What’s it Like Going into Business With Your Mum?

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Meet The Bedhead Co. founder, Alex Thompson.

Alex and Sally Thompson of The Bedhead Co.

Thirty-year-old Alex Thompson is a Sydney-based lawyer whose side dream grew into a burgeoning business of making bedrooms even dreamier places to rest our heads. Her mum, Sally, joined along for the ride and now the two of them run The Bedhead Co., creating beautiful fabric-covered bedheads while being based out of different cities (Sally’s in Brisbane). How do they mix business with family? We were wondering the same thing. Here, we catch up with Alex to learn how the startup came about, in what ways a side business affected her career, and the challenges a mother-daughter venture can present.

Firstly, your bedheads are beautiful and such a great idea, particularly that customers are able to change the slips and fabrics as it suits them. Before The Bedhead Co. were you always makers/creators?
Mum is very creative, with a background in the arts, she has always had an ability to create beautiful rooms in our family home. We have a beautiful home, which mum has carefully curated and it is great to see that talent and ability channelled outside the home into our business. To be honest, I wasn’t an overly creative person before we started this business venture. My drive came about out of a desire to have a bedhead to complete my bedroom. However, The Bedhead Co. has given me the opportunity to be creative and experiment with new designs and concepts and it has been really refreshing to have a creative outlet from my legal job.

What challenges does being based in different cities present?
I find myself in Brisbane almost every fortnight, which enables us to work together face to face and we speak on the phone or FaceTime every day, so we don’t find the distance a challenge. Being in Brisbane and Sydney allows us to fully service our clients in those locations.

In your own words, what does a gorgeous bedhead add to a room?
We believe that the bedhead really is the forgotten element that draws a bedroom together and from a functional perspective, it adds so much comfort to a bed, especially if, like us, you love reading in bed. The bedhead can be a subtle backdrop with neutral tones or it can be fun and bold using plush velvet, oriental patterns, stripes and florals. For the client, the bedhead and our business offers an ability to be creative, be involved in the process, and add the final decorative element to their bedroom.

I’m sure you’re asked this plenty, but how do you find working with a relative? Are there certain boundaries that you’ve put in place around how you are at work versus outside work?
Mum and I have always been very close, so having a business together adds another layer to that relationship and reveals some unknown strengths and weaknesses. We both have strong opinions, which makes for robust discussion and a great creative end product. The mother-daughter dynamic allows us to be candid and transparent in our business, which we think adds to its success. If we are on a TBC call or if I am in Brisbane, we always make the time to catch up on our personal lives first to ensure that we keep that important mother-daughter connection… then it is down to business!

Alex, you presently work as a lawyer. Did having other work impinge upon your business idea or did it enhance your productivity?
If anything, it probably enhanced my drive to start the business – working as in-house counsel has given me exposure to various business functions – marketing, finance, operations and that exposure encouraged me to give it a go! The daily grind of an office job can be mundane at times and can mean that you become a very one-dimensional thinker. Having a side business is definitely challenging and for me, it requires effective time management to ensure that I allocate enough time to ensure The Bedhead Co. is successful while making sure that I give my best to my primary job. But it is so rewarding to be able to be creative (where I wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity), to develop a different skill set and learn the ins and outs of a different industry and meet some amazing people!

What are your individual responsibilities to the new company?
Mum definitely has the eye for design and style. She has an amazing ability to curate pieces to create beautiful and homely spaces. She is also constantly on the look-out for style inspiration, which has been really valuable as we are currently planning a new collection. I bring to the table the business acumen and detail gained from my experience working in-house. We feel that these are the elements that create a successful business, but, at the end of the day, it works because we have a strong family relationship.

What’s your advice for others contemplating going into business with a parent?
It is really rewarding, but it can be challenging at times as with any mother-daughter relationship. Our advice is to take time out to enjoy the mother-daughter relationship and catch up on your personal lives to ensure it’s not all business. You also need a strong base relationship, which allows each person to be candid with the other and also to make sure that you are both passionate and on the same page with the direction of the business and the output. We feel it works so well for us because we each have different skill sets which compliment each other.

What process did you go through early on when you’d just hatched the idea for The Bedhead Co.? Did you speak to a financial expert, test the idea with friends, research competitors?
We’ve always had a love of interiors and beautiful fabrics, but the idea really developed when we were looking for a custom-made upholstered bedhead for my room in my home. I wanted the freedom to design it myself, but at the time I was a young professional and couldn’t afford to engage an interior designer. The ready-made options were hard to find and often not the quality that we wanted and the choice of style and fabric limited. To have one made was an expensive and time-consuming exercise and we thought there had to be an easier way.

After going through the process of creating my bedhead, we found that a lot of people we knew wanted that final decorative element for their rooms at an affordable price point, but didn’t know where to start. After identifying this gap in the market, we began manufacturing bedheads for our friends and family. We didn’t speak to a financial expert, because we had just hit the ground running and found that the demand was funding our expansion, which was great!

Which platforms have been particularly effective for promoting your product?
While we have a great website, Instagram has been invaluable to us. It is such an effective tool for reaching our clients and we have received most of our enquiry off the back of our feed. The mother-daughter relationship also allows us to target two different markets through networking and word of mouth. We also use Hawke and Co. Creative for our PR, who have been amazing in getting our name out there.

Do you have a vision for the next 10 years?
It is just Mum and I at the moment and we have received such great support from friends and family in terms of PR, photography and production contacts, but as we grow it is likely that we will need to hire some support staff, which is exciting! For the next 10 years, we are excited to create more collections of beautiful bedheads, service existing and new clients, and to grow the business further.

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