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Her boots are made for selling
Danielle Holloway has come the full circle in life and her career. Danielle was always passionate about clothing and fashion, but as a teenager she didn’t think she could make a career from it.
After growing up on a dairy farm and attending a Melbourne boarding school, where she loved creative writing, Danielle studied journalism at Monash University. She completed an internship at Melbourne magazine Fashion Journal.
Danielle then took a communications role in a bank and spent nine years working in analytics and risk and change management while studying banking, finance and project management.
The bank role was not what she had envisaged but Danielle made friends, had great opportunities and learnt a lot.
“I learnt a lot around stakeholder management, planning and execution and the importance of business governance – all which have been transferable skills,” she says.
Danielle didn’t consider herself a small business owner until she had an idea.
Working in the Docklands and frustrated by her good winter shoes continually becoming dishevelled, she sought an understated good quality, stylish gumboot.
Danielle couldn’t find any so researched and planned to make her own. She flew to China to show factories her designs and source prototypes. “When I came back … I really decided to give it a go,” she says.
The result was Merry People, which sells gumboots and plans to introduce a range of rain jackets and coats very soon. The boots are already popular with corporate women, mums who take their kids to weekend sport and girls attending festivals.
They are unique and bridge the gap between farm boots and extreme designs, appealing to a large audience, from teenage girls to women in their eighties.
Danielle knew she was onto something good, but wanted her range to include more than just rain products. She also wanted to get her branding right.
“I have a lot of people in my life that I seek advice/support from who are in business or work in fashion,” Danielle says. “However all the people close to you support you and don’t always challenge or question your decisions.
“I wanted some independent advice from someone in the fashion industry who I could use as a sounding board for my ideas and get inspiration from for forward planning.”
Danielle found SBMS on the Small Business Victoria website and was matched with mentor Katya Ellis.
As a talented retail and marketing all-rounder, Katya has held many marketing and business management roles with an emphasis on project, event, staff and partnership management, both locally and internationally.
SBMS is a non-government, non-profit organisation of volunteer expert mentors who give their time and experience to help small business. It is supported by Small Business Victoria, which refers clients to it.
Danielle and Katya had one in-person mentoring session and have been in email contact since.
They discussed the retail industry, challenges faced by boutique retailers and how that can impact wholesale sales, which may result in challenges in sales.
They also covered:
- The benefits of vertically integrated retail chains, where stores that manufacture and sell their own product
- Wholesale marketing and sales requiring different strategies to online marketing and sales
- The benefits of finding an agent versus DIY sales
- Strategies to find a good agent
- Financials in relationship to sales targets and personal take home income
- Building a capital base to invest in growth and larger productions runs
- International opportunities and the Export Market Development Grant
- Wholesale seasons and delivery schedules in the northern and southern hemispheres
- The pros and cons of paying bloggers for features
- The benefits of hosting interns
- Whether online shipping should be included in the product price
Katya and Danielle also discussed a marketing budget as a proportion of sales. Danielle agreed that she could spend about 10 per cent of her annual sales revenue to generate sales.
Since the mentoring, profitability has improved. Katya says Danielle now has national agents and is happy with the growth of the business.
“She’s also looking at international growth,” Katya says. “Danielle’s business needs a global strategy, as it is a business in the volume game. However, brand development is also critical. Think Crocs or Havaianas, super successful global brands selling rubber shoes that are really not that special.”
Danielle says Katya has been fantastic and still sends her helpful information and ideas. They will definitely stay in touch.
Danielle is most grateful for Katya’s advice about the time she was spending chasing new retailers and how an agent could free her up to concentrate on business development.
“I hadn’t had a good experience with the one agent … but Katya did some numbers with me and showed me the financial benefits,” she says.
“I now have agents for Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and New South Wales, who have both been fantastic and are really excited about my products.”
Those agents have told Danielle they believe her products will be in 70 stores before too long.
“I don’t know if I would have looked at getting the agents I hadn’t spoken to Katya,” she says. “I would have kept trying to do it and manage it myself.”
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