Introducing the Meet the Maker series, our chance to showcase some of the awesome brands that make up hey harlow and their stories. We sat down with Zoe Mayne, owner and designer of Rebellious Grace to find out how she came to launch the popular Brisbane atelier, tips and tricks when dealing with creative burnout, and hear more about what she'll be getting up to next.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your business, Rebellious Grace
I'm a fashion designer, mild social rebel, and multiple-cat-owner. I drink too much coffee and red wine, and spend my down time watching British sit-coms and listening to music. Rebellious Grace is my small and cosy jewellery atelier and store located in the heart of the James St precinct in Brisbane. In store, I design and make every single item, and customers are welcomed to join in on the design process and often customise their own pieces (just like you did with the collection collaboration!)
How did the idea for Rebellious Grace come about, and what helped you make the decision to venture into small business life?
Rebellious Grace came to me in a cacao ceremony in Bali in November 2018. I was there with the intention of opening a shop, and I had no idea what kind of shop it would be at the time, I just felt inspired to open a physical store. During the ceremony, the words Rebellious Grace came to me. The same words kept popping up in meditation (very loudly) for the following months. I have this cute record in my journals of when I would be in meditation and hear the words so loudly I had to get up and write them down. I had previously begun working on a jewellery brand, and during the following months of the Bali-trip, things just started falling into place. The store location, the business concept and model, everything. It was an ecstatic case of right-place right-time. I had worked with jewellery in the fashion scene for a few years beforehand, and was confident my design skills could be translated over to jewellery; I actually enjoy making jewellery much more than I ever enjoyed designing and producing clothing. There was a pretty large space in the market for ethically produced, high quality fashion jewellery at an affordable price. Because of my business model of making pieces to order in-store, I'm able to keep the quality high and the price low, making it attainable for almost everyone.
Talk us through your average day
When I opened the store, I gave myself permission to let things flow and to prioritise my self care. In the past I've been prone to being an extreme workaholic and that resulted in multiple burnouts leading to business failures and even losing a job. So this time round, for the business' health and mine, I told myself to take it slow, and do it on my own terms. So because of that, I give myself the luxury of waking up later in the morning, about 7.30/8am. Then go for a lovely morning walk and listen to podcasts (I'm bingeing Mark Groves' podcasts right now); I take my time getting ready and head in to open the shop at 10am. My day from there usually pivots around priorities and inspiration. There'll be days I have a plan set out for admin work, and yet all I want to do is design. I usually follow those inspired days because bookkeeping can always be done when I'm not feeling inspired to create! I eat my lunch from Botanica in Teneriffe, and spend the day listening to music and chatting to my beautiful customers. I've recently employed staff, and we're working on scaling the business, so my days at the moment are revolving around meetings with my digital strategist and really understanding how to scale things properly.
How do you deal with a creative block/funk, and what gets your back on your A-game?
Great question! I'm lucky that I work for myself and so I can work to my own cycles. I've noticed I'm incredibly inspired for two weeks of the month, and then the following two weeks I have creative blocks and just can't seem to get on a roll. So, I maximise the time when I feel inspired, and really milk those moments. On my off days (or weeks) I let myself do something totally mundane and give my creativity a rest. Usually, if I give myself permission to shift focus from creating, within a short amount of time I begin naturally wanting to create again (or if I give myself an utterly boring job to do, I suddenly feel like I want to make things! Procrastination can be your friend sometimes!)
Three tips for anyone thinking of starting their own business that helped you on your journey
1) Allow yourself to suck at the start. I remember looking at my packaging when I first opened and it was baaaad. But I knew once the business was established I would have a clearer understanding as to what I needed. Don't invest in things (like large orders of packaging, marketing, etc) unless you're 100% sure (and in the early days it's hard to be 100% sure). Be kind to yourself when you compare your start-up to established businesses. If you can, find your idolised brands and look for images of when they started. It's incredibly comforting to know we're all human and we all have to start somewhere (and often enough that 'somewhere' is far from perfect).
2) Say goodbye to your perfectionist and know everything will be trial and error at the start. Allowing yourself to not have everything perfect from the get-go means you won't make poor investments, it also means you're easily able to pivot the business to your market needs in the early days. Being able to remain flexible in the early days will pay off for you in the long run, if you listen to feedback and implement it.
3) Outsource what you're not good at, to people who are good at it. Cash flow is obviously the main concern of all start-ups, so it's beneficial to be wise about where you invest your money, and also, understanding your business. Rebellious Grace has a large e-commerce aspect to it, so I'm currently investing in working with a digital strategist to build a solid foundation for growth. You will need to spend money to make money, just be wise where you spend it, which sometimes means holding off on things you impulsively want.
What’s next for you, any exciting projects on the horizon?
So many! A few I can't talk about just yet, but I'm working on building the community aspect of the brand with seasonal events, and an interactive part of the site. Right now, I'm focusing on lots of collaborations and still fine-tuning a few of the basic things like the website and in-store functionality. I'm also planning to team with a local fine jeweller to offer my pieces in solid gold.
What’s been your biggest proud as punch moment since launching Rebellious Grace?
A week into launching the brand, I got dumped by a guy I was seeing, and while that really sucked, I look back on the whole Rebellious Grace journey and am a bit blown away that I did everything totally by myself. I made the shelves, the earring stands, I financially backed myself, I made my own connections, and it was all done by me, and me alone! The brand and store still have a long way to go, but I love coming in everyday and seeing all of my hard work pay off. I think if I was still with that guy, I would probably give him a small amount of credit simply for being by my side during the journey, but because I'm doing this as a single (mildly heartbroken) woman it's been a big moment of self empowerment and acknowledgement of my own capability.
What's next on your travel hit list?
Oh! So many! I have to visit a factory next year in Korea, and I'm so excited to see Seoul. I also have to pop to Hong Kong for business soon and I'm eager about that trip too. BUT, for personal travel, I’m desperate to visit Japan and eat so much food that I can't move.
What’s the one thing you couldn’t live without?
Typical cat-lady response: my cats. Followed closely by music, I listen to alt classical, my favourite musicians are Grandbrothers and Ludovico Einaudi.
What song have you currently got on repeat?