Busy mum Bec Lutz juggles three kids and two businesses – one of which is vibrant Melbourne fashion label Harvest Lane. We asked her about what it takes to launch your own label, the gritty details about running a business, and what her personal life looks like.
Tell us a bit about Harvest Lane.
Harvest Lane is a womenswear fashion label which began when I saw a gap in the market through our three retail stores, Design A Space. I noticed that customers were desperate for easy, comfortable styles as well as wanting original printed fabrics. It became so common for customers to request these two details that I knew I had to make it happen. When producing new collections we still ask our customers directly through the stores what they want from Harvest Lane.
What were you doing before you went into business for yourself?
After studying Fashion Design at RMIT I went off to work for various fashion companies and gain knowledge in an industry that was quickly changing. I then started up a small fashion label and subsequently came up with the concept Design A Space with my husband, Chris Lutz. We opened our first store in 2006.
What made you want to start your own business?
From a young age I sat at the family dinner table listening to my Dad (who started his own business) chat with my Mum about business decisions, dilemmas and future growth. I was always very interested in all aspects and I was determined to have my own business one day.
How did you come up with the name?
The name not only reflects a sense of gathering inspiration from nature; with each season’s prints being indicative of what you might see around you, but it also represents Melbourne’s unique identity and culture. For us, it is the perfect combination of earth meets art.
Describe the staff/ownership structure of Harvest Lane.
I am the sole owner, but we have an incredible management team at Design A Space who also support me with Harvest Lane.
Did you require investment to start your business?
I started the business with $20,000 of personal capital which covered my first collection of stock and the business grew from there.
What kind of advice did you get before you started and from who?
I was really fortunate to draw on my product knowledge gained through 11 years in fashion retail. My aim was to create easy-to-wear styles in fun, quirky prints so working in store and seeing what fits and what styles work best for each body was the most important information. I still regularly chat to friends and family about my ideas and they do guide me through their experiences and share their knowledge in the different fields so that certainly helps me along the way.
What’s the single best piece advice you got?
As my Dad always says If it was easy everyone would be doing it!
What’s the one bit of advice you would give yourself if you were starting again? Focus and concentrate on your own goals.
At Mamamia we have an expression “flearning” – failing and learning. What have been your biggest flearnings since you have started Harvest Lane?
I started Harvest Lane when I fell pregnant with my third child and my first stock delivery was ready 2 days after I gave birth so my husband and Dad had to unpack the stock, mark it off and get out the first orders. Realistically I was already working hard on Design A Space so I should have put my dreams on hold and started the label a year later. I remember feeding in the night and sitting there on my phone replying to emails, posting on social media and just getting by!
What is the smartest thing you’ve done since starting your business? After 11 years at Design A Space I have realised I can’t do everything and be everywhere so it is imperative to have a support structure in place to help achieve success.
Ever wondered how much a model gets paid? Chelsea Bonner has the answers… (post contunites after podcast)
Are there any pieces of technology or software, apps or systems that have made it easier to do what you do?
I am constantly using the Pantone App as I put together new colour palettes for each season. I also rely on Social Media Apps to plan out my content otherwise as the days fly past I could easily go weeks without any posts.
What do you do when you’re feeling like you’re in a hole emotionally (or financially)? How do you handle those ‘deep-trough-of-pain’ startup moments?
For me, there are two simple ways to clear the stress…exercise and be around my kids! It is really important that I go to Yoga at least twice a week. I go before the kids wake up so it is a time where no one will call and I can have a moment’s peace before the chaos of the day begins which allows me to deal with whatever curve balls come my way.
How many hours a day do you work on your business? Has this changed? How do you manage your time?
I work 4 days a week and most nights at home after the kids go to bed. The amount I work changes each year and as the kids get older it becomes easier. The other thing I have noticed is it is amazing what you can get done in a day without the interruptions of little people!
What are your non-negotiables?
The most important thing is that I am there for my kids. I drop them off each morning to school, kinder and child care and do pick up several times a week. I would prefer to be there for them and then work again when they go to sleep rather than miss out on the adventurous stories at the end of each day.
What’s the biggest misconception you had about starting your business – how is it different to what you’d imagined?
I had thought that when I left work each day I would close the door and turn my brain off to work, however, I find that when I walk out the door, this is when my creative ideas start flowing. So I have learnt that there is really never an off button!
Tell us about your proudest moment?
I still get a massive thrill seeing people in the street wearing my designs…there is nothing better.
What does your personal life look like? Who are the important people in your life and work?
The most important people in my life are my husband Chris and our 3 children, Coco, Arabella and Luca. My husband and I work together and live together and we still feel as though we don’t get enough time to catch up! I am very lucky to have such a supportive husband and family.
How much sleep do you get every night?
I would say on average I would have approx. 6-7 hrs a night. I do believe sleep is important, however, I can operate on very little which is a talent I discovered when I had my first child.
What can you recommend to women who might want to get their own hustle going?
I encourage everyone to give it a go…you need lots of drive and energy. If you want something to work badly enough you have to make it happen.
Do you have a mentor? Who do you go to for help and advice now?
I feel as though I have an amazing group of friends and family who all give me support and guidance in the particular areas they work. I feel very grateful for the help they give me.
Since we’re in the #LadyStartUp spirit, which Lady Startups do you recommend? Who should we be looking out for?
You need to check out my gorgeous friends Anna and Miranda from The It Kit who have a brilliant corporate gift company as well as 5 kids between them!