To celebrate International Women's Day, we thought it was time we put the spotlight on the incredible woman who drives the business forward each day. She's a founder, a creative, a mother, a leader, an entrepreneur and so much more. Alice McMullin's journey to creating McMullin & co. has not been straight-forward (spoiler: no business ever is).
There was the time her showroom was flooded. The time she lost all her stock in a fire. And the time she was almost ready to quit but invested her last 10K into a trade show. It turned out to the one of the best business decisions shes's made. Did we mention she also used to get up at 5am with her baby and do bread runs to earn extra money while she was getting the business off the ground? It's safe to say, founding her own business has been anything but easy, but all the challenges she's faced, has made every success even more rewarding. Why it might look life it all flows like clockwork from the outside, anyone who runs their own business will know there's an enormous amount of drie and determination needed to run a company (which is why we're so ecited to speak to Alice for International Women's Day - we couldn't think of a more inspiring woman to profile!).
Here, we speak to Alice about the very beginning of McMullin & co., how to live with simplicity and what keeps her inspired...
You always dreamed of working for yourself - how did McMullin & Co first come about?
I'd moved over to Australia from New Zealand, and I picked up a job working for a construction company. I just knew that it was not the industry for me. I fell pregnant with my long-term partner and realised it wasn't the space for me. I also wanted to be self-sufficient when I came to have my little one, Theo. I started importing Icelandic sheepskins and selling them on eBay and Gumtree. It just kind of grew from there. I'd always been in the interior space and had a huge love of furniture.
You started very small and grew organically. Tell us about the early days…
You've got to find that gap in the market. That one good product that sets you up. I would also add that really strong imagery is key. You might have one product, but it's the way you present it to the customer that’s a huge contributing factor. I would painfully do photo shoots and spend hours on things that would probably take most people a minute.
Is being an entrepreneur what you expected?
Yes and no. There are some great things that have arisen such as I now don't sweat the small stuff. I’ve had damaged containers, a fire, a flood… I actually lost everything in a fire and was uninsured, followed by a flood. My ability to cope with things has grown so much more than when I started out. I never anticipated these things would happen. On the flip side, I've had some really amazing things happen, like my freedom. I'm able to work 9 till 3, around my two children. I always wanted to have that flexibility and to incorporate things like travel into my life. I'm able to do that through my job. I guess that has made it what I imagined, but there’s a lot of stress. I can't shut off ever.
Tell us about the most challenging moments such as the flood and fire…
It’s just one foot in front of the other. My mother-in-law told me the only bit of good advice she ever got from Donald Trump was: “What will worry do?”. It's about finding a solution and not dwelling on what has happened. I’ve always had this attitude and it has really pushed me. I put my life savings into growing the business and then lost it overnight. I put my last $10,000 into a trade show, which was the best thing I did. In the early days, I did bread runs to keep the business afloat. I used to get up at 5:30am every morning, take my little boy with me, and we would deliver the bread. It all eventually worked out but there were a lot of hard times after that fire. All of these challenges teach you a lot of resilience. People see just the pretty and the nice side of a business, but there's always so much more that goes onto it. There are always struggles with every business and far more than meets the eye.
How have you navigated growth in your business?
If I'm honest, it's trial and error. For example, I had no clue on how to deal with stockists. I just learned as I went. I think you can’t be scared of doing something because you think you won’t do it perfectly. It sounds cliché but get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Uncomfortable means growth. When I'm slightly uncomfortable in a situation, I'm like, ‘That means that I'm moving ahead.’ If things are going too perfectly, I'm always like, ‘We are not growing. Something's not right.’
What is your advice to women looking to take the leap and launch their own business, but feeling self-doubt?
I would say just start and don't take no for an answer. If someone says you can't, or for me, if someone says they can’t make a product, I’ll keep pushing. Have the mindset of being a problem solver. You're in the business of finding solutions. Women are really good at this! We are problem solvers. The key thing is don't wait until you think something's a hundred percent perfect. Just start and learn as you go.
How would you describe the McMullin & co. aesthetic?
It's very tonal. There's a lot of colour blocking. There's a real restfulness to it, a calm, which probably comes from me having an incredibly busy mind, almost verging on ADHD. It's so chaotic, that for me, it's so important to have a really calming, serene environment. I think that's really translated into our products and our imagery. I also have a very huge love of soft, organic curves. Even though sometimes I try and get away from it, I always go back to that place. There's an age-old saying, ‘Less is always more.’ I think that's a huge part of our aesthetic, it is always about less and minimalism.
Creating a beautiful space that is also functional can be challenging, especially with kids at home. How do you approach this?
Everything that we pretty much have designed has come from a place of a need within my home. I have less pieces, but everything is really well-made. Our home is basically the McMullin showroom! I test out a lot of the products before and make sure that they are high quality.
How do you define living with simplicity?
I'm a true minimalist. I have one wooden spoon, I have one spatula. I don't have lots of pieces, but the pieces that I have, I really value and they're really important to me. I also have a rule that if I bring something into the home, I have to take something out, and that applies to the children as well. So I guess living with simplicity, is only living with the bare essential of things that you actually need. People come to my house and they're like, "How do you...? You've got like..." I've only got one basket of toys for my children because they don't need more than that. I feel like we have a lot of waste these days, and linking it back to McMullin and co., I think that's one thing that we do also as a brand, we create well-made products that are designed to stand the test of time. It limits that amount of waste that you have.
Tell us how you approach colour palettes, and what your advice to people is when it comes to colour in their home?
It’s a very subjective thing and some people are naturally drawn to lots of colour. I personally am not. I always go for neutral tones because I find them so calming. I use a lot of browns, creams, more organic, natural colours that you would see in your everyday outdoor environment. You'd probably never find pink or purple in my home, but that's not to say they’re not lovely. I just personally don't find them restful for my mind. I like a palette that I find calming and therapeutic.
How do you stay motivated and positive and what keeps you so inspired?
I found my passion very early on and I am truly, truly passionate about furniture, and homewares, and the brand. I love it. It's never a chore for me to come to work. We've got a really lovely community and I feel really lucky to work with my team. I am quite a fluid person, I have an end goal, and I work backwards. I know exactly where I want to be and I know exactly what I want to be doing.