and most recently my trip back to the UK to Portobello Road. A lot of my customers also give me inspiration as I do make a lot of custom designs. I have a little notebook I carry everywhere with me and I jot down ideas, even if I wake in the middle of the night ( my husband thinks I'm nuts!). I also get a lot of ideas from my lovely friends, all of whom are mums and they give me ideas on what they would like to buy. I like to make cushions, ottomans etc that are not seen in every shop so hopefully my customers feel they are getting an original design.
How long have you been creating and how did you get into craft/art? I started making jewellery five years ago as Coco & milo and have been making homewares for about three years. I have also loved being creative, drawing, sewing,cross stitch but never had the time when working full time. I used to watch my Aunt who was a fabulous knitter and cross stitcher and my mum who sews and they taught me the basics.
How did you come up with your business name? Coco & Milo is named after my very naughty cats, Coco & Milo. People are always asking if they are my children's names!
What resources 'have or do you' use to help your creative pursuits (i.e. groups, classes, shops, websites etc)?
I love trawling the net getting inspiration from all corners and especially www.pinterest.com, which is great to see what is in style and what is popular. I get inspiration from clothing trends that are in fashion as well as from walks to the park with my boys. I love, love, love any home interiors magazines which are also great for grabbing ideas and staying with current trends. Coco & Milo also wouldn't be possible without the help of amazing sites such as www.madeit.com.au which give little independent designers a chance to showcase their wares and reach a broader community. And last but not least, friends and family are also great to sound ideas off.
What's your best advice for someone starting up?
My best advice for starting up a business is try and do something you are passionate about.If you love your product, everyone else will as passion is infectious! Also research your target market and see if anyone else out there is doing something similar. I think if you can find a gap in the market and sell a completely unique product that no one else is doing, you will be more successful. Also go to as many markets as you can. Its a great way to meet your customers and for them to get to know the brand. Some people are dubious about buying sight unseen on the web so giving them the chance to see the product in the flesh is invaluable. Markets also give you great feedback and I find it also helps with pricing products according to the market. most importantly, I think word of mouth is the best way to get business. Hand out business cards to friends or send emails to mothers groups etc. A lot of customers have been friends of friends , so it helps to be super nice to everyone!
Do you have any advertising/promotion tips for sellers to be successful?
Get involved in the above mentioned websites. They do fantastic PR and often have pages in many of the magazines. Also self promote! Get out there and hand out cards, visit shops and talk to the managers to see if they would like to stock your product. Also contact major magazines. always be very polite and friendly and keep them updated with your new collections. It really helps if you can strike up a friendly rapport as you will be the person they come to if they need something for a shoot.
Can you share any lessons that you have learned the hard way? I think I'm constantly learning every day in my business. As I don't come from a business background, I find it difficult to make sure that I am actually getting a profit from what i am making. In the beginning, I was always spending more than I was making, so its hard to make the right balance. Also no matter what sort of feedback you get, its invaluable as it helps you to become better. I got one negative comment out of 100 and was so upset for days. If you can fix the problem straight away, you will be happy and your customer will be happy.
What do you like to do besides creating? When I'm not creating I love spending time with my little boys and watching lots of reality lifestyle shows on tv, dreaming about how to improve our gorgeous home (it drives my hubby nuts!).
What is your favourite music, television show, film, book, website Music - i love James Blunt, James Morrison, Adele and Kylie. TV Shows - Location, Location, Location, Home by Novogratz, The project, anything on the Lifestyle channel and Australia's next top model. Films - How to catch a thief, Breakfast at Tiffany's, Roman Holiday, High Society,What to expect when expecting Websites - www.pinterest.com, www.facebook.com, www.thedesignfiles.com.au Books - Emma by Jane Austen, Pride and prejudice by Jane Austen, Anything by Fiona Walker or Celia Ahern
What would be your perfect day?
A lie in past 6am would be lovely , followed by breakfast out with all my boys in the sun near the sea, a few hours of me time shopping, getting hair done, play in the park and to top it all off a lovely romantic dinner with my hubby ( no kiddie interruptions!).
Who is one of your favourite madeit seller, explain why in less than 10 words? Cuddle Corner – gorgeous hand crocheted toys that remind me of the ones my nan used to give me when I was little.