Next up on the blog series we have my dear friend and kick ass business lady, Sam Morrison.
Sam and I are proof that if you build a friendship on a shared love (addiction?) of Pringles, it really will last! But in all seriousness, I've known Sam since 2014 when we ended up working on a theatre show together and we just clicked! She is such an inspiration to me on so many levels. Her dedication and fierce "go get em" nature is only made more impressive by her creativity, intelligence and passion to invest in the people and relationships around her.
She runs Frankie & Emmett, a small business creating and selling pet accessories - and they are all handmade by Sam! Bowties, bandanas, hand crocheted snoods, and even t-shirts! Your fur-child will look so incredibly dapper in a Frankie & Emmett piece.
Find Frankie & Emmett online!
You can check out her business Frankie & Emmett on Instagram, Facebook and her website!
How long have you been running your business for? And what is your business about?
Frankie & Emmett started with a handmade jumper for Frankie, my housemates pug, and has now evolved into a pet accessory business that’s been going for four years. F&E is all about bringing ‘slow fashion’ to the pet world and having a good time while doing it. We’re passionate about keeping everything handmade - nothing you see in our store is shipped from China or mass produced, and that’s a value I hold really close to my heart. I run the business with the support of my mum, and you’ll often see the two of us at a market or trade show together running the stand - it really is a team effort. The best part of my business is meeting all the wild and wonderful puppies of the world.
(Make sure you keep an eye on her socials for when she might be at a market near you!)
What made you decide to go down the path of running your own small business?
Honestly, it just kind of...happened? I had some spare time, decided it would be fun to do a market one weekend (which Steph actually helped me at!) and now four years later, here I am! We had quite rapid growth over our first year, doing a lot of weekend markets and random dog events, and ended up celebrating our one year anniversary with a stand at the first Brisbane Dog Lover’s Show which felt like a massive milestone. There’s been several hits and some misses over the years, and all of these have contributed to a steep learning curve.
Do you ever feel pressure to be “killing it” on social media? i.e. - do the number of likes or comments impact you?
ALL. THE. TIME. I have learned through my time on social media that comparison truly is the thief of joy. Seeing other similar businesses with thousands more followers and seemingly amazing successes has definitely dampened my spirits at times, but I have to remind myself that it’s not because I’m doing anything wrong or because I’m ‘worse’ than them. I work a demanding full time job while running F&E, so my spare time is taken up by creating products and preparing for events - I simply don’t have the time or energy to invest in social media, let alone the workload of a full time business, and I used to constantly beat myself up over it. About a year ago I hired a social media manager and it was the best decision I’ve ever made - shout out to Lisa Woodbrook! I get to focus on the side of my business that I love, guilt-free, knowing my socials are in excellent hands. It’s made a real difference to my mental health and I don’t feel as resentful towards social media as a result. I love knowing that our followers are genuine supporters who have developed a connection either online or in person, and not paid for or gained through cheating an algorithm.
"Don’t be so hard on yourself to be the best or the biggest out there. Remember the reason you started this and don’t lose sight of your values."
What does it mean to you to invest in yourself? In terms of both your business and you personally?
I’d like to say that I invest in myself by saying ‘no’, but usually the reality is the opposite. I’ve been known to commit to an interstate doggy event with short notice, even though I know it’ll mean long nights behind the sewing machine and a risky financial outlay, because I know we’ll have a great time even if we don’t make a massive profit. We travel to Canberra multiple times a year for dog events which is an enormous effort, but my goodness we have so much FUN!
This year it’s been a bit different. Investing in my business has been telling myself that it’s ok to be in a holding pattern, and using the downtime to take stock and plan for the future. At one point I had people asking for facemasks, and I thought “you know what? No. I’m a pet bandana business and that’s what I'm going to stick to.” Rather than push my limits to ‘pivot’ into facemasks, I used the opportunity to recommend other handmade businesses who were making masks. You don’t have to be the best at everything – it’s ok to stick to one thing and not jump on a bandwagon.
What would you say has been the biggest challenge you have faced so far?
The biggest challenge is definitely juggling a career I’m passionate about, and a business I’m equally as passionate about. People always ask “would you give up your job to do this full time?” and every day my answer is different. I think if I put the immense pressure on myself to run my business full time I would start to lose the joy in what I do, so for the moment I’m happy for F&E to be my side hustle. It doesn’t mean I put any less effort into it, it just means I put less pressure on myself. I used to think I needed to make F&E a full time gig in order for it to be a ‘real business’, and would attend every single market I could find – it was exhausting, and if I didn’t do well I would be so hard on myself. Now, I'm happy to do a few big events throughout the year while continuing to grow our online presence.
How do you celebrate your business wins?
To me, every sale is a business win. I still feel a little buzz every time I see a sale notification pop up on my phone, but the best thing is when I see a dog wearing our gear. It’s still quite humbling when people give us great feedback – it might be just a dog bandana, but it’s nice knowing they bring a bit of happiness into the world.
We do quite a few interstate events which can be risky when you take into consideration the hours of preparation and travel expenses. The best feeling in the world is taking a chance on a gut feeling and having it pay off. Celebrating these bigger wins usually involves swimming in a hotel bathtub full of cash… NOT! It actually looks like a pub meal, a gin and tonic and an early bedtime before getting on a flight home at the crack of dawn.
What is something that you find is taboo about small business to talk about?
The reality of what goes on behind the scenes with a small business. I look at other handmade business owners on their Instagram feeds in their stunningly styled studios, looking flawless while crafting amazing things, while I’m sitting there in my spare room in my pjs with no make up on, surrounded by chaos. At one point I was working out of a tiny spare room with two bikes, all my market stall furniture and an ironing board squeezed in. That’s the reality for me, and I feel ashamed to share it because I have a little voice in my head telling me I’m not a ‘real' handmade business owner because I don’t fit the mould.
I also think that small business finances are a difficult topic. I would love to sit down with another handmade business owner and compare cash flow and spending, rather than wondering all the time if I’m doing things right. Should I raise my prices? Is this enough of a profit margin? Who knows! There’s a lot of information out there, but navigating it is a minefield.
And how do you think we can go about breaking down that stigma?
I think it’s important to acknowledge that social media isn’t an exact replica of real life – it’s the highlights reel. I’m not quite sure how we go about breaking that monster down at a larger scale, but I can make small changes in how I approach my socials. I want to make an effort to be more ‘real’ and not be afraid to post just because I’m not looking flawless in that moment. I tend to hide behind pictures of cute puppies instead. I think it’s important to show the good, the bad and the ugly because that’s what makes content relatable and not so alienating.
"You don’t have to be the best at everything – it’s ok to stick to one thing and not jump on a bandwagon."
If you could look yourself in the eye back as you were starting out, what would you say to yourself?
'Hang on tight, baby!'
Running a business where you’re not dependent on the income is actually wonderful because you get to enjoy the good parts without the extreme high stakes. Don’t be so hard on yourself to be the best or the biggest out there. Remember the reason you started this and don’t lose sight of your values. I recently listened to a podcast by Abigail Disney (grandniece to the famous Walt) where she said “value interaction over transaction” and that’s really stuck with me. Make sure your business is about making genuine connections and having great experiences rather than the money, and you’ll be just fine.
Also, ease up on the craft supplies - you will have regrets when you move house.
Who is your biggest inspiration? - small biz, big biz, anywhere in between!
I’m definitely inspired by the other women I work alongside in this industry. I still remember at my first ever market, setting up alongside Katherina from The Golden Bone Bakery, making small talk throughout the day then frantically packing up our stands when a storm rolled in. A few months later I met Harmony from Bonnie and Baxter at her first market, and we bonded over her two little fluffballs. Since then, I’ve stood alongside them at some of the largest pet events around the country. Watching these women, and countless others, grow their businesses with so much passion and savvy is truly awe-inspiring and I consider myself lucky to be amongst them.
On a personal note though, I will leave you with my favourite, unashamedly self-confident words from Leslie Knope that we should all live by: “I am big enough to admit that I am often inspired by myself”.
Make sure you give Sam's business a follow on social media and check out her products on her website! And if you can share a post, or if you buy a bowtie, make sure you share it with the world and get the word out about her amazing creations!
How To Make An Impact:
It's so easy to do.
- A follow, a like, a comment or a purchase all go a long way in the world of small business.
- We mindlessly scroll through Instagram and Facebook, so if you can take two of those seconds to interact with online content you'll be making an impact bigger than you know for that small business.
- Buy from small businesses. Christmas is coming up! Birthday's! Any time you need to give a gift, think of buying from a small business first.
- Leave a review - Facebook, Google, their website or email them!