Looking for the perfect client or expat gift? Here’s the story of one businesswoman who, frustrated by the lack of beautiful Australian-made gifts for clients, took the plunge and launched her own.
As is the story with many a successful start-up, it was frustration over a gap in the market that gave Felicia Rusher the idea for her business and the gumption to leave her corporate job and launch it. Never able to find the perfect Australia-themed gift for friends and clients, Rusher decided to launch I still call Australia home – Australian made hampers that are perfect for Christmas, overseas friends and family and, of course, corporate clients and colleagues. Here, Rusher tells us how she did it.
Can you tell us about coming up with the idea for your business and the moment you decided to take the plunge and start it?
I was travelling the world with work, spending over three months in each destination with a corporate job. When I left each place, I always wanted to give senior clients a beautiful gift from Australia but struggled to find anything beautiful that was not made in China or that was a bit of a ‘joke’ gift. There were a lot of ‘chicks in a red bikini on the beach’ or ‘koalas up a gum tree with a beer’ motifs that were tacky and inappropriate.
When I came back to Australia I managed international teams who were in Australia for a single project. I wanted to give them something from Australia that was beautiful AND made in Australia to take back home – and still struggled! So I thought ‘there’s a real gap in the market here’ … and so it began.
Did you do much research/trialling of products and ideas before you began?
I went through a lot of suppliers and was shocked at how much product in Australia is not made here. There were many suppliers who I thought had the perfect product, but it turned out the ‘Aussie’ product was made overseas. I just couldn’t buy from them.
This made me even more determined to support companies, artisans and producers who make product here and employ Australians in doing so.
Did you leave your job immediately or manage both for a while?
I tried to do both for a bit and realised it was just never going to work until I took the plunge. Juggling a senior corporate role and trying to start a more creative business was just too much. So I left the corporate world and focussed on this business 100 per cent.
Was it complicated starting an online store? Can you talk us through the process?
Yes and no. It’s easy to get an online e-commerce site up that looks good. Anyone can do that. Getting it to securely take payments, attract and convert customers at good margins 24-7? THAT is the trick!
What’s the competition like out there?
The competition in gift hampers in Australia is huge. Much bigger than I realised when I first started. It seems every week someone is starting their own gift hamper site and I’ve already seen some go out of business because the magic formula of making it work isn’t easy.
I have focused on my unique selling proposition – and that is I only sell products made in Australia that either look good, or taste even better. Also I send these stunning Aussie made gifts and gift hampers overseas for a flat rate that includes all duties and taxes due at the other end, plus tracking. I don’t know of any other hamper company in Australia doing this. Even David Jones is sending customers my way for this service.
What are your biggest sellers and what’s your demographic?
The Picnic at Hanging Rock Gift Hamper is a favourite – within Australia and overseas. It’s got some great keepsakes as well as delicious chutneys, wine and treats.
Afternoon Tea Deluxe (pictured) has been very popular, and Premium Australian Table has got something for everyone and works for a family or for a large corporate office or VIP. Also this Christmas, I’ve started to sell individual items so people can make their own hamper up. Items like these Australian Christmas decorations and rum balls are proving really popular.
People who like my brand the most include big businesses who work internationally and want to send a stunning Australian thank you gift to teams overseas, or a ‘Welcome to Australia’ gift for their VIPs. Big brands I’ve sent for include Coca Cola, News Limited, Penguin Random House Publishing, and Sony Music.
Also, individuals who have family or close friends overseas and just want to send birthday, wedding, thank-you or ‘thinking of you’ gifts or care packages that are all-Australian without being tacky. Sixty per cent of my gifts get sent overseas and over half of these go to the UK, or USA. There are so many Aussies over there or expats with parents and family still living overseas.
Has it been a good journey – are you glad you took the plunge?
I wouldn’t change a thing. My biggest reason for doing this was lifestyle and to be in a business that creates and promotes positivity in the world. I now have a partner, a dog and walk on the beach every single morning. I get to support Australian artisans and Australian jobs. I also get to be a small part of special moments in people’s lives – every day – when they congratulate, thank, say happy birthday, send wedding gifts, happy 100th birthday gifts, or just send love around Australia or the oceans. It’s pretty awesome and I’m very grateful.
Any tips for hopeful eCommerce entrepreneurs?
At the risk of sounding like a sports brand commercial… Stop talking about it and just do it. Never give up. You CAN do it.