I was new to business in 2020. I would say I was blissfully unaware of all that was involved. Some may say I was desperately lacking business savvy.
But I think a bit of naivety is quite helpful when starting a business- who would take this on otherwise!
I was, and am, creating a sustainable brand, which to me was multi faceted, and one facet involved manufacturing in Australia.
So I got my fabric, got my bag designed and made in Australia, and then priced it based on the costs.
And I was a little shocked at what I would have to price it at. So shocked that I priced it too low. And many people were really put off by the price- they really let me know- so this was good market research.
I tried to work out where I could cut costs, but really, this was just what it cost to make my bag in Australia. And I think it was a bit of a shock to the system compared to what I/we had been use to paying for goods for so long. Because most of the items we buy are manufactured either in bulk, or overseas (O/S), and this can be done for a much more palatable price.
At this point I did a little bit of research about whether I could do a sustainable bag cheaper if I imported it. So I looked for companies selling "sustainable bags".
And I found some gorgeous bags from O/S for about $1.00 per piece, (and I had seen stores selling similar bags for $35-$345 a piece.)
But with a bit more research, this is what I learnt.
That buying a sustainable linen or cotton tote made O/S may mean ( not necessarily, but I don't have that level of information just yet)-
-That it does not guarantee that the natural fibres have been grown with the planet in mind. And by this I mean- are the lands over farmed, meaning they need huge doses of chemical fertiliser and large amounts of water to get a crop? Are these fertilisers leeching into, and polluting waterways? Is the water being taken from other areas that need it more ie food crop production?
-Are the farmers' O/S being paid an ethical, fair rate for their crop?
-Are the factory workers processing the fibres and making the bags being paid an ethical wage and working in safe conditions? If you look at past examples, like the Rana Plaza Fire, and many examples of sweat shop labour, I knew I would have to visit a factory myself to feel comfortable about choosing this path. This was through covid times, so a factory visit was not happening anytime soon.
-It meant I would probably have to buy a large quantity of bags, and what happens to those bags if my business is not successful? More waste?
So I decided to pursue manufacturing in Australia for now, and I'm so glad I have.
-I love that I support local craftspeople- and they really are craftspeople. Their work is beautiful, and the quality is always excellent.
-On the odd occasions when a change/repair is required, I can quickly get the item to my manufacturer, and easily get adjustments made and returned to the customer.
-Carbon miles from transport are reduced as my manufacturer is in the same state.
-And to counter the higher price point, I am adding in repairs for life, or sustainable disposal of C.O.O.P bags at end of life. Because to be sustainable I really needed to consider end of product life stewardship.
And - Quality over quantity!
So for now, I love that support I can Australian manufacturing.
Wouldn't it be great to see a revival of the Australian manufacturing industry?
I may at a later date consider an overseas factory to enable me to provide a lower price point product. Maybe...
But for now, my choices sit well with me and what I hope the brand stands for.
Now I just need to find lots of consious customers who feel the same? Who's in?