The idea for Merry People‘s modern gumboots all started on Danielle Holloway’s daily commute. She was working at ANZ at the time, and found herself constantly ruining her work shoes on her travels to and from the office in Melbourne’s wet weather.
‘Growing up on a farm in South Gippsland, Victoria, I was familiar with just how useful gumboots can be but couldn’t find a pair that bridged the gap between city and country life,’ Danielle says.
Like most creative entrepreneurs, she decided to find a solution herself, creating the first Merry People style: the now-bestselling Bobbi Ankle Boot made from natural rubber with a neoprene lining. They’re 100 per cent waterproof, like the practical gumboots she recalled from her childhood, just a little bit more grown up.
‘When thinking of a brand name, I kept coming back to the idea of happiness,’ Danielle adds. ‘It was why I wanted to start the business and it was how I wanted my customers to feel when they wore their boots. Gumboots and splashing through puddles or mud takes me back to my childhood. It’s a moment to be spontaneous and break free (even just for a moment) from all the daily stresses that come from being an adult.’
She started out selling the shoes at farmer’s markets and working on the business on nights and weekends before she left her corporate job to ‘take the plunge’ and give Merry People her all. ‘I chose the path that I could see myself being happiest in and I have no regrets,’ Danielle says.
‘I did have some tough days. It was hard because I was in my early 30s and I was living week-to-week and at times having to sell my possessions to pay for my rent.’
Since then, Merry People has grown from a grassroots start-up to a successful business based in Collingwood and sold across Australia, New Zealand, US and the UK. Her niche of functional, fashionable shoes has gained a growing customer base of regional gardeners to inner-city workers and everything in between. The range has expanded too, now featuring the traditional Darcy Mid Calf Boot and their newest launch, the Billie Clog, in a range of neutral and bold colours that reflect the brand’s happy ethos.
‘Cass (our product designer) came into work one day with a Bobbi boot she had cut herself and made into a clog and said to me “Dani what do you think about this!” … and I liked it!’
“In 2023 we will be extending our size range to size 45 and moving into a more unisex brand. We are all really excited about this change and hope our customers are too!’
While Danielle says she always felt ‘so awkward’ when she told people she was trying to start her own gumboot company, these days she proudly spots someone most days wearing Merry People – and ‘it’s the best feeling’.