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Elizabeth Abegg from Spell and the Gypsy Collective talks money, finding your business voice and the 80/20 rule.

Ever wondered how a start up navigates their way to success? We spoke with business babe and one half of sister-duo from Spell and the Gypsy Collective, Elizabeth Abegg who has shared her insight to turning your passion into a reality.

Ever wondered how a start up navigates their way to success? We spoke with business babe and one half of sister-duo from Spell and the Gypsy Collective, Elizabeth Abegg who shared her insight on turning passion into a reality. 


When you first created Spell and the Gypsy Collective, did you realise it was going to be this successful?

EA: When I first moved up to Byron Bay to go into business with my sister, I was shocked at the local following she’d already developed through selling her wares at the Byron Bay markets. I remember people would come to the markets and be like ‘where’s the Spell stall?!’

So even from very early on I knew Isabella was designing something really special, but I had no idea what would be possible in terms of the reach and traction that we’d get later through social media. Back in 2009 Instagram and Pinterest hadn’t launched yet, so it felt like you were only as big as your wholesale list, now it’s a totally different story.

What confirmed that your business model was going to be something people wanted or needed?

EA: In the early days Isabella and I had a really simple way of deciding if we were going to make a particular design or not; we’d wear it out and if people crossed the street to ask where we’d got it from, we knew it would be a hit. And to this day our customers still tell us that people chase them down the street to ask where they got their dresses.

But as for our business model, we have a very strong 80/20 rule, (about 70% of our revenue comes from online, 10% bricks and mortar and 20% from wholesale) and once we realised this breakdown worked for us we’ve worked very hard to keep online our primary source of revenue.

 

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How does having the right team of employees contribute to the make or break of Spell and the Gypsy Collective?

EA: Our team is everything to our business, and I don’t just mean having a big team, I mean having the right team and the right workplace culture too. We all share the same values which means we’re always growing in the right direction. In 2015 we adopted the mantra ‘better not bigger’ and it’s helped shape the business in the right way because we check back with that mantra every time we make a decision. Isabella and I call our team our Angels, firstly because they allowed us to spend more time with our families when our kids were being born, but now because they live and breathe the values of our business.

How did you ensure that your company's voice was being heard amongst all the saturated noise within the industry?

EA: To be honest, when we started the label in 2009 there wasnt much noise or saturation. It felt like there was a vacuum of really great independent labels that could create great content. Sure there were big labels all doing the same thing, and then there was Zimmerman and Sass and Bide who always stood out from the rest, but I was craving to see something different. So in the early days we just created great content and got great cut through. Today, there is a lot more noise but we just look forward and try not to be distracted.

How stressful was it to turn your company into something that you actually profited from?

EA: VERY! In the early days we both had 2nd jobs, got RSI from hand-making jewellery and then there was waking up at the crack of dawn to do the markets, if it rained we’d make no money. Once online grew, it was photoshoots every opportunity and hire, hire, hire to keep up with demand. Rapid growth was so stressful because every time we felt we had it under control, we needed to attend to a different area that felt like it was bursting at the seams. We didn't push for growth, it just happened organically which meant we were always behind the 8 ball. My biggest stress though was the fear of not being able to implement all my ideas.

 

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How important is it to understand the online market and trends?

EA: This is an interesting question for us, because it has not been something that has moulded or been the foundation of the Spell journey. It is certainly something we’ve been looking at more over the past couple of years, wanting to keep on top of the best technologies for our website to create an epic customer experience, as well as be on top of whatever platforms are the next big thing. But we’ve been much more influenced in our design by vintage styles and eras gone by rather than passing trends. We pretty much just create what we’re wanting to wear each season and it seems to flow pretty well in sell through.

What's the most vital piece of business advice you've ever received?

EA: I think when someone pointed out our business model (the 80% retail / 20% wholesale sweet spot) it made a huge difference to really accepting, and even celebrating, that we were an online business and not a wholesale business.


Elizabeth Abegg from Spell and the Gypsy Collective will present at the 2017 Online Retailer Conference & Expo hosted on 26-27 July 2017 at the ICC Sydney.

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