She’s the face behind your tween’s favourite store, but over the past year, Janine Burford has had her hands busy creating something both your girls and your boys will love. We’re going Behind the Brand with Harper Bee and School Buzz founder Janine Burford.

What was your inspiration to start your own business?
Harper Bee was created to look after tween girls. So often tweens are the forgotten age in retail – everything is either too young and ‘Disney’ or too adult. Tween years can be pretty tough. My daughter was bullied at that age and has had mental health issues ever since – so I wanted to give girls a brand that makes them feel special, lifts their spirits and helps them believe that they are good enough. 

When did you know the timing was ‘right’?
I had just left my husband and walked away from my business: Spencil Stationery. I was sitting in an empty apartment licking my wounds and decided to focus on what I knew best – design, production, retail and kids. 

What was your training prior to starting your own business?
I published academic textbooks before having a major car accident in 2003. I suffered a traumatic brain injury and was told I would never work again. That got me determined to prove the doctors wrong! It took 3 years to get my words and memory back, and by 2006 I was producing stationery out of China and supplying retailers around Australia

What are the biggest challenges of being a parent and a business owner?
The biggest challenge is the time I have had to be away from Jessie. I remember her phoning me while I was in China – it was 6pm and she was STILL by ‘the big tree’ at school waiting for someone to pick her up (Grandmother had fallen asleep…)

What is your top tip for maintaining a work/life balance?
Our rule is that when we drive into the carpark at home every night, we stop talking about work. (rate of success: 2/10)

What is your biggest learning since starting your own business? Is there anything you’d do differently?
Always have a practical, strategic, finance focused minder hovering in the background. I tear around the place with grand plans and great passion. Sometimes my vision is not today’s reality!

What do you do in your spare time to keep yourself sane?
What spare time? I’m in retail! When I need to turn my brain off I head to the movies. I went to Jumanji with the kids on Saturday night. I shrieked and giggled for 2 hours (and didn’t think about work once!) 

What’s one thing other people should do who are looking to start their own business?
Find a mentor. Someone who doesn’t share your passion. Someone who can point out challenges and ground you.

Finish this sentence: I can’t get through a work day without… chatting to mums and their tween daughters. They lift my soul and remind me why I’m here.




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