Starting a new retail business has its challenges. Starting a new business in a country town has an even greater list of challenges. Over the last couple of years in Swan Hill, new businesses are establishing themselves in the main shopping area of town. Some have come and gone, but those that have identified the gap in the existing shopping experience, have gone on to become long-lasting fixtures in the town’s shopping scene.
Opening in May this year, lush.moss is yet another welcome addition to the Swan Hill retail strip. What was intended to be a ‘pop-up’ store for a few weeks, has turned into a permanent fixture in McCallum Street.
Formally trained as a nurse, store owner Dee has long been interested in floristry, which is how lush.moss began. Her gorgeous handmade moss balls and terrariums are dotted around the store. And as the store has evolved, so has the flora she is now stocking, sourced locally and from the Melbourne Flower Market. Located at the front of the store are blooms in season that she will make up to customer specifications, or customers can choose from already made bouquets. Her $25 ‘Bloom Jars’ are proving popular for those looking for a sweet ‘just-because’ present, and are also available from Leila’s Café in Lake Boga.
But lush.moss is about more than just the greenery. Dee is continuously increasing the range of products she has on offer to the shoppers of Swan Hill to ensure that she is stocking a wide range of goods that are perfect for a treat for yourself or someone else. Being greeted by a wall of T2 boxes is a welcome sight for an ex-Melbournian like myself. Dee offers tea-tasting each day, showcasing her favourite tea of the moment. Favourite products play a big part in what Dee is prepared to offer to her customers. Before a product can even be considered to grace the shelves of lush.moss, it needs to be a product that Dee believes in and quite often, happily uses herself. And this is something important that Dee stresses for anyone wanting to start their own retail business, “You need to know the story of the company inside out, how they founded, what they’re all about.” Attending trade shows is vital for this to see what products are out there, as well as following different businesses on Instagram to ensure she can bring the “not so mainstream” products she adores to the living rooms and bedrooms of Swan Hill shoppers.
When asked for other tips for budding small business owners, she has a few, but not all of them overly exciting. “It’s boring but you’ve got to do it properly” she says of cost analysis and calculating the cost per item. Then there is the challenge of operating a store in a small town where there are other shops stocking similar items. Dee has been mindful of ensuring many of her items aren’t stocked in other local stores, not only so lush.moss retains its uniqueness, but to ensure other local businesses and their ranges are respected. Finding yourself a mentor is also another key tip that Dee suggests, “Utilising her knowledge has been vital”. And having prior retail experience has helped as well. When her twins were born nearly seven years ago, she started a clothing line called Twenty Tiny Toes and sold the products at markets. Whilst she no longer operates this business, she still can’t bring herself to take down the business’s facebook page. It will always be her baby.
Launching a business isn’t all peachy keen though. Dee spoke of moments where she has heard local residents’ thoughts on her business- “You just have to block your ears and trust in what you are doing” (sage advice for anyone really, not just those in the retail game). This has given her a thicker skin but this bravado was tested on lush.moss’s opening night. After closing the doors after a successful launch, she sat in her car, looked at her shop front, and started crying with relief. Having placed such high expectations on this new project and the pressure she had put on herself to succeed, Dee knew it was all worth it when her store was so well-received that night.
Dee is a woman who doesn’t just stop at one idea though. Her pet project Trixy Belle has been in the pipeline for a while, and her Design Studio was launched early September, offering children the chance to create their own headpiece. And she is also collating a collection of items to be hired out for weddings and birthdays. Just another three elements to add to her retail business venture. And I doubt she will stop there.
Whimsical, calm and colourful are three words to describe lush.moss. Or as Dee explains, “Welcome to my head.” And what a great place to be inside of. You can’t walk out of lush.moss without spying at least three things you want to adorn your wall with (Taylored Dots prints), buy for your baby niece (soft toys, bibs) or wish they had in adult size (tutus by Tutu Du Monde). Running a retail business with products that you genuinely adore is definitely the key message from Dee, “Follow your passion and choose things you believe in.” Again, sage advice for anyone really.
lush.moss is located at 46 McCallum Street, Swan Hill 3585 http://www.lushmoss.com.au/