Fair warning: this post will likely make you (at least) want to redecorate your entire home or (at most) reconsider your life choices while you pack up and move to Orange. I fall into both camps.
As the founder of the iconic Jumbled and iglou stores in the NSW country town of Orange, Pip Brett is the type of powerhouse whose colourful, playful, considered and eclectic style will leave you begging for more.
With a passion for finding pieces that “make the heart totally sing,” it’s not hard to see why Jumbled has become a destination in and of itself. Featuring homewares, artwork, kitchenware and more, while being directly next door to Pip’s equally inspiring fashion store, iglou, Pip and her team source pieces from across the globe that transform a house into a home.
We spoke to Pip about her store, her style and why she thinks everyone should move to the country. Pip, you’re making a very good case for it.
What are some of your most vivid memories of your childhood? Where did you grow up? What was it like?
My earliest memories are broken into a before and after of sorts. My brother Tom and I grew up on a farm near Millthorpe (which is a short drive from Orange) where our days were filled with puppies, gold panning, riding motorbikes and helping dad with farmwork. I only remember being outside and it was such a happy, fun and carefree time.
Then my dad was diagnosed with lung cancer and it was literally a matter of weeks before he died. I was only 7 – the age my eldest son is now, and while it seemed short, I now know how many amazing memories I created with dad in that time.
Shortly before passing away, we had luckily moved off the farm and right into the CBD of Orange and dad encouraged mum to set up up her own fashion store and clothing brand and she really worked her butt off for the next two decades to provide an amazing life for Tom and I.
We used to help make fimo clay buttons that mum would sew onto her clothes; it was the 80’s, so think lots of shoulder pads, drop waists and puffer paints. Mum worked late and we only lived a block from school so our afternoons were very free range… It really was the best childhood.
In year 7, mum sent me off to boarding school in Sydney. I think this, combined with losing my dad at such a young age have been the two determining factors in my personality. Boarding school forced me to come out of my shell and made me super confident and independent. I also know how short life is, not to sweat the small stuff, and am so grateful for everything.
Tell us about life in the country - how long have you lived there? How would you describe country life?
Many people dream of moving from the city to the country - how are the stresses of daily life different in the country?
They are worlds apart. We’re still busy here, but there is no commute. Daycare fees are lower and we still have access to amazing schools. We can still enjoy amazing boutique shopping and restaurants but there is no parking issues – or fees! Our kids have more room to run around because housing is more affordable – you get more bang for your buck. I’d recommend an Orange tree change to anyone – it is the best!
What are the challenges of being an entrepreneur in the country as opposed to the city?
To be honest, I don’t think we miss out on anything. Orange has some inspiring business owners doing amazing things so it’s easy to network and talk shop if you want to. Perhaps you could say that we’re further away if we need to attend events or meetings in Sydney, but it’s only a 40-minute flight, which is actually quicker than the commute for some people living in Sydney!
What are the benefits of being an entrepreneur in the country?
For me personally, it’s meant we’ve been able to grow Jumbled without being held back at all. When we outgrew our first store, we were able to purchase a huge old Masonic Lodge to house both of our businesses (I also own fashion boutique iglou) and rent out a space up the back for a coffee shop. The building is filled with character and is so much bigger than we ever could have got in Sydney.
Also, being from the country also helps differentiate our story from city competitors and we’ve had some very unique opportunities come our way because we’re based here; especially thanks to the thriving tourism industry in Orange. Moving home to Orange was the best decision I ever could have made, both for my business but also my family. I feel extremely grateful.
Tell us about the beginnings of Jumbled - where did you begin and did you start with investment?
To tell this story, I need to go back to the beginning. A week after graduating with a degree in Fashion and Textiles at UTS, whilst sipping a cocktail poolside in Fiji, I decided that I wanted to open my own fashion store. I opened iglou on my 22nd birthday with a $50,000 loan and I never once thought that it would fail. I’m not sure if it was ignorance or just confidence in the demand for fashion out of the major cities. To me, fashion and interiors are very similar. All design practise follows the same principals of playing with colour, shape, texture and proportion.
A few years later, my husband Nick and I had renovated our first home, and I discovered a new obsession with interiors. There was a shopfront near iglou that I loved, and I told myself that if it ever came up for lease I’d snap it up and open a homewares store. On my way to the post office one day I saw that it was available and I signed the lease without actually knowing what I’d stock. That’s how the name Jumbled came about, because it became an eclectic mix of the different things I loved.
With a trade fair coming up only 2 weeks later, I quickly applied for a $75,000 business loan to help get the project off the ground. I was also newly pregnant with our first baby and riding the waves of nausea, and I remember waiting for the bank’s approval while I was walking around the trade fair, just hoping it will all come off. Luckily on the last day of the trade fair the loan was approved, and I shopped up a storm to fill the store.
It quickly became my great love and changed the trajectory of where our business was headed, and it’s never stopped growing since that moment!
Tell me about The Sonic and your inspiration there.
A few years after we opened Jumbled, with the store bursting at its seams, we purchased our current store, an old masonic lodge. After a super speedy 9-week renovation managed by my husband Nick (with help from Melbourne architects Studio Esteta), ‘The Sonic’ opened as a home for Jumbled, clothing store iglou and a coffee shop, Nimrod’s.
Our goal for the space was to provide customers with a space to connect, be inspired and feel joy. Every day we see customers walking up the steps through the front door and looking around in awe – I pinch myself that we’re still giving customers that feeling.
How have you managed business growth?
I knew I had to start small with what I could afford. My mum always told me, “you don’t need the glossy bags to start off with!” I won’t lie in those first months and years of iglou, things were super tough. There were lots of opportunities for learning, adapting and evolving and I don’t think I made a profit until our third year. I was living out the back of the shop and at the time it felt all-encompassing. Sometimes it still feels that way but when business is going well you kind of have this golden glow over your life and it’s more manageable. But in those first years – even though I knew it would never fail and just had to work through the motions to success- there were times of panic and mayhem. I was pretty stressed, but I never stopped learning and adapting.
As I have grown, I have had to hire new employees…and let’s just say I’ve had to kiss a lot of frogs before I found my princesses. I now have a team of seven, and two of those women have been with me for 10 years.
A couple of years ago, the business was growing amazingly but with two little boys (Digby is 7 and Barnaby is now 5), our home life was suffering so we made the family decision to bring my husband Nick (who we call Speedy) into the business to manage operations and online orders.
Not only did he transform our online business, but he also took on the life admin and the school runs and our boys sporting commitments. It’s given me the time to focus on the things I am good at which meant the business was thriving but our home life is so much happier, simpler and calmer too.
Earlier this year I hired my first remote employee; our Brand and Digital Marketing Manager Sarah, who lives in a small country town 1.5hrs away. She looks after PR, content marketing, new brand opportunities and digital advertising. Technology is such a wonderful thing and it means she can work from home, while still feeling connected to what we’re doing.
Social media took our business to the next level and allowed us to connect with customers far beyond the boundaries of Orange. They are able to see us on Instagram and get a feel for our personality and what kind of experience they’re going to receive when they shop with us, whether that be in the store or online.
What do you love most about running your own business?
I just love that I can create the life that I want! It really fulfils all my loves; homewares, fashion, creativity and travel. I love that I can have an idea, and it can be actioned within the hour. I still get such a buzz from the buying, the selling, connecting with customers, and being able to collaborate with some of my favourite brands.
The best part is the flexibility though. I have Tuesdays off with Barnaby before he heads off to school next year and if the boys are sick, it’s no problem for me to have the day off. I can also take my family on holidays when I want to because I’ve built a great team that can man the fort while I am away. I never take that for granted for a second.
And what do you find the most challenging?
I feel like I constantly need to be ‘on’ to continue the momentum and energy of the business. I am always thinking about how to evolve and change and continue to surprise our customers. It is hard to keep the balls in the air and a couple of years ago my health really suffered.
As our online store started to grow and grow, I was feeling increasingly stressed and hadn’t really been looking after myself. I started to lose the vision in one eye, was having headaches and was feeling funny down the left side of my body, especially my face. The doctors told me as I was going into my second MRI that they thought I had MS (Multiple Sclerosis). I thought to myself, I thought if I had MS, I would drop everything and take the family travelling and if I didn’t I would expand the business and buy a hotel to do up…..complete madness when I look back on that.
It’s funny how things work out, I, fortunately, got the all-clear (it was migraines wreaking havoc with my body) but it became obvious that things needed to change and that’s when Speedy joined the business.
There are still challenges; like finding it difficult to switch off from social media; we pride ourselves on our excellent customer service so I like to be replying to all questions and comments as soon as possible. It’s hard when I go away with friends, or am out to dinner and have to sneak off the toilets to launch a new collection or post about a new artwork but that’s the nature of the job. My eldest boy has started noticing that I am always on my phone and while I still feel guilty, it’s how we put food on the table. I just make a point now of being really quick and discreet with my phone if I am around them… It’s a constant juggle!
A family home - how do you keep it tidy with kids?
We’re currently living with my mum Kezz while our dream home is being built so things are a bit crazy at the moment. My style is quite minimal even though it’s bright, and our new house will have a home for everything to reduce clutter. There will be lots of built-in joinery, a big laundry, a mudroom for bags and shoes and a separate wing for the kids. I think the key is to make sure everything has a home so it can be packed away when you’ve finished using it but you also have to have realistic expectations…kids will be kids, and they always come with mess!
How would you describe your signature style?
I absolutely love colour and texture and pattern but our new home is going to have a really earthy muted base. This will allow me to come in and layer it with artworks, cushions and beautiful furniture. I come from a long line of failed minimalists and believe (like in life)… ‘More is more, less is a bore!’
I always tell my customers to buy homewares that they absolutely love, not simply because they think it might work with their colour scheme. You can make anything work together, it’s just about finding a key item or cushion to tie it all together.
What are your favourite brands right now?
I am obsessed with Society of Wanderers and Sage and Clare for bedding, and artists Annie Everingham and Elle Campbell, they can do no wrong in my eyes.
You can buy five interior items right now - list what you would buy?
- The new Globe West furniture collection is amazing so I will definitely have them on my wish list.
- Bedding will be our new Society of Wanderers’ leopard print collaboration – I am so in love with the blush, turmeric and khaki colourway!
- I think an artwork can really make a space, and while I was in Morocco I splurged on a LRNCE artwork – it’s still rolled up but I cannot WAIT to bring it out! I also purchased a stunning portrait of Van Gough from a souk in Morocco and I would have to include a Moroccan rug or two.
- I am currently dreaming of an Anna Charlesworth metal chandelier and working out where it will go in my new house.
- Indoor plants bring so much interest so I’ll be filling the house with some amazing unique plants that I will love and nurture.
What advice do you give new mothers?
I am a mum to two boys, and have learned from motherhood that women can be their own worst enemy. When it comes to advice, people will always think what they have done with their own kids, is the best thing for everyone’s kid. You have to just do what feels right for your own journey and stop defending the choices you have made, because it’s no-one else’s business!
When I am having a motherhood moment, my mum always reminds me of a child she knew who only ever ate honey and cheese sandwiches – that is literally it. He is now an amazing, healthy, tall, intelligent adult… So your kids will be fine.
How did the tours to Morocco come about and can you tell us about them?
My friend Julia Green from Greenhouse Interiors was in Orange running a workshop and she said how amazing it would be to take a like-minded group of people to Morocco, and a couple of glasses of champagne later, our plan was hatched. The next day during the workshop, Julia actually mentioned it briefly and we had all these women who wanted to sign up on the spot, so we thought, “Let’s do it!”
We have just booked our 5th sell-out tour for 2020. It is the most inspiring country for fashion, food, colour and interiors and we will never tire of it because it’s the people that come along, that make each trip really different. I believe your vibe attracts your tribe and we’ve been lucky to have some beautiful people travel with us. It’s quite amazing to travel with Julia, as I never tire of her. Managing 13 women can sometimes be tricky at times, but we mostly spend the two weeks laughing.
It’s nice to step away from the business briefly too, I always come back with renewed energy and feeling totally inspired.
Advice to aspiring entrepreneurs wanting to get into retail?
Having just been to the Melbourne trade fair, and in the media, there is all of this hype that retail is dead. BORING retail is dead, but retail is not.
My advice is to start small, test your market, test your products, adjust and evolve. Your story will set you apart and it can be your competitive advantage so think about how to put a creative twist on that.
If you have a bricks and mortar store, you need to make it more than just a store. Hold events, special collaborations, sell coffee, just do something to make sure your customers are always seeing and experiencing something new.
Retail has it's ups and downs - how do you navigate these?
We keep a close eye on our sales and each year there are patterns of highs and lows based on seasonal things like new launches after trade fairs.
In order to navigate the lows, we’re releasing new things constantly, like new products, new artists and artworks and brand collaborations to try and keep the customers excited and interested. We generally don’t go on sale often, as we find the customers come to expect it. For us, going on sale is more of a treat and surprise. Sometimes we actually surprise ourselves, but because we’re a small team we can action something within half an hour.
We also like to collaborate with brands to bring an exclusive offer that can only be found in Jumbled. Our Nudie Rudie Bathmat with Sage and Clare was the first product that went ridiculously well, and we’ve since added a sell-out slogan t-shirt collection with Confetti Rebels as well as an exclusive leopard print colour-way with Society of Wanderers that is available for pre-order now.
I’ve been taking risks on various things since I first started but I always trust my gut and if I feel like somethings not working I shut it down. In saying that, when I make the decision to do something, I never consider failure as an option, I just know we will make it work some way or another.
My confidence has definitely grown over time, as I’ve got to know and understand our customers more intimately. So even though I still feel the stress of a big artwork purchase or brand collaboration, when I hear my phone ‘ding’ with the first sale, or see the first likes and comments roll in on social media and I feel instant relief because I just know it’s all going to work out perfectly.