FK chats to Sarah of uniquely curated online shop Hello Polly! Sarah offers some great tips for designers wanting to approach retailers too!
Tell us a bit about Hello Polly and the concept behind it.
Hello Polly is an online store for those who want to find unique, inspirational artwork and design from independent artists. Home wares, stationary, accessories, ceramics and design led goods all sit alongside artwork, encouraging different types of people to be able to enjoy our online shop, as well as pop up shops and market events. Which is exactly what they have been doing since we opened our door in October 2011. We are extremely passionate about art and found that there has been is a gap in the market for great quality, affordable artwork and design led goods. Like many like minded friends, we were always looking at design magazines and books and thinking ‘where can I find work like that for my walls or shelves, and why can’t it be affordable?’. We were also keen to support creative people trying to make a break and survive in the industry. We had spent years discovering talented artists and designers, some of whom were struggling to find an outlet for their work – for many, their work didn’t quite fit the traditional gallery space mold, neither did it sit alongside generic ‘gift shop’ stock, which is where Hello Polly comes in.
Who is the team behind Hello Polly and what lead you to where you are today?
Behind the scenes of Hello Polly is me, Sarah Kelk, a full time mother of two who loves the challenge of juggling a new business with her 3 year old son Charlie and 9 month old Annie in tow. My husband James has also become an expert at bringing me cups of tea, getting orders packed and distracting our young children. I grew up in New Zealand and studied both Art History and Design. I worked in various gallery and design spaces in New Zealand, as well as some time spent working as an Interior Designer. In 2002 my husband and I decided to travel the world, and after 2 years, ran out of money in Edinburgh, which is where we were to live for the next 7 years. Whilst in Edinburgh, I was fortunate enough to help establish The Red Door Gallery, dealing with talented artists and designers till early 2011. My husband and I had always hoped to end up in Melbourne at some point to be closer to friends and family. When he was offered a job in Melbourne early 2011, it made our decision to leave Edinburgh (our home for 7 years) that bit easier. We had initially started looking for a physical shop space, as we were passionate about continuing a creative business here in Australia, but decided to test the waters by beginning with an online store. Being primarily an online business, we love how we can share our unique product around Australia and the rest of the world. We also love the creative outlook that Melbourne as a city has, and are thrilled to be able to add something to that, in our own way.
What qualities do you look for in the artwork and designs you stock?
The work we stock has to stand out, be unique and be in a similar style to other products we showcase. We have always worked on the ‘If we like it, and think others will too’ ethos, then its gets added to the list of products we’d love to stock.
What advice would you give to artists and designers looking at being represented on Hello Polly?
We love hearing from artists and designers (regardless of whether they are established or emerging) and really appreciate people taking the time to submit work for consideration. If anyone out there has been creating something special they would like to get into a retail space, then send us an email telling us about yourself and what you do. If we like what you create, and think it fits with the other Hello Polly stock, then we might just give it a go. Here are a couple of tips that will help with any submissions you may put forward in the future (to Hello Polly as well as to other retailers). – Be as professional as possible. Your first email is kind of like meeting someone for the first time – make it upbeat, to the point and make sure all the spelling is correct; there is nothing worse than receiving an email with your name spelt wrong! – Make sure you check out any submission guidelines before emailing. The recipient will be much happier getting an email containing the things they want to see e.g., image formats, file sizes and product info. – Try and get together a few great shots of the products you are submitting. It’s amazing how well your work will stand out from the crowd when its photographed favorably. A few styled ‘in situ’ shots always help too. – Treat your work with respect. It’s a shame to come across amazing pieces, only to see them post them poorly wrapped (resulting in breakages), dog-eared or dented. – Be confident and proud of your work. It will get you a lot further than locking your creations away in the cupboard for no one to see.
What is your favourite part about running your online shop?
I love dealing with both sides of the coin, the artists/designers and the customers who are looking for something a bit different, whilst supporting an independent business (and in turn artists) and it’s a pleasure to be able to piece those two together. Opening boxes of new stock and getting to ‘ooohh’ and ‘aaahhh’ over lovely things is nice too.
What challenges have you faced running and setting up your own business?
One of the biggest initial challenges for us was juggling the setup and opening of the store with a young family. Annie was born just 10 days prior to the launch, so we literally jumped in (baby) boots and all. My amazing sister, who lives just around the corner, was a savior. Having run a similar business in Edinburgh for years prior to Hello Polly definitely helped iron out any potential creases. Yet anyone out there who has had anything to do with a small business will know that you face challenges on a daily basis, whether you are in setting up stage or not. I guess it’s part of why most small business owners become very good at problem solving and multi-tasking!
What are your hopes for Hello Polly in the future?
We’re hoping to continue with the amazing business growth we’ve experienced in our first year online. We are also planning to launch a small range of Hello Polly products prior to Christmas. I can’t give away too much yet, but they are set to be stunning.