Belinda Watson couldn’t find anything fun to wear to all her upcoming events with her friends.
Ten years later and her women’s fashion label, Binny, is a huge success and each of her collections tell a story.
Read her interview with Mamamia.
What is Binny?
Binny Watson with son Ollie. Image: supplied.
The brand has kept this foundation as part of its DNA since starting, even though it has grown and developed over the last almost ten years. I am now designing with the thought of life with babies and school runs. Less high heels and more sneakers.
Every single piece has a little tale to tell and they all come together to share a bigger message.
What were you doing before you went into business for yourself?
My career path is so random. I took a couple of years off from fashion and moved from Melbourne to Sydney to work in marketing for an international horse stud owned by a Sheikh. A long time before I even got into fashion though I was a chef and my parents bred racehorses. Random, right?
What made you want to start your own business?
I realised how much I missed and enjoyed the fashion industry. After starting two brands from scratch for other companies and being involved in all sides of the business, from sales to design, I took a deep breath and decided to try my own brand.
How did you come up with the name?
After thinking about it forever I finally settled on my own nickname, Binny. I never wanted to call it after myself but it was holding everything up and I just had to call it something.
Describe the staff/ownership structure of your business.
It has changed so much! It was just me and the sales agents for the last nine years. Now I have a great team around me and everything is a lot more enjoyable. I have Kirsty who runs the office, Erin my PR agent and Catherine my production manager. Alongside my fantastic sales team who have been there from the start.
What's the single best piece of advice you got?
Just stop listening to everyone and listen to yourself. I found it so hard to design at the start as I had so much input from everyone and I would get confused.
About five years in, due to the Commonwealth Games, my key supplier shut down and we had disaster after disaster with production issues. I started to give up. My key account in Queensland sat me down and said Binny, you have such a good brand here. Sort your bloody production out and get on with it. I still laugh and love her for it.
What's the one bit of advice you would give yourself if you were starting again?
The back end is SO important. Spend time researching and finding a proper production person to help right from the very start.
At Mamamia we have an expression "flearning" - failing and learning. What have been your biggest flearnings since you have started your business?
Try to avoid ever working with your partner. There is a lot more to that story but we shall leave it there.
Also, always go to the factories. I always do but once I ran out of time and very sweet Indian man came to my hotel and convinced me to trial him as a new supplier. I remember thinking, gosh, that's a shocking looking suitcase but then I got excited about what he was showing me so I didn't think about it much more. I put a whole really successful selling gorgeous lace category with him. It was shattering and falling apart as it came out of the bags, covered in brown dirty water marks and smelt very strongly of petrol. I think I am still getting returns from it four years down the track. It was a NIGHTMARE.
Scroll through to see some beautiful pieces from Binny's collections. Images supplied. (Post continues after gallery.)
What's the smartest thing you've done since starting your business?
Hiring people to help with everything I hate doing. I wish I had done it sooner. I now miss packing orders and like helping, whereas before I would be annoyed when another online order came in as it meant I would have to go back to the post office. (Should I actually be admitting to that?!)
Are there any pieces of technology or software, apps or systems that have made it easier to do what you do?
Teamviewer is fantastic. We have a head office computer that my office manager and I can jump on whenever we want as well as laptops so we can work wherever we want.
Dropbox is amazing for large photo sharing.
We are looking into some new programs that involve our wholesale customers entering their own orders.
And Xero, which cuts huge data entry and accounting time.
How many hours a day do you work on your business? Has this changed?
I don't really have set hours. I feel like it's all the time. However, since having Ollie and his screaming while I am on the phone, I have had to have a more structured approach such as during his nap times and at night.
What are your non-negotiables?
I am deep in new motherhood land and always have to put Ollie to bed no matter what. I love that time, it's the only time I just thin about him and me and nothing else. I am already sad about him going to school and he is not even two yet.
Listen: South of The Border designer Vanessa Cranfield talks to Mia Freedman about her family and her career. Post continues after audio.
What's the biggest misconception you had about starting your business?
It's lonely. I never realised how much I would miss working in a fun office full of laughing and silliness. I have so many old work friends and miss those days!
Tell us about your proudest moment.
Every time I look at the photo shoot and videos we have done for the latest collection. They are just so powerful and the range comes to life. It is just SO much work to get to that point.
Also, whenever I see someone wearing it on the street. I still thinks its amazing and secretly feel like running up to them and going THANK YOU!
What can you recommend to women who might want to get their own hustle going?
Be patient, resilient and work really, really hard. Listen to your customers. There is no other way. You also have to be different to stand out now, because I feel it's a very crowded and small market in Australia.
Do you have a mentor?
I would love one but I don't really have one yet. I like talking to friends and family who have their own businesses but they aren't necessarily in the same field.
Since we're in the #LadyStartUp spirit, which Lady Start Ups do you recommend?
Banjo Bear and The Carob Kitchen's carob chocolate. YUM.