Thriving as a solopreneur


Dreaming of starting a home-based business? Many of us don’t just dream about it, we do it.

Home-based businesses with no employees form the largest slice of Australia’s business pie. This sector has the highest number of entries but is also the most uncertain with the highest number of exits, the lowest turnover and lowest survival rate.

So I discovered, thanks to the latest ABS statistics which say that as of June 2016 most businesses actively trading in Australia were unincorporated and operating in the household sector. But this sector has the highest exit and entry rate and the lowest survival rate, with 59.9% surviving from June 2012 to June 2016. The bigger picture shows that 60.7% of actively trading businesses in Australia had no employees, with 27.6% at 1-4 employees, and 59.3% of actively trading businesses having an annual turnover of less than $200K.

So how do you thrive as a solopreneur in this shifting world?

I spoke to Melbourne-based Erin Browne about her jewellery business, Tinka the Label. Erin’s taken the slow road, starting out as a teenager after she couldn’t find the right jewellery to go with her formal dress. After arming herself with the tools and raw materials she created a statement piece that made her outfit sparkle and so it began! But, she temporarily put down her jewellery making tools to head overseas on a backpacking adventure.

Back in Melbourne, she took a part-time job and began to make her passion for jewellery design into a small business, encouraged by feedback from friends and family, using them to test the market for her striking handmade earrings, bracelets and neck pieces created in raw crystals and semiprecious stones and metals. But, how did she take the plunge into selling professionally?

While she was working part-time at a “day job”, she launched a store on Etsy, an online marketplace for crafters, collectors and artists, in 2014. This gave her access to Etsy’s global pool of more than 27 million active buyers with an annual turnover of $2.39 billion and an extremely low-cost way to start a business. Americans are her biggest online customers followed by Australians.

“I kept the business part-time because it was too much to dive in headfirst. I just didn’t know the products and business well enough,” she said.

With a few years experience up her sleeve Erin made the big leap into full-time business in October 2015 and starting selling at local boutique markets around Melbourne. One of these venues is the 150-year-old South Melbourne market, with its SO:ME Space dedicated to great design, fashion and creativity.  It offers some permanent stalls as well as the opportunity to do a pop-up store.

“I had good face-to-face feedback from customers which encouraged me. To grow, you really need a physical presence. I could see directly what people responded to and that gave me confidence in my product,” she says.

“That’s when I thought it’s either all or nothing. It was time to take the plunge. When I first started, I wanted it all to happen within three months. But I wouldn’t have been able to handle it. I would have been easily swayed and have sent my designs off to be mass-produced.”

Now I’m very firm and confident with what I want for my product. If I hadn’t taken it slowly I may not have met the right people when I did.”


Listen to the full interview below.


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