Business Chicks caught up with PowerPlayer, Beth Richards, the Owner and Creative Director of Hallow Brands to find out how she went from Creative Director at Press Play to the owner of two lifestyle labels, Kinnon leather, and Lapoche travel accessories. Here’s her story…
What were you doing before Hallow Brands?
My background is in brand strategy and before launching my labels I owned and managed my communications and creative agency, Press Play.
Did you always know what you wanted to do?
Yes, but it’s not what I am doing now! From as early as I can remember, I wanted to be a primary school teacher (like my mum), but I got the bug for business when I started working in my dad’s company while I was at university.
What and where did you study?
I did one year of Education at uni before moving into Business Management at RMIT.
How did Kinnon and Lapoche come about?
When I had Press Play, Lapoche came to me as a client for a rebrand and PR strategy. I absolutely fell in love with the products, and after working on the brand, I had the opportunity to buy into the business. I had the idea of what Kinnonhas now become, as I spent quite a bit of time travelling for work and in meetings. I wanted to create beautiful, on-trend and functional pieces that become an extension of your outfit and a part of your stylish armour as you head into an important meeting or take off on your next trip. I wanted to create pieces that people are proud to carry and give them confidence as a part of their style.
How did you market your two brands? Did you have a different strategy for both?
Each brand has its own tailored strategy, and while the products are quite different, they do have a similar audience – those who love travel, professionals, those who love to be organised and like to invest in their wardrobe.
The marketing focus this year has been centered around publicity, social media, and database growth, to allow us the platform to communicate directly with our customers. We’ve recently unveiled our VIP programs for both brands, and we’ve found this has been great for customer engagement. I am really passionate about ensuring the customer experience from the initial encounter with the brands, through to purchase and beyond, is memorable and enjoyable. It’s something we’re always working on and will continue to refine and evolve.
I have also been very fortunate to have some great brands support us, including Qantas (qantasstore.com.au) who stock both of our brands. Having this clout as relatively new labels has been fantastic.
How did you first fund your labels?
It was largely funded via my previous business, Press Play. I have also been fortunate to have some family investment, along with great support from the bank. The stock investment to meet minimum requirements has been the largest start up cost so negotiating a good trade facility and repayment terms with the bank was fundamental.
Why do you think your business model has worked?
There was no way I was going to let it fail! Really, I think it’s a combination of a lot of hard work, always developing brands and products with the customer at the forefront of our minds and mostly, I think it has a lot to do with the fact that I absolutely love it and am passionate about what we’re creating. Having had eight years of running a business before launching this one was no doubt a huge help. Not to say I still haven’t made plenty of mistakes this time round, particularly as I have moved from a service to a product based business. It’s been tough trying to juggle essentially launching over the same period as having my two little ones, but I think being prepared just to get stuck in, ask for help when I’ve needed it and have complete belief in what I’m doing takes you a long way.
What have been your biggest challenges in business? How did you overcome them?
Absolutely, time is my biggest challenge. My beautiful kids are two and four, and balancing days at home with them alongside propelling the business forward has been tough. Constantly working very late nights started to take a toll, so I decided to invest in expanding the team across sales, social media, publicity and a VA, allowing me to focus on elements to grow the business which has been a game changer.
What’s been the biggest lesson you’ve learned along the way?
You can’t plan for everything but plan for what you can. The fewer surprises, the better. Always ask for help when you need it, listen and never stop learning.
Tell us about your design process … where do you get your inspiration?
It’s a constant process and one that never slows down. I draw inspiration from so many places and always try to stay on top of global trends. We also listen to our customers to find out what they love, what they don’t and what they would like to see more.
Different markets tend to do for different styles and colour palettes, so we do consider that but we mostly focus on designing products that we absolutely love and are proud of, that we believe our audience will love too.
What’s your point of difference from other leather brands on the market?
When I first launched Kinnon, my key focus was to create products with beautiful on-trend design, combined with every little functional detail for the product’s intended use. We’re now taking this even further and are putting more focus on working with the most sustainable and ethical suppliers, improving the experience of every touchpoint with our brands, and we’re soon to make personalised even more personal… watch this space!
Before PowerPlayers, how did you source business information and who did you turn to for advice?
To be honest, I really don’t think I asked for help enough or was asking the right people. I’ve got the most amazing and supportive husband, family and friends behind me but they didn’t necessarily understand the business challenges I was going through. I’ve often felt I was missing that advice piece I really needed.
What would you say to someone thinking about joining PowerPlayers?
Absolutely go for it. I have been a part of the program since it launched mid last year and feel so fortunate to have such an amazing group of ‘wing women’ behind me, all who I now consider great friends. I know I can confidentially share any business (or personal) challenge with them and they will be there to offer whatever support I need. We all completely have each other’s back, and when being in business, it is incredible to have that no judgement, agenda-free support.
Do you have plans to add more brands to the Hallow fold?
Not just yet!! For me, 2018 is about growing Kinnon and Lapoche and continuing to extend the collections. In saying that, we do have some exciting collaborations planned which will roll out over the year.
What’s next for you in 2018?
While every year in business is a growth year, I am looking forward to really fuelling that in 2018 and focus on growing our international presence as well. Lapoche currently has a distribution in a few countries, and there’s huge room for growth for both brands. I feel like 2017 has been all about setting the foundations to be full steam ahead in 2018.
What are the websites you visit on a daily basis?
My brand sites of course, and I love https://thenewsette.com/ for a quick daily dose of inspiration. I’ll usually flick through a couple of news sites too. Not so excitingly, https://www.oanda.com/ to check currency conversions as this plays a big part in our pricing strategies.
What’s on your podcast list right now?
I am trying to get my zen on at the moment, so I’ve been listening to the Headspace meditation app. I find it’s a good way to switch my brain off at night time. I was spending far too much time putting notes and ideas on my phone in the middle of the night!
As the owner of Lapoche, help all us ‘overpackers’ out there. How can we pack smarter these holidays?
This is a topic I can definitely get carried away with! I’m a self-confessed overpacker (as you never know what unexpected situation may call for a specific outfit), but I have learned to manage this with a bit of pre-planning. For work-related trips, in particular, I think about how many days I am going for, what meetings I have, what’s on in the evening, and what pieces of clothing have multiple uses, ie. a cami under a jacket for a meeting, or on its own with a bold piece of jewellery for night time. I then lay everything out on the bed to check I’m covered… it’s amazing how much less you take with a bit of planning!
I’ll then pop each day’s outfit into Lapoche’s luggage organiser, with accessories, jewellery, toiletries, etc. into their respective Lapoche pieces and I’m good to go. The best part is, when I get to the hotel, everything’s compartmentalized and easy to pop into hotel drawers.
For holidays when we have the kids in tow, I pick a Lapoche colour for each of us and pack our luggage into the relevant pieces for the suitcase. When we get to our destination, I know which colour belongs to who and pop them into their room. It’s a big timesaver.
What’s one thing no one else knows about you?
That I secretly wish I was a pop star, but unfortunately I was not gifted with the voice (my four-year-old, Ruby, thinks I’ve got it though).