‘My sister Jess and I had always dreamed of starting a business together and while taking time out after the birth of my second son Ellis, the idea for Mustard began to form’ says Rebecca Stern, from her studio in Newcastle. ‘The name was chosen because colour is at the core of the product and brand. I’ve always had a thing for words or phrases with multiple meanings and Mustard seems to fit. As a colour and a condiment, it’s an acquired taste. Lockers aren’t everyone’s cup of tea but those who get it, love it! I figured if ‘Apple’ could work, why not Mustard?!’
In addition to cementing the brand name, Rebecca also brought with her experience from running her first business, House of Bec. ‘Mustard was created with growth in mind, and the aim for it to provide a full-time gig for both Jess and I. I knew from my previous brand that I would need certain ingredients to be able to scale the business while still keeping it manageable and allowing me to work flexibly. Due to the size of the products and the nature of production we needed to commit to enough stock to fill a container in order for it get off the ground.’
One of the first things the sisters did was build a team. ‘Finding people that intuitively get what the brand is about, and can bring their skills to the table is the difference between running round in circles trying to do it all, and creating a strong foundation for a business. I have pulled together my dream team of collaborators including a photographer, graphic designer, bookkeeper, accountant, mentor (our Dad!) and of course our team in China. Being able to bring in people with skills that are far beyond my own means I can focus on the areas where my strengths lie and not feel overwhelmed by the amount of work there is to be done’.
Rebecca lives in Australia, whilst her sister and business partner Jess in based the UK, so the sisters have worked hard to coordinate product development and launch plans across time zones. On a day-to-day basis, the duo communicate via email, and delegate tasks using Trello. ‘Having worked alone for years I love having someone to bounce ideas off, pat me on the back when something good happens, and to share the responsibility of decisions’ Rebecca says.
One key decision the sisters made early on, was to narrow their focus. ‘When we were developing our products we had so many ideas, and had a bunch of different products at the sample stage. One night I woke up at 3am with a feeling of certainty that we were doing it all wrong! We needed to focus’ admits Becca. ‘Lockers is our thing. It felt right that Mustard should be known for lockers and by reducing our range down to two products we were able to really fill a niche and be known for that, rather than diluting it. We launched with The Shorty and The Skinny in six colours and there’s plenty of room to grow from here! ‘
Aware of the need to have an audience upon launch, the duo also focused their efforts on building a presence on Instagram. ‘Without an audience, it would be like throwing a party and no one coming!’ The pair worked on a teaser campaign on Instagram, slowly revealing their colour palette, before actually revealing what they were going to be selling. ‘It created some intrigue and helped us develop the feel of the brand’ Becca explains. ‘Often social media is the first touch point with the brand, so we have focused on creating a consistent voice and (hopefully) beautiful, quality imagery. It does take a fair amount of work but I have found it to be one of the best investments in building an engaged audience that sticks around.’ The pair have also focused on meeting audiences #IRL, launching at trade show Life In Style to connect with potential stockists.
As any small business owner will tell you, life gets busy when you’re looking to launch. ‘Last year we met up in China (we learned SO much going to the factory ourselves!), then Jess flew over to Australia for our launch at Life in Style, and in September I’ll fly to London to launch in the UK’ Becca outlines. But all this research, hard work and determination has seen Mustard launch with success. They have also listened to their instinct, something Rebecca says is crucial for new business owners. ‘Ask lots of people for their opinions, advice and experience. Then… ignore a good chunk of it and go with your instinct! Having a clear vision of the brand you are creating helps you filter all that information and take what is really useful.’
For now, Becca and Jess are intent on hosting successful launches across hemispheres and finding the best stockists for their pieces. ‘Our first shipment is arriving early June (people can pre-order now). We’re also stocking our lockers in some of the most beautiful stores in Australia and New Zealand and online on our website. In September we’ll be bringing the locker love to the UK launching at Top Drawer. We can’t wait!’