Meet Velda from Almond Tree Designs
My name is Velda and I am mum to two gorgeous but very cheeky little boys (aged 4 and 2.5). I also run an online shop called Almond Tree Designs, which specialises in wall art and gifts. I grew up in New Zealand, spent some time living in London, and then moved to Melbourne with my husband and two boys a few years ago. I was a chartered accountant in a past life, so it has been an exciting but challenging few years since becoming a business owner and mother of two, all while settling in a new environment!
Tell us about your business?
We design and make a huge range of personalised and handcrafted paper art frames and inspirational prints. We also have a small range of stationery and homewares that is gradually expanding. Our main target audience is anyone looking for special and unique gifts and keepsakes for newborns, christenings and children’s birthdays. However, we also have many designs that are perfect for grown-ups too!
We like to support local businesses so all our prints and frames are made in Melbourne, and all our handcrafted paper artwork is created in-house. We pride ourselves on producing the highest quality products and work really closely with our suppliers to achieve this.
What does being a business owner mean to you?
Being a business owner means being accountable for everything in the business, and being the driving force behind the business’ growth and direction. It means having to be confident, assertive and decisive, which are skills that I am constantly working on!
However, it also means doing what I love and being able to be creative. Also, because we are online, it means I have the flexibility I need to look after my young family. It’s hard work, there are long hours working into the night, and you never really get to switch off because you are constantly thinking of what to do next. But the satisfaction I get from creating something beautiful and the heartfelt thanks and appreciation we receive from our amazing customers when they receive their frames makes it all worthwhile.
What would you say is your greatest professional accomplishment to date?
It would have to be the inclusion of a set of our prints in the 2014 TV Week Logie Awards Gift Bags. We often have our products featured in publications like Home Beautiful and Inside Out, but to be included in something as high profile as the Logies was just amazing!
On a more day to day level though, my greatest sense of accomplishment comes from the sincere feedback we receive from our customers who love our products and for whom we’ve become their “go to” place for gift buying. We hear some beautiful stories from our customers, but my favourites are the lady who reads out the quote from our “Always Remember – You’re a Superhero” print with her two sons before bed every night, and the lady who ordered a custom “Always be Dr Batman” print for her son when he graduated from medical school. It was so moving for me because her son had loved Batman and wanted to become a Doctor ever since he was 2 years old, and he had worked really hard to achieve his goal. I felt so honoured to be able to create something for them to celebrate and commemorate such a special moment.
What have been the most effective marketing initiatives or programs you have used to promote your business?
For us, making an amazing product and word of mouth is by far the most effective marketing tool. We have a real focus on the quality of our products and on making sure that customers are 110% happy with their personalised artwork. I think this makes a real difference as we’ve had so many new customers shop with us after falling in love with our prints and artwork that they’ve seen at a friends’ place or after being given one of our frames by a friend.
What do you do for fun/relaxation?
With 2 little boys and a business to run it doesn’t feel like there’s much time for fun and relaxation! However, family time in the weekends is precious and I love being able to take the boys out with hubby, even just to one of the local playgrounds. The boys really enjoy getting outdoors and love all the slides. Hearing them giggling away and seeing how happy they look is just gorgeous.
What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
1. Be a good networker – often knowing the right people can make a world of difference to your business!
2. Have a goal and a plan, be organised and know everything (both financially and operationally) about your business
3. Be positive, decisive and be able to learn from any setbacks.
What is a fear you face in business? Have you overcome it? How do you manage fear?
There are always good days and bad days in business. And in retail in particular, your sales can fluctuate quite dramatically from day to day. I wasn’t prepared for the downtimes, because I was so used to the stability that comes from working for someone else in a professional services firm. It’s taken me a while to get used to it, but now I’ve learnt to organise and plan my time better to take advantage of those quieter times, because now I know that they don’t last!
What makes you happy?
These days it would have to be a nice lie-in and cuddles with all my boys!
Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most and why?
I absolutely adore and admire this British company called The White Company, which sells homeware, ladies clothing and gifts. They also have a spin-off business called “The Little White Company” that has a gorgeous range of clothing, nursery accessories and toys for kids. The White Company is a truly inspirational example of a business that was launched from someone’s spare room, grew into a respected UK-wide high-street retailer, and then went international. I used to shop there all the time because I loved everything they did – their style is so classic and timeless.
Also, after joining the WBS and Mumtrepreneur Groups, I’ve met many talented ladies/mums who have started their own businesses from scratch. What some of these mums have achieved in a short space of time is phenomenal. These mums started out with hobby businesses but have achieved exponential growth and huge social media followings within 2-3 years and I find that truly inspirational. These ladies are amazing with the amount of energy, enthusiasm and good old fashioned hard work they have put in.
Where do you see yourself and your business in 10 years? 20 years?
So far our business has focused primarily on wall art in the Australian and New Zealand market. I would love to grow our product range to incorporate more homewares, and introduce our amazing Australian-made products to more overseas markets.
Do you have kiddies if so how many? And what is their favourite activity to do with you.
I have two young boys, aged 2.5 and 4, who have bundles and bundles of energy. Whilst they love it when I spend time with them doing their favourite things (anything Wiggles related for the 2.5 year old and building Lego for the 4 year old!), I’ve found that they just love spending any time when mummy and daddy can be silly with them and without any work-related distractions!
What is your favourite inspirational quote?
It would have to be the quote from our most popular print. It’s a little bit of combined wisdom from Winnie the Pooh and Almond Tree Designs: “Always remember you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, smarter than you think and twice as beautiful as you’d ever imagined”. When you’re having a bad day, it’s nice to read that and pick yourself up!
Velda’s Top 5 business tips
1. Think Big. Always have a goal and a plan on how to get there, but be flexible and adapt when things don’t go to plan!
2. Be organised and know everything (both financially and operationally) about your business.
3. Don’t forget the boring stuff like your bookkeeping, accounting, and tax and business compliance requirements.
4. Maintain a good network of contacts and advisors who can help you manage and grow your business.
5. Do what you love, and you’ll hardly ever feel like you are working!
Connect with Velda
Womens Business Society Team
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