It was 2008 and Jasmine Smith and business partner Leanne Pearce were fitting out five towers in Abu Dhabi with art when the financial crisis hit.
As fate would have it, at exactly the same time, someone asked them to open an art gallery.
“Everyone thought we were a bit crazy, as this was not the time to expand – but sometimes you have to just believe, despite the odds, and take that chance,” says Jasmine.
They not only opened art space Gallery One on the Gold Coast in Queensland, but a retail business next door called St Barts, a lifestyle store selling “everything we loved to collect on our travels”. They have since expanded to a wholesale range and opened another store to Brisbane.
We quizzed Jasmine on the details of their adventure so far.
You source homewares from India, Morocco and Indonesia – how do you reach out to suppliers?
We found it helpful to have an agent that can speak the language and negotiate on your behalf. Initially it’s tough, as you’re reaching out and establishing connections for the first time, however the more you visit a place the easier it becomes. Often you meet people who have other connections within the business, which can lead you to some amazing relationships.
What do these supplier relationships look like now?
Some villages, I have worked with from the beginning, and they are like family now. I visit them three or four times a year to discuss new designs and see what they’ve been working on. Whilst I’m there I am always looking for new inspiration and meeting new craftsmen.
What hurdles have you faced?
We’ve had our share of miscommunications, inability to supply and accuracy with designs, but that is a part of sampling. It’s a challenge but a fantastic learning curve – and can even sometimes lead to some happy accidents!
How do you hire suppliers with ethics that align with your own?
Mostly you can tell by just talking to people what sort of ethics they have. If it’s a larger production run for the wholesale range, I visit the factories and meet the workers and see their conditions. If it’s small villages, I sit with the families who are making the products, I always make sure they are receiving a fair wage. It is very important that they can earn money and educate their children, it’s something I often hear from the families we work with.
How do you bring calm to the chaos of running a business?
We have always brought our best friends to work with us, our dogs. They always calm a tense day and remind us how simple life can be.
Speaking of start-ups that beat the odds, read about this Australian start-up that was told not to bother and now it’s thriving.