Summer may be over, but here in Queensland we never really see the end of “beach weather”. The only thing we really have to change up is throwing a wetsuit and an extra thick, super soft and – ideally – hooded towel into our beach basket.
haven magazine sat down with Michelle Harris Smith and Jess Maxted, the creators of the softest, purest 100% European linen towel brand, Weave and Willow, to talk business, big breaks and balance.
What was your inspiration to start your own business?
Our inspiration is drawn from the earth and an awareness of our impact upon this Earth. Once we had children our mindset shifted and we both wanted to move forward as parents ensuring we considered all things sustainable. We were looking to purchase natural and sustainable floor cushions and couldn’t find anything that ticked all of the boxes. We therefore decided to create floor cushions that were sustainable and considered the social and environmental impact in all steps of production. The inspiration to live more consciously and mindfully lead us to start developing products that were timeless, natural and ethical. We also draw so much inspiration from the ocean, which lead to the natural progression towards linen beach towels and beach essentials. Our kids are at the heart of our inspiration so naturally we created Little Willow Hooded Towels.
When did you know the timing was ‘right’?
Honestly, we didn’t consciously consider if the timing was right. We had a passion and a drive, and we felt we could fulfil a need. We were discovering the world of sustainability and wanted to share it. It has been a massive rollercoaster of learning and perhaps we should have worked differently towards a launch, however we wouldn’t change what we did. It is all part of our journey.
How did you make your big break?
We are still working towards our big break, but we have absolutely had lots of mini breaks that have made our hearts sing. We feel so rewarded every time we receive a wholesale order or beautiful feedback. If we see our towels pop up on social media, we still get so excited. Our confidence in our business and ourselves has grown and we firmly believe that this little business can be whatever we want to make it.
What was your training prior to starting your own business?
Love this question, mostly because our professions are so far removed from business and textiles. Essentially, we don’t have any training within the industry, we are a teacher and a physiotherapist. However, since starting Weave and Willow we have read, listened to podcasts and completed online training to up skill and learn as much as we can. We have asked for advice, made mistakes and learnt a lot along the way. We have a passion for linen and sustainability, so this has driven our learning.
What are the biggest challenges of being a mum and a businesswoman?
The biggest challenge is easily the constant juggle between mum life and running a business. You can sometimes find yourself not switching off and being present when you’re with your kids particularly when you are constantly engaging on social media. This brings with it a lot of guilt and feelings like you aren’t meeting your own expectations. We try to manage this as much as we can, and we listen to our children. They can quite easily communicate what’s in their hearts, when we are needed or when we have been too distracted. This is when it is evident that we have to take the business owner hat off and be a mum.
What is your top tip for maintaining a work/life balance?
This is a hard question. We are still working towards this goal and I honestly believe that a lot of people are still trying to find this balance. I think you need to keep an eye on the big picture and understand what makes you feel amazing and balanced. For us it is family, time to exercise, time with friends and time to be creative and productive. It is a hard juggle but if you can manage to fit most things into your week then you need to be kind on yourself when you don’t achieve everything. Prioritise what needs to be done in work and home life and then go from there. Above all be kind and accepting of yourself and your achievements.
What is your biggest learning since starting your own business?
Aside from the massive learning curve we have been on in terms of running a business, sourcing products and juggling social media, one of the biggest things we have learnt is the importance to have confidence in our products. We are a small business, which meant at times we doubted ourselves and felt we couldn’t approach people regarding our product. This was especially true when approaching people and businesses that were already well established. However, we have learnt that if you have 100% faith and confidence in your product and your vision than you can absolutely be a part of the business world.
What do you do in your spare time to keep yourself sane?
Go on adventures, swim, go out with friends, skate, surf, do yoga, read, chase waterfalls, hike, garden, write! However, on a day to day basis if we have a small amount of time then it is mostly spent at the beach swimming surfing or collecting shells with our girls. It grounds us, resets us and restores the soul. Most days we also prioritise exercise into our days, which keeps us sane.
What’s one thing other mums should do who are looking to start their own business?
Honestly if you have a passion then it is always worth giving it a go. Once you have confidence in your product or service, do some research and get started. Create a community both online and offline that will support you, guide you and collaborate with you. Lastly, be open to change as things will shift and evolve along the way but that’s okay and it’s all a part of the fun and the learning journey.
WIN // Michelle and Jess are giving away a Weave and Willow ‘Little Willow’ linen hooded towel, valued at $79. Simply enter below to go into the draw to win! Competition closes Tuesday April 30 and only the winner will be notified. Good luck!
This competition has now closed.