This month we sat down with Kristy from local online store HABITUE design. With her background in interior design and a penchant for handmade goods, it’s no wonder online shoppers are loving her wares.
Tell us about Habitue
Habitue is always evolving. The name was originally chosen for an interior design business. It means a person who comes to a place to frequent and dwell and I really liked the notion of designing a space that people just want to come back to and feel connected to through their personality.
What are your products made from?
My rugs and homewares are made predominately from jersey yarn, a by-product sourced from the fashion industry making it an environmentally friendly solution which I am very proud of. The quantity of yarn that would go to landfill if it wasn’t re-purposed is unthinkable!
The jersey yarn produces a luxuriously thick and soft rug that feels amazing underfoot. They are so tactile, you really have to feel them to understand how good touching them makes you feel!! They are machine washable which makes them a perfect solution for a nursery, kids room or beach house however can be designed for any part of the house.
As well as the jersey yarn I use leather remnants from another maker.
What is your background/what were you doing before you started Habitue?
My background is in health management and IT however my heart has always been with the creative side of life. When I was at Uni and working in hospitals, I would do night courses in life drawing and photography. Art was always my strength at school but a career in the arts wasn’t as socially acceptable as it is now. I am very grateful for everything I’ve learnt along the way, it has really helped me with the business side of things and understanding what is required to manage my time effectively.
What inspired you to start your small business?
It really was something I just fell in to. I was on maternity leave, studying interior design and I made a few baskets. I posted them on Facebook and suddenly people wanted to buy them. I was then asked to put together a stall at the local Trove market and this is where it all began.
What attracted you to the digital space?
I have always operated in the digital space whether it be for work or leisure. It is something I have always felt comfortable with and I just realised that the opportunities for business were enormous. When you start a business, funding is very light on so why wouldn’t you use this free forum that reaches out to such a huge cross-section of the population?! It was a no brainer for me.
You mentioned once that you made a significant investment in developing an online presence in 2015/16. By investment what kind of resources are you referring to (time, money etc)? Was this a risk?
With a very limited or really no budget for marketing but knowing there was a huge opportunity that was virtually free with the exception of time, I took myself to the library and borrowed almost every book they had on social media. I read most of these in a couple of weeks (probably a bit more as I never get a book back on time!). After this I looked online for free courses or networking opportunities. I went to a few Small Business Victoria sessions and these were fantastic, as well as some sessions run through the local council.
How has social media enabled you to accelerate the growth of your business?
I don’t think it would have been as easy to get my name out there without social media. You can make yourself known to thousands of followers within weeks if you have the dedication. I have been lucky to have had my products promoted by some big names such as The Block Shop, Hello Little Birdie and more recently Krysten Ritter, The Young Mummy and Empire of Style. Not only do you get exposure to their huge following, but their followers often repost to their followers, the possibilities are infinite if you put yourself out there!
Are most of your customers local or geographically diverse?
Definitely geographically diverse, and the internet is definitely responsible for this. Because I also sell craft material and kits for people to make their own products, I have a huge following of other makers that like to share information and get ideas for their projects. I have people that regularly engage on my Facebook and Instagram pages from all corners of the globe, in particular with Instagram as it is very visual and language is not a barrier.
Do you collaborate with other small businesses in Bendigo?
In the beginning I collaborated a lot with Bendigo small businesses, I don’t have as much time now but it something I will become more involved with again in the near future. In my first year I was involved in setting up a Christmas pop up shop featuring local makers, we handed the reigns of this over to Shona O’Brien so it could benefit from her experience with event management but it is still going strong under Bendigo Makers Crib. I am also involved in another project called Girls from the Go. A great online space where we collaborate, bounce ideas and support each other.