A little over twelve months ago we formed a brand strategy and created a visual identity for Wood Melbourne, founded by Oliver MacLatchy. In addition to this, we offered Oliver advice about starting up a small business and how he could take his products to market. Given the challenges small businesses face – particularly in their first year – we wanted to catch up with Oliver to see how the last year has gone. It’s no surprise to us that Wood Melbourne now has a huge following, great industry support and a bright future.
In the past twelve months, Oliver has continued to develop new pieces in the Wood Melbourne range and we can expect to see more throughout 2015. Wood Melbourne initially launched with a range of beautifully crafted timber bath spouts. These unique, innovative products offered the market a new take on bathroom fixtures. As the year progressed, Oliver showed us that his talents are not limited to making fine timber products- check out the Maddie and Freya to see what this maker can do with concrete.
In November 2014, Wood Melbourne was featured on designboom, a digital design and architecture magazine with upwards of 400K subscribers. On the back of this, Wood Melbourne was invited to participate in 100% design, UK’s largest design trade event which will be held in September 2015 during the London Design Festival. Clear evidence that when passion, talent and hard work collide, exceptional success is inevitable.
If you’re considering starting up your own business, talking to people who’ve done the hard yards is one of the most beneficial things you can do. Oliver’s excellent advice and contagious passion will undoubtedly motivate you to embrace your entrepreneurial spirit. Here’s what he had to say about Wood Melbourne’s first year in business.
Finding the balance between full time work and running your own business on the side can be a massive challenge. What obstacles have you faced?
Time: Time management was the biggest thing. I was still refining the products as the name got out there. I was biting off more than I could chew, because I was trying to maintain quality through all the renovations I was completing while also finishing Wood Melbourne orders to the highest quality.
Exhaustion: When you’re under pressure and exhausted, mistakes get made.
Money: This is of course an obstacle, because if we had it, we would be able to work on Wood Melbourne 100% of the time. Today we’ve grown enough that Wood Melbourne takes up 80% of my workload, while I work on a few renovations here and there.
How important has it been to build your ‘brand’ in addition to your business?
This was the most important thing we’ve done. Talking to Rusty and Luke helped us to establish what we needed to do to move forward. We had ideas for the product, but we weren’t sure where to take it. Building a brand helped us to understand the direction we wanted to go in. It gave us a sense that we were slotting ourselves into a complete business – like a company that already existed that we could package ourselves and our products into. If we hadn’t done this, we wouldn’t be where we are now. We were also lucky to work with great stylists along the way.
What apps have helped to simplify the day to day operations of your business?
Shopify: This makes online sales simple. It simplifies the process so you know where the sales are coming from, providing all client details.
Mailchimp: This is a great simple way to keep in touch with existing clients through our monthly newsletter.
Instagram: 80-90% of our work has come through Instagram. Not only is it fun, but it’s a great reference tool for designers. We found our following grew organically, with a few boosts from good media along the way, e.g. being featured in Est., Habitus, Vogue Living and The Design Files. Australian Architecture (@australian_architecture) has a great following and has featured our products a few times which has also given us a boost off the back of their 60K followers. We also gained followers through connections made at trade events throughout the year, where we got to meet some contestants from The Block who’d seen our stuff.
Which local designers/makers inspire you?
I appreciate designers who are willing to throw themselves out on a limb. Locally, there’s Christopher Boots, a lighting designer. He’s not afraid to throw his hat in and do something exciting. Also, Work-Shop Objects Brisbane, a husband and wife team creating clean, beautiful and unique products. Plus, Tuckbox Design.They’re all honest people making shit they love.
What do you love about running your own business?
I’d love to say flexibility, but that’s a f***ing lie. The most important part is designing and making things I can’t find in the market. I love being creative and innovating new ways of making a product. Also, working with my wife, Erin, who manages the operations of the business so I have to freedom to create.
What are the top three tips you would give to people thinking about starting a small business?
Find direction: Even if you don’t know where to go, it will give you clear goals.
Make a business plan: Once you’ve established the direction you want to take, plan how you will get there.
Consider execution and time: Don’t rush the process. To ensure quality, take the time to get things right.
You’re very passionate about what you do, how important has this been as Wood Melbourne has grown?
Our passion for what we do has contributed to 90% of our success. Clients can tell you’re passionate and they thrive off the fact that your heart and soul is in what you make. I love what I do, so there are no lies when it comes to talking about my product. This passion drives me to be creative, keeps me going and allows me to provide great customer service. It stems through everything I do.
You can check out Wood Melbourne’s beautiful, locally made range here.