HOME SWEET HOME
Meet two entrepreneurs whose HOMEWARES brand is a testament to strong supplier relationships and never straying far from their ETHICAL boundaries.
After building a successful business creating and sourcing artwork for hotels, Jasmine Smith and her business partner, Leanne Pearce, decided to start their second company. And so St Barts was born – a lifestyle store selling “everything we loved to collect on our travels”.
It was 2008 and, while the duo were in the midst of fitting out five towers in Abu Dhabi with art, the financial crisis hit – but at the same time, someone asked them to open an art gallery.
“Everyone thought we were a bit crazy, as this was not the time to expand – but sometimes you have to just believe, despite the odds, and take that chance,” says Jasmine of the Gold Coast gallery.
After opening art space Gallery One, and retail business St Barts next door, the latter has since expanded with a wholesale range. And when the owners of their premises had a second site become available, Leanne and Jasmine opened a second shopfront in Brisbane.
Here, we quiz Jasmine on the details of their adventure so far.
YOU SOURCE HOMEWARES FROM INDIA, MOROCCO AND INDONESIA – HOW DID YOU REACH OUT TO SUPPLIERS?
We found it helpful to have an agent that can speak the language and negotiate on your behalf. Initially it’s tough, as you’re reaching out and establishing connections for the first time, however the more you visit a place the easier it becomes. Often you meet people who have other connections within the business, which can lead you to some amazing relationships.
WHAT DO THESE SUPPLIER RELATIONSHIPS LOOK LIKE NOW?
Some villages, I have worked with from the beginning, and they are like family now. I visit them three or four times a year to discuss new designs and see what they’ve been working on. Whilst I’m there I am always looking for new inspiration and meeting new craftsmen.
We’ve had our share of miscommunications, inability to supply and accuracy with designs, but that is a part of sampling. It’s a challenge but a fantastic learning curve – and can even sometimes lead to some happy accidents!
HOW DO YOU HIRE SUPPLIERS WITH ETHICS THAT ALIGN WITH YOUR OWN?
Mostly you can tell by just talking to people what sort of ethics they have. If it’s a larger production run for the wholesale range, I visit the factories and meet the workers and see their conditions. If it’s small villages, I sit with the families who are making the products, I always make sure they are receiving a fair wage. It is very important that they can earn money and educate their children, it’s something I often hear from the families we work with.
HOW DO YOU BRING CALM TO THE CHAOS OF RUNNING A BUSINESS?
We have always brought our best friends to work with us, our dogs. They always calm a tense day and remind us how simple life can be.