lady startup

Pom poms, leopard print, hot pink boots: Why we're loving this Aussie footwear brand.

After years peddling her skills for the likes of Scanlan Theodore and Mimco, accessories designer Petrina Hare stepped out on her own and launched Phare; an Insta-perfect range of Melbourne-designed, Italian-made luxury footwear.

Learn how she did it – and continues to do it – in the below interview with Mamamia.

What is Phare?

Phare is an affordable luxury footwear brand that focuses on timeless styles with a fashionable edge. You can walk in them without breaking your neck, ankles or bank account, can wear them season after season.

I design my shoes in Melbourne and have them made in Italy by amazing artisans that also create footwear for some of the leading international design houses.

Petrina-Hare-phare

Petrina Hare. Image via Facebook.

What were you doing before you went into business for yourself?

I was a footwear and accessories designer.

What made you want to start your own business?

I had been toying with the idea for a couple of years, but was really hesitant to take that leap into the unknown. A few life changes along with the increasing frustration over what was available in the footwear market, I decided the time was now.

How did you come up with the name?

Phare (pronounced fair) is a play on my own name, Petrina Hare. I liked that it was a homophone with french/latin origins meaning lighthouse.

Describe the staff/ownership structure of the Phare.

I am the sole director and the only staff. It hasn't changed since I started, however, I recently engaged a PR and marketing consultant to assist with that side of the business.

Did you require investment to start your business? 

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Yes, I required investment, which came from a mix of my own funds, family and, luckily, a loan from the bank. I say luckily because a lot of banks don't seem to like lending to start ups.

What's the single best piece of advice you got?

Generally speaking, the best advice came in the form of questions. People would ask, "So after you do that, then what?" This would really get me thinking about things I hadn't thought of before.

What's the one bit of advice you would give yourself if you were starting again?

To self-promote more. If you can't, then engage someone who can. I'm a believer in that the product should speak for itself, but being an online business, you really need to be able to tell people how amazing the product is along with your story and the brand's story.

At Mamamia we have an expression "flearning" - failing and learning. What have been your biggest flearnings since you have started Phare?

You can't do everything yourself!

As a start up money is generally a little tight, so you find yourself trying to do things that might save a little money. For me, I should have engaged a bookkeeper and a PR/marketing person, which can end up costing time and money in the long run. You really just need to dedicate your time to what you are good at and get help for the rest.

What's the smartest thing you've done since starting Phare?

Take baby steps and listen to what the market and consumers are telling me.

Scroll through to see some of the stunning shoes from Phare. Images via Instagram. (Post continues after gallery.)

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Are there any pieces of technology or software, apps or systems that have made it easier to do what you do?

Xero accounting software is like having a bookkeeper of sorts (you still need one of those, but it does a lot of the work for you). Shopify is the platform for my online store, and has an app so you can run it from your phone. Foursixty is an Instagram shop app that allows you to tag your product so people can simply tap on it and shop it.

What do you do when you're feeling like you're in a hole emotionally (or financially)?

Talk about it to close friends and family, cry and scream it all out. Sometimes you just need someone to say that they believe in you and to not give up.

How many hours a day do you work on your business? Has this changed?

It varies from day to day depending on what stage of the season I'm at. For example, if I'm designing a new collection I'll spend up to 12 hours, or if I'm visiting my manufacturer in Italy viewing samples and visiting leather fairs it will be up to 14-16 hours. But it can also be as little as five hours if I'm not designing or travelling.

What are your non-negotiables?

Exercise. I might have to sacrifice a night here and there, but I ensure I get in at least three sessions a week.

Naomi Simson shares the reality of starting a small business from home. (Post continues after audio.)

What does your personal life look like?

I make sure that I don't sacrifice my personal life for the business and try to see my friends as frequently as possible. My friends and family have become my absolute backbone, and they have been the ones who tell me to keep going when I think I've made a stupid mistake.

The great thing about start ups is that you also get to meet some very interesting and helpful people along the way; people that really appreciate the risk you take and want to help you.

What's the biggest misconception you had about starting your business?

Thinking that it can instantly take off. Even some of the 'hot' startup businesses you see on social media, particularly Instagram, have been around much longer than you think and have had a lot of work put into them. You need to be prepared for some scary, but ultimately rewarding, moments.

Tell us about your proudest moment. 

Hearing Ashley Hart say how much she loved my shoes and posting an Instagram story wearing them. Hearing anyone say they love my shoes makes me proud, but hearing an Australian-born international model say it was really special!

What can you recommend to women who might want to get their own hustle going?

Make sure you are asking questions such as "what does the market need" in the planning stages of your business to ensure that your idea meets that need. You need to be able to adapt to what the market is telling you they want from you. This may mean slightly deviating from your original plan.

Since we're in the #LadyStartUp spirit, which Lady Start Ups do you recommend?

Shebah is the female only taxi service that is one of my absolute favourites that I use all the time. She is a fellow Australian #LadyStartUp!

Sans Beast is a #LadyStartUp by a friend of mine who has developed a range of handbags that are cruelty free.

You can see more from Phare at their website, Instagram or Facebook. If you have a #LadyStartUp or want to recommend one for us to cover, drop us an email: [email protected]

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