I first met Melbourne lighting designer Christopher Boots when we interviewed him back in 2012, just a year after he had launched his business. He was busy then, but MAN, he’s really busy now! Christopher’s lighting studio in Fitzroy has grown from a handful of casual staff to a team of 15 people, creating their distinctive range of beautiful lights all in house. We recently re-visited Christopher to gain an insight into the growth of his successful small business (which may not be ‘small’ for much longer…!)
The incredible growth of Christopher Boots lighting studio after just three years in operation is impressive, but it isn’t exactly a fluke. After completing a degree in Industrial Design, Christopher trained under legendary lighting designer Geoffrey Mance in Melbourne, and took on Mance Design studio after Geoffrey passed away in 2007. He launched his own lighting studio on November 11th, 2011- almost exactly three years ago.
Christopher’s stunning range of lights is entirely handcrafted by his team of skilled craftspeople in their Fitzroy studio space. Due to their commitment to in house manufacturing, each light can be customised for specific spaces or architectural projects. Christopher’s most recognisable design is his striking ‘Orp’ light (Oblique Rhombic Prism) – a glowing, extruded ‘cube’ which references ancient geometry, and looks something like a 3D optical illusion.
It can be rare for creative people to also have an intuitive sense for the ‘business side’ of things, but Christopher certainly seems to have that elusive balance of right brain / left brain perfectly aligned! His responses below articulate just how important it is for small business owners to consider the bigger picture, and to plan for growth from day one.
Can you tell us a little bit about your business how is your business structured, how many staff do you employ, what services do you offer?
We offer high end, luxury, bespoke decorative lighting solutions.
Each item is carefully considered in its design and aesthetic, and produced right here in Melbourne by a small team of artisan makers. I have several existing lighting collections, however we are also engaged in custom projects, which is challenging and exciting at the same time.
We employ approx 15 staff from full time to casual roles, depending on the scale of workload.
We are expanding our production team and moving production into a larger space in the near future, as the demand for our product and services has been soaring, so as we outgrow our current space we’ll be looking to expand production into a larger space.
What does a typical work day at Christopher Boots involve?
There is no such thing as a typical day! Each day at CB HQ is quite different and unique.
One day we could be working on a large custom job; designing, prototyping and testing ideas and materials, another there could be a film crew documenting or a product photo shoot underway. We have had a very busy year with a number of exciting projects in the pipeline both locally and internationally (watch this space!)
On a typical week, we have a Monday morning meeting over breakfast with plenty of coffee to streamline all the jobs scheduled for production, and step by step processes required to take place… We have to be very organised!
By the end of the day we need to close by cleaning up, tidying and ensuring the studio is primed for the next day’s work. Often, I prefer to work into the night when it’s a little quieter, as I can focus more.
What are some daily office rituals and systems you employ to enhance your / your team’s productivity?
We’ve had a new kitchen installed in the studio recently, which I designed with my friends at SIBLING. It has been great to be able to cook a full breakfast in the morning (poached eggs, salmon, sauerkraut, rye bread as a standard), or share a cup of tea with the staff to ease into the day.
We share meals and a drink at the end of the week I feel that it’s very important to have that special relationship with the people you work with, since we spend so much time together! Also it gives us an opportunity to discuss any issues or concerns and find resolutions in a casual environment.
To streamline your daily tasks and keep everything running smoothly what computer programs, apps and softwares do you utilise?
Apple Macs are our base computer system, from which we run all Google apps, Dropbox and Xero. AutoCAD, SketchUp and the Adobe suite software are used to design. Cloud based storage works well when we have the internet flowing ok (note: STILL no NBN in Fitzroy who voted to kill the NBN?!) as we can pick up where someone else left off on any computer or Ipad or laptop, and make all things seamless.
In hindsight, what do you know now about running a small business that you wish you knew when you started?
This is my second small business, and that has made things so much easier doing round two! I guess trust your instincts is a good one. Get your books in order first and foremost. Use systems that can be scaled up easily and require little maintenance. Keep documentation of your own processes so you can review and improve. That’s how to build.
What are your top three tips about running a successful small business?
1. Great staff are everything – happy staff, happy work!
2. Find and use good counsel mentors, wiser people who can guide and answer those tricky questions
that will come up from time to time.
3. Being optimistic is great and at times the only thing that can drive you, but be grounded and base your decisions on being pragmatic too.
Who is a local small business owner you admire and why?
Sheesh, I am too busy to look outside my own world to think of this answer! YOU?!
369 Gore Street
Open by Appointment Monday – Friday, drop-ins welcome on Saturdays between 10.00am – 4.00pm.