It was after the birth of her first child, while she was at university studying her masters in international development that the idea of creating Marmoset Found came to Melbourne-based Nareen Holloway, now a mother of three. “The focus of my studies was how to do business in an ethical, sustainable and empowering manner with less developed countries. Around the same time, I was renovating our home and became frustrated at the lack of handmade, affordable homewares on offer,” she reflects...
Fast-forward eight years and Holloway’s brand has evolved into a collection of beautiful handcrafted everyday pieces, which “reflect the soul and authenticity of travelling to many places”.
Holloway had spent many years managing the retail arm for cult American surfwear brand Stüssy, before taking the plunge and launching her own business. Her strategy over the last eight years? To grow organically, because bigger isn’t always better. “It has taken me eight years to find the balance that I set out to achieve,” she says. Indeed, just like her beautifully considered ceramics, which are designed in the brand’s Melbourne studio and hand made by artisans in small family-run businesses in India, Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines and Japan, she’s carefully evolved her business. “Our growth has been very organic and I would say this has helped us manage things well and develop systems as required. I do not want the brand to be huge, but rather I have modest expectations to keep the small, boutique feel that we have cultivated,” she says.
For Holloway, she hopes Marmoset Found will encourage people to stop filling their homes with mass-produced items and highlight how one-off and limited edition products add character and charm to our spaces. All of the brand’s ceramics are safe for both the microwave and dishwasher and they can also be used to warm food in the oven.
We were thrilled to find out more about Holloway and Marmoset Found (and also couldn’t help while researching this feature but do a little shopping on their online store – the new glassware is exquisite!).
Go to www.marmosetfound.com.au
What did your career involve prior to Marmoset Found?
For many years, I managed the retail arm for Stüssy, a surf/street brand. I loved my job and was lucky enough to travel to the LA headquarters to meet the head design team and also spend time at various skateboarding exhibitions. My teenagers wish that I was still with Stüssy for access to the great clothes – they can’t believe I ever left this job!
You founded the business eight years ago when your children were younger, which is what so many aspiring entrepreneurial women do - in the hopes of gaining freedom and flexibility. What was the reality?
In the beginning, there was not so much freedom and flexibility. I had three young children so would often work at night and felt like I was always rushing. My husband has consciously taken a job that allows him great flexibility in order to be around when I am travelling or super busy. This helps a lot. Eight years on, I now have the freedom that I set out to achieve. I have incredible staff and really good systems, so can now work whenever and where ever I choose.
You’ve managed to grow your business over that eight-year period (when many others have folded!) - what do you think has been key to your longevity?
Slow and steady. Our growth has been very organic and I would say this has helped us manage things well and develop systems as required. In order to manage cash flow, we could not grow too quickly – this has been an advantage I believe. I do not want the brand to be huge, but rather I have modest expectations to keep the small, boutique feel that we have cultivated.
How do you go about sourcing your pieces and working with your suppliers?
I still sketch all my designs on paper and tweak them over several days and sometimes weeks. The design process can take up to a year from the first concept to finally seeing the product instore. I have been working with mostly the same suppliers since the brand began – they know the aesthetic I am trying to create. Mostly I communicate via email or skype however it is still important to meet in person regularly.
How often do you travel (and where to) to find inspiration and new pieces?
My most recent ‘inspiration’ trip was to Morocco and it was every bit as amazing as what I’d hoped. I was lucky enough to travel with Julia from Greenhouse Interiors and Pip from Jumbled – SO MUCH FUN! I usually take 2-3 trips each year. Often to Vietnam and India but also Japan, China, Thailand and the Philippines.
You are stocked in some amazing stores around the country - what is the process like in sourcing and securing stockists?
Initially, I found it important to exhibit at trade fairs. The smaller boutique ones helped to find the kind of stockists we were after. All customer service and sales are done in-house as I feel it is more personal than engaging agents to represent the brand. Now that we have an established stockist base, I find that regular, high-quality photo shoots are essential. We update the website and socials and also let our stockists know of new products via email.
What is your own approach to interiors? Do you focus on investing in lifelong pieces, or do you indulge in trends?
A bit of both to be honest! Now that the kids are older it makes more sense to invest in pieces that have longevity. Although, with a mob of teenagers hanging out, it pays to not be too precious.
Can you tell us a little about your ceramics?
The ceramics are made by hand in Vietnam by a family who has been in the business for generations. A mold is first made and the ceramic is then poured into the mold and smoothed by hand. The ceramics are fired at over 1200 degrees which gives them incredible strength and durability.
What have been some of your biggest highlights in business?
Most recently it would have to be the launch of our glass collection. I have been wanting to create a range of glass vases for a long time to sit alongside the ceramic vessels. I was so nervous launching this collection but utterly thrilled when weeks later our first drop sold out.
What about some of the greatest challenges?
One of the greatest challenges, without a doubt, was my co-founder leaving the business. The brand was founded with my neighbour and dear friend Cherie. We worked hard but also had lots and lots of fun, especially on our many trips overseas. Around two years ago after suffering consistent migraines, Cherie needed to focus on her health and stepped aside from the business. Maintaining our friendship was paramount to both of us during the change in business structure and happily, without any effort at all, we remain very close.
What does a typical day look like for you today?
I wake at 6.30am and have a pot of tea while quickly checking any emails and orders that have come in overnight. I then get the kids breakfast and organised for school. After everyone has left for school I will spend an hour exercising – either a walk with a friend or Pilates class. Then it’s computer on and coffee!
Each day is different which I really enjoy. My day could involve following up customer orders, prepping for a photo shoot, liaising with my makers, product development, exhibiting at a trade fair, arranging international freight etc. Once the kids arrive home around 4pm it is a juggle of various after school activities – basketball, hip hop, violin, choir, netball and soccer just to name a few! I will check my emails a couple of times during the evening, but rarely sit down to work. I like to reserve this time to be with my family.
How do you manage the juggle of business and motherhood? Do you have any tips for women hoping to do the same thing?
These days I feel like I have a good balance. My advice would be to outsource as much as you can with your business – especially the areas that you don’t particularly enjoy. Streamline your job so that you are doing what you love and what you are good at and pay others to do the rest if you can.
I talk to my kids a lot about what is going on for me at work. I will often ask their opinion on my new samples and they understand that sometimes I need to travel. I must say that are all incredibly proud of me and my work which I never really anticipated. Also, be patient.
Other than Marmoset Found, where do you choose to shop for your home?
To be honest I don’t really buy much for my home these days. My most recent ‘major’ purchase was new leather dining chairs from local designer/manufacturer Studio of Adam Lynch. I also love Jardan for beautiful larger furniture pieces.
Where do you find inspiration?
Like many creatives, travel is always inspirational. I love spending time in my garden and letting my mind wander freely. I grow a huge variety of fruits (cherry, plum, apple nectarine, apricot, quince, lemon, orange and lime), vegetables (silverbeet, leek, spinach, cauliflower, tomato, zucchini, peppers) and so may herbs. I flick through magazines sporadically and spend an hour or so each day checking out Instagram.
What is on your current list of loves?
My new LRNCE vase purchased from her gorgeous studio in Marrakech.
I absolutely love to drink The Beauty chef Collagen Inner Beauty Boost. It tastes delicious mixed with sparkling water and a squeeze of lime.
Fresh blooms from Flowers Vasette.
Golden Goose sneakers.
I am a little addicted to original artwork but am fast running out of wall space! Currently coveting a circular original artwork board by New Zealander Jen Sievers.
Each Sunday morning at the end of my street is a gorgeous farmers’ market where I like to go to buy my food for the week. Inevitably, it’s a focal point for our community and brings neighbours and friends together each week.
Perusing the Condé Nast Traveller website and dreaming of beautiful holidays – next up is a family trip to Malaysia.
Beautiful bed linen from Society of Wanderers.
Reading the weekend papers trying to beat my kids at the quiz – doesn’t happen often!
Lunch with friends at Jackalope on the Mornington Peninsula.