This series of Q&A is all about shining the light on our 6 large feature stalls that we have in the upcoming Christmas market: Etsy Made Local – Saturday 23rd November – Sydney Town Hall.
‘Feature’ stalls are new to our market this year, they are stalls that are larger in size and life than usual and you won’t miss them! There are 6 artists and designers that will be running featured stalls on the day and we’ll be chatting to each of them on the lead up to the market here on the blog.
Today we are chatting to the delightful Becky from HUTWOODS. A candle, bath and body, homewares and fragrance brand that focuses on creating 100% Australian made products that evoke relaxation and allow people to take a moment for themselves through their beautiful products. Believe us, they all smell utterly devine so come to the market and see for yourself!
Here’s what we chatted to Becky from HUTWOODS about:
Tell us about you and your brand! What is your creative practice is, how and when you begin and how long have you been an Etsy seller?
I first launched HUTWOODS back in 2013. At the time I was working full-time in a sales role and I first started making my own candles as a hobby, to provide a creative outlet. It was during this time I came across wood wicks and instantly loved the extra dimension they offered. I loved the crackling sound of the wood wick burning alongside the scent and flicker of the flame.
I kept making candles in my spare time until they were all over our home. At this point, my now husband and business partner, suggested I free up some space as they were on almost every surface! We decided we would book a stall at our local Glebe Market and quickly realised we needed a brand name, so HUTWOODS was born (a combination of mine and my husband’s surnames). It also worked very well given we were making candles with wood wicks!
We received such positive feedback from our first stall and sold out of all the candles! We were so happy with the outcome that we just kept going from there! I immediately saw a business opportunity and quit my full-time sales role within 9 months to solely focus on HUTWOODS. It was within this time period that we launched online and now very proud to have over 60 five star reviews on our Etsy store. Now 6 years on, we’re proudly stocked in over 300 shops across Australia, NZ and the US. We also have our own shop in Caringbah, NSW, which is where we make and ship all of our products. We’re also very excited to announce that have recently sent our first shipment of product to the UK to officially launch HUTWOODS over there!
Where do you call home and what are your creative hotspots where you live or beyond?
I’m originally from Devon in the English countryside and very much love being close to nature. We now live in the Sutherland Shire in Sydney, very close to the Royal National Park. I love the vast space and greenery down here and being away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
I generally split my time between our home and our production space and shop in Caringbah. I’m fortunate that I now have a team of staff who help with production so this allows me to work from anywhere. We have recently built a quiet studio office which is separated from my house in our garden, so a great place work from. I also have an office at our HQ in Caringbah, which is where I am based 2 – 3 times a week. I tend to work much better in quiet spaces where I can truly focus and find this is what works best for me.
What inspires you to make and where do you get your inspiration from?
I find a lot of inspiration from sites such as Pinterest and Instagram and love seeing other makers out there doing their thing and being successful. There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing something you pour your heart into, grow and be appreciated by others.
I also love to travel and get a great deal of inspiration from visiting different places. This is why I love Australia so much. You can jump in a car and within 2 hours you can be in some of the most stunning landscapes on the planet. I feel very lucky to be able to live in this beautiful country.
What does your creative space look like? Are you a home based studio or do you have an external space? Tell us about your making process, what tools/materials/equipment do you use?
Our HQ is based in Caringbah, NSW which is divided up into a large storage area, production space, packing area, office and shop. This was something we purposefully wanted to make happen, as we love meeting our customers in person and have somewhere they can visit to try our products. We have also opened up the space, so customers can actually see our creative process and watch us hand-making our products in our making area. When we’re pouring fragrances, customers often say they can smell our candles 50 metres down the road, so works as a great draw card to encourage people to come in!
We use a lot of different tools and equipment but our biggest are our 2 large wax heaters that we use to melt our natural soy wax ahead of pouring. For many years we used much smaller equipment but upgraded so we could increase our production. This makes a huge difference, especially at busy times such as Christmas. Everything we offer is 100% handmade, so melting, pouring and mixing all happens on site and then our glassware is moved along to be polished and packed for distribution. We use high quality materials in all our products, including pure soy wax, natural wood wicks and luxury fragrance oils. We source the majority of our materials from here in Australia.
Tell us about a typical day for you in your creative practice, do you follow a routine or have a different approach? Which part of the creative process is your favourite and why?
I used to work long hours but recently this has changed quite drastically as 12 weeks ago I gave birth to my first child, a little boy called Coby. Life certainly looks a little different now and I’ve adjusted my working hours to focus on motherhood, which I’m absolutely loving. I’m very fortunate to have great staff which has allowed me to spend quality time with my new baby, whilst running the business more remotely.
I used to be at the shop almost every day but lately I’m managing my business through a project management tool called Trello, where every staff member has a log in. This has been a massive life saver in terms of driving efficiency and streamlining all communication. This covers every aspect of the business, so ensures nothing ever gets missed and allows me to stay in touch with everyone on a daily basis.
I try and spend at least a few hours either in my studio at home or heading to my office to work. The majority of my focus is ensuring all my staff have everything they need for production, keeping on top of orders and managing our raw materials.
I also have a big focus on our marketing and new product innovation. The last few months have been a little crazy as we have decided to launch in the UK and also launch a brand-new product range (all whilst having a baby)! With any new product, this takes months of trialing, testing and fine tuning to get right, so this is where I invest a lot of my time. This is also my favourite part as it’s my creative outlet and I love coming up with new products and constantly evolving the brand.
What would you say is the biggest challenge when running your own business, what is your favourite and least favourite part?
Without doubt, my favourite is being able to bring ideas to life and putting my heart and soul into making products that other people love. There is no better feeling than this and makes me immensely proud. I’ve also really enjoyed building a team and learning to let go and trust and empower staff to input their ideas and contribute to building the business.
My least part is probably never being able to switch off, it’s just impossible. Even when I go on holiday I have to allocate a couple of hours each day to the business and checking in with the team. This has been even more challenging recently with having a baby, where my focus and attention has been divided. I’m blessed that my staff have been incredible, making it much easier for me. I still can’t help myself and every time my little boy goes down for a sleep, I jump back online!
What would you say is your proudest achievement to date? And if it hasn’t happened yet, what do you aspire to?
My biggest achievement would be when I quit my full-time job back in 2014 to pursue HUTWOODS as a career. It was an amazing feeling when I realised HUTWOODS could actually be something I could do every day and I love that we have built up such loyal customer and stockist base along the way. People who bought from us all those years ago at Glebe Market still continue to today, which we are so grateful for. Whenever we receive a positive email or review, it makes me immensely proud. It’s all the motivation I need to keep working hard on growing the business.
In terms of the future, launching in the UK has taken a lot of planning and is both exciting and scary, as it feels like we’re starting all over again. I just want to keep making products that people enjoy and build a brand that is proudly Australian made.
Where would you like to see your brand in 5 years time?
I’m passionate about growing our stockists both in Australia and overseas so I’d like to see this increase over the next 5 years. I’d like to also grow our current team of staff and expand our product range to include other categories. Watch this space!
What’s your favourite thing about being part of Sydney Made? Is this your first market, if not what do you like about attending our events?!
I’ve been involved in Sydney Made for a number of years now and had the privilege to exhibit at a number of events. I love that I’m part of a group of so many incredibly talented Australian makers. We’re all united in wanting people to invest in products that are such a big part of ourselves.
For me, it’s also so important to meet and speak with customers face-to-face. This allows us to communicate the story of our brand and products. It’s also a great way to listen and take on feedback that can improve our business.
If you could give yourself a piece of advice when you began, what would it have been?
Running your own business can be extremely rewarding but there’s also many ups and downs that are part of the journey. I think one of the most important things to remember at the beginning is that you’re going to make lots of mistakes along the way, and that’s ok! As long as you learn from each mistake and constantly improve (and keep going) then everything always works out in the end.
Thanks for sharing your story Becky! We can’t wait to see your feature stall at the market, we know it will look [ and smell] amazing 🙂
Compiled by Sydney Made Leader – Katy of Shiztastic
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