When entrepreneurs with a bright idea decide to launch their own business, they’re often aware that they’re signing up for hard work and long hours. But with the right technology, processes and partnerships, being chained to a desk is a thing of the past.
When Zoe Lea dreamt up her clothing brand Unempire, she had independence and flexibility on her mind.
“I had been working for other companies for just under ten years,” Lea recalls. “It was time to do something on my own and get complete creative control.”
Driven by a desire to do things on her own terms, she began designing socks with a decidedly artistic flavour, and soon launched her own self-funded online retail boutique. Now, just a few years later, she has a raft of clever products including socks, t-shirts and accessories that are also stocked in stores locally and overseas.
With international orders making up about half of the business and Lea the only Unempire employee, she relies on Australia Post to ensure her deliveries are on time and accurate.
“I do everything,” she explains. Working from home, she still personally compiles the package for each Unempire customer herself within 24 hours of receiving an order, and enjoys personalising the parcel with fun stickers and notes.
Her working hours, she says, are “all over the place”.
“That’s the benefit and the downfall of working for yourself. You’ve always got one part of your brain on the job.”
The biggest upside to her flexible work life, says Lea, is that it allows her to make the best use of the force behind Unempire’s success – her creativity.
“You can only be creative when you feel creative,” Lea says.
Alex Benton is another creative entrepreneur for whom flexible and agile working is a necessity.
She’s the founder of Whistle Dixie, an online retailer that sells handcrafted interior décor items for children and adults.
“I run the business on my own from a studio in my home and manage all aspects of the business including marketing, administration, finance and packaging, as well as the product design and fabrication,” says Benton.
“So even though I work seven days a week, they aren’t typical work days as I manage other commitments in between.” Those other commitments include looking after her young family, who helped inspire Benton to create Whistle Dixie.
To streamline the order fulfilment and delivery process, Benton combined the functionality of eCommerce platform Shopify with Australia Post’s API technology – which allows businesses to easily integrate functions such as online payments, stock management and shipping with their chosen platform. Benton’s online store gives her access to Australia Post’s Click and Send service, which she describes as a “game changer”.
“I am time poor being the only resource in my business, so I look at all avenues that can help my productivity,” she says.
“Prior to Click and Send, I was making numerous trips (almost daily) to the Post Office, which was becoming less and less feasible as the orders started increasing.”
With international orders on the rise, a well-oiled shipping process is vital for the success of Whistle Dixie.
“Without this technology, I don’t think I would have been able to start up Whistle Dixie as it has really provided the means to access a domestic and global market from my home,” Benton explains.
Both Unempire and Whistle Dixie prove that with the right partners, entrepreneurs can make the best use of their creativity and remain flexible and mobile. And while there’s no doubt that launching a small business takes a lot of hard work, these businesswomen and artists wouldn’t have it any other way.
When asked whether she ever second-guesses her decision to launch a business on her own, Lea has a simple answer: “No regrets.”
Written by: Jessie Richardson