IWD: Interview with Karen of Me & Amber.
In celebration of International Women’s Day, we invited the smart and creative women behind some of Australia’s best lifestyle brands to be a part of a series of interviews. We discussed everything from the challenges of running a small business, to where to seek inspiration and the importance of supporting fellow female entrepreneurs.
We’re kicking it off with Karen – co-founder of Australian graphic design company, Me & Amber. Karen alongside her best friend, Amber, create the coolest greeting cards, notebooks, and linen tea towels. Each of their designs is lovingly screen-printed by hand from their Sydney studio, using sustainable materials wherever possible.
How did Me & Amber come to fruition?
We launched Me & Amber 15 years ago now, which is pretty hard to believe! Amber and I collaborated on our major project in our final year of uni. We devised an imaginary business (called Me & Amber!) and the following year we made that dream a reality.
We began by approaching our favourite design bookstore in Surry Hills with some greeting cards that we had painstakingly and elaborately hand-drawn, photocopied and hand sewn. Much to our surprise, they sold, so we continued designing cards but obviously had to streamline our production method. We discovered screen printing, and fell in love with it!
Who has inspired you to get to where you are?
Apart from each other, it has probably been the other women in business whom we admire and are lucky enough to have become friendly with over the years, whether through trade shows or design markets. Ones that spring to mind, in particular, are those with two friends or sisters as partners! Sara and Alana from Poppies for Grace; Tess and Anna who started Polli; and Ro, Ange, and Jules from High Tea With Mrs Woo, to name a few.
Tell us about the highs and lows of owning your own business?
Each day usually has its little series of highs and lows – small victories and little setbacks. You can never really predict what will happen. For example, just the other day we found out that two of our stockists were sadly shutting their doors, and then received a phone call from another stockist with an incredible order!
What’s the biggest challenge of owning your own business?
Wearing all of the hats is difficult. Chasing accounts and managing cash flow has probably been one of the trickiest things for us. Also, retail is a hard industry with a lot of competition. We are both designers, and neither of us is made for sales, so we struggle in that department too!
How do you push through when things get difficult?
Our love for what we do and our belief in our product has enabled us to persevere through harder times. In general, we are both quite easy going and can laugh with each other when things go wrong!
What’s the best thing about owning your own business?
Being able to do what you love, working with your best friend, the flexible working hours and having no one to answer to but ourselves!
What do you do to stay inspired?
Visit galleries, flip through art and design books, eat yummy food, go to concerts and make it a point to appreciate small everyday things.
What is the key to success in business?
For us, it’s been patience and perseverance. Don’t expect to be an overnight success story and work hard. Make sure you are passionate and believe in what you are doing – and offer something unique!
Why is International Women’s Day important to you?
It’s not only a wonderful celebration of women’s achievements but an important reminder, for all of us, that we still have a long way to go to achieve gender equality all over the world.
What’s next for Me & Amber?
Amber just had her first baby last week, and I had my second a few weeks ago, so we’ll be busy hanging out with our new babies while we juggle running a small business. They will have no choice but to be besties, too! We also have a new product in the pipeline, targeted at kiddies, so stay tuned for that!