‘I never planned to turn this into a business in its own right,’ starts Georgia Perry from her Smith St KIOSK store, ‘but things progressed quickly, which meant I had to “level-up” and learn things fast so I could make the most of the opportunity.’ That business is Georgia Perry, a colourful and bold accessories and design brand, that’s become one of Melbourne’s go-to for unique gifts (often to one’s self!).
Originally trained as a graphic designer, Georgia began experimenting with small product runs in 2014. ‘It was just before Christmas when I first had the idea to supplement my studio practice with some small products’ the designer explains. ‘I’d been working as a graphic designer/illustrator for about seven years and I really liked the idea of creating something just because I felt like it – not because I’d been commissioned by a client’. It was only after sharing her product creations with her friends via social media, that Georgia realised the potential that existed. ‘Miraculously things started to sell! I was shocked, excited and a little under-prepared!’
Grasping the opportunity, Georgia set about teaching herself everything she could with regard to retail, profit margins and marketing. ‘I’ve taught myself literally everything from calculating profit margins and navigating import taxes to using accounting software and creating line sheets, purely by Googling stuff! It’s often the quickest way’. It was at this time Georgia also launched her online store, enabling items to be seen and purchased by people across the globe.
‘At first I did everything myself. Designing the products and packaging, researching, manufacturers and prototyping, shooting and editing product photos, listing products online and maintaining the website then hand-writing (!) address labels and taking everything to the post office!’ Georgia admits. While handling orders online was stressful at times, especially during the peak Christmas season, it was when stockists began approaching Georgia, that she realised she needed help. ‘The hardest thing has always been accepting that I can’t do everything… taking on too much and burning yourself out is not good for anyone.’
Six months after launching, Georgia enlisted her good friend Zoe to help out. ‘At first, it was just for a few hours and then gradually it became more and more. Now, nearly three years later we have a team of five and Zoe is still working with me as my Wholesale/Studio Manager’.
Within those three years, Georgia Perry has grown from a small product run for friends to a successful global business with her 130 stockists of the brand ranging from Colette and Le Bon Marché in France, through to Nordstrom and Kin Los Angeles in the US. ‘Initially I never even planned to wholesale at all, but after a few accessories began to get some press I started getting approached by stores.’ Admitting she knew ‘literally nothing’ about wholesaling, Georgia was forced to up-skill for a second time.
‘At first, I would spend many long nights on the couch with my laptop, compiling spreadsheets of cool stores I wanted to stock with. It was very time consuming (scouring the internet, finding buyers emails etc.) but I realised the value that wholesale would bring – both financially and in terms of getting my product in front of a wider audience, so it became very important to me early on.’
Educating herself via her own networks as well as online forums and articles, Georgia was able to create her own wholesale terms — ‘just a single A4 page with things like payment terms, how we would ship orders, what happens if something goes missing etc.’ – as well as a wholesale price list (using Google Sheets). She used ‘online margin calculators to try and work out a sweet spot where we’d still make enough from wholesale for it to be viable’ and drew upon her graphic design experience when creating ‘well designed selling tools — clear photos of the products, an easy-to-follow price list and a PDF lookbook’.
Given the popularity today of Georgia Perry, the brand regularly receives invitations to stock in places across the globe. So, how does she decide which ones are the right fit? ‘Before we agree to stock with anyone (both in Australia and internationally) we have a quick form that the store needs to complete which includes things like social media handles, which other brands they stock etc. This definitely helps us get a better picture of who they are and whether it’s a good fit… Above all, it’s ensuring the stores we work with have values that align with ours, and we trust them to represent us well.’
For those looking to get stocked overseas, what advice would Georgia give? ‘Firstly, buyers are always on the hunt for cool new products to fill their shops with. You could be doing them a massive favour by reaching out and showing them something they haven’t seen before. If you can get them to open an email, you’re halfway there.
Secondly, buyers are insanely busy people so you want to do everything you can to make it easy for them – eliminate barriers like long boring biographies, low-res product photos or not including a wholesale price list.’ Next, says Georgia, is to ‘make your selling tools clear, concise and easy on the eye. If you can’t do it yourself, enlist a friend who can take some product photos or help design a lookbook for you… We only started investing in photo shoots last year, but it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.’
Most of all, says Georgia, just don’t be afraid. ‘The absolute worst thing that can happen is they say no. That’s it! Don’t die wondering!’
Deep into the gifting season, celebrating their new physical store and and a recent third birthday, Georgia Perry is one busy lady. So, what’s next? ‘We opened our own retail store, KIOSK in August so we’re really looking forward to our first Christmas with a physical space. Other than that, we have lots of new products and ideas in development for next year – the dreaming and scheming never ends!’