I'm sure I'm not alone in admitting that many of my childhood memories centre around a beanbag at my nan's house.
It formed the base for impressive forts, was where I perched myself to have my back rubbed, and was where all the best cousin secrets were divulged.
I loved that faded grey beanbag, but let’s just say I haven’t felt a strong desire to bring one into my own lounge room. Until now.
Thanks to GlamSwag, I now have three varieties in my cart, and a selection of matching cushions. But let’s be clear, these are not your grandmother’s beanbags. For starters, the covers are made from 100% French Flax linen, which has been pre-washed for the ultimate in softness and durability. They’re also filled with a cloud of feathers, so they’re as comfortable as they are luxurious. What’s more, GlamSwags aren’t that awkward shape that fills the corner of a room, but rather, they’re long and lean, making them completely portable (but I guarantee you won’t want to stash these away).
Perfect for everything from kids’ sleepovers and picnics in the park, to outdoor concerts and the beach, GlamSwag does it all. We spoke to the founder and brains behind GlamSwag, Rebecca Johnson (a woman who does it all herself), and now hold her completely accountable for our brand new obsession.
What did your career entail prior to GlamSwag?
Before GlamSwag and my three boys I worked in Advertising. Starting in Perth, as a junior account executive. Here I learnt the ropes from some fabulous mentors. When I felt I had gained enough experience, I made the move to Sydney. I was lucky enough to land a job at John Singleton Advertising. I worked there for seven years, starting at the bottom, and working my way up to Senior Account Manager on the Qantas Account. It was such an amazing job, the best people to work with, and we had a lot of fun.
Had you always been entrepreneurial?
My initial answer to this – and you would probably hear this from many of the (female) entrepreneurs you speak with – is absolutely not! However I’ve probably surprised myself on this journey. Taking the plunge and starting a business is daunting, terrifying and it comes with a high level of risk. In my younger years I always lent on the security of working for someone else, it wasn’t until I was at home with the boys when they were younger that I started to really think about what I was good at and what I could do that allowed me to still be present for the kids.
I’ve always loved beautiful homewares, antiques and fabulous clothing. Which was a problem, because on one income (my husband is a photographer) I had to be creative with how I decorated my home and the clothes I bought. I realised then, that I had a good eye on a small budget. I always worked part-time when the boys were young – always in retail. Firstly homewares and then fashion and about four years ago was approached by a good friend to be the buyer for her fashion store. I loved it – and to my surprise was good at it!
I then felt I had developed enough confidence to open a store myself and after a year of trade fairs, internet searches, meeting with local artists and designers, I opened my first (tiny) bricks and mortar store in Perth. I got a feel for what worked and what didn’t, what people wanted at what price point and the gaps in the market. The retail space then morphed into developing sourcing and manufacturing Glam Swags and the journey I now find myself on. As anyone in this space will tell you, it is hard work, I’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way and learnt so much about every aspect of running a small business. I love what I do, despite the stress and sleepless nights, but what I love most is my customers sharing with me how much they love our products. We’re always evolving, changing and growing and listening to what our customers want from us.
What inspired the launch of GlamSwag?
I was in upstate New York for a dear friends wedding. Her theme was “Moroccan inspired” It was like being in Marrakesh in a beautiful Riad. Huge cushions everywhere, in beautiful colours. I couldn’t get it out of my head, how I would love to have something like this at home, to lie on in the garden when friends came over. I realised however, that they needed to be lighter, washable and portable, whilst being super comfortable and luxurious.
I hate to sound like a snob, but beanbags and Thomas the Tank Engine couches never did if for me!
As a mother of teenage boys I’ve navigated countless sleep-overs, picnics, sporting events and beach trips, mostly in absolute discomfort. So you can see where the inspiration came from.
This is the essence of the GlamSwag – beauty, comfort, friends and family!
Tell us about the vision behind GlamSwag.
Really it’s about good looks, comfort and family.
I also noticed the trend in Glamping worldwide. Previously the thought of camping was not my cup of tea – in fact the thought horrified me! But I’m very much looking forward to heading outdoors with the kids. We have just purchased a fabulous Bell Tent from Home Camp and can’t wait to fill it with our swags and chill out.
You have three boys (in good company here!) - how have you used/how do you continue to use GlamSwag throughout your home with the boys?
My boys.Charlie 21, Toby 19 and Nicholas 14 totally love them. With the older two, the uses are many and varied. From their inebriated friends crashing on them, to camping trips and boating holidays with friends – they take them everywhere. I designed them to roll up and tuck into a custom made bag. They each have one on the end of the Bed and one in the cupboard.
We all use them to watch movies, as Rob and I hog a sofa each. The boys lie on the floor, usually with a Bedhead for extra comfort.
They are definitely the most used product in our house (the dog also loves them)!
Tell us about the mix of comfort and luxury and how you make that work in your pieces (particularly that gorgeous linen).
We literally made 15 different prototypes to get it just how we wanted it to be.
Thick enough to be able to sleep on, but with the right amount of down for it to be soft enough. The other 50% is cotton fill so you don’t sink down too much.
As for linen, it’s my favourite product, breathable, timeless and gets softer the more times you wash it.
How do you style the pieces throughout your home?
In all the bedrooms there is one at the end of the bed. They look gorgeous and if you’ve made the bed but want to sneak off for some cheeky Netflix time, it easy to pull up and cuddle under.
As I mentioned – especially in winter, they are used on the sofa and the floor. During the day I just roll them up – they then look like a bolster so I mix them up with my other cushions and no need to put them away.
In summer – they adorn our two daybeds along with our Bedheads, great for reading that book (and swigging some rose).
We also use the Bedhead cushions to adorn all the beds in the house. We have two on our king size bed – that literally form a bedhead. The boys all have one on theirs as a feature mixed up with their other pillows.
Other than GlamSwag, where do you shop for pieces for your home?
In Perth I have a few go to stores. Empire Homewares is definitely my favourite! It is run by my very talented friend Elissa Coleman. It stocks everything from divine furniture and bedlinen to pots and plants and everything in between. Her merchandising is out of this world. And her staff are fantastic.
I also LOVE Ikea. They are doing some fabulous stuff that I like to mix in with my more expensive pieces.
I buy quite a bit online – mainly Australian. My favourites are The Dharma Door, Tigmi Trading for glorious floor rugs, Koskela (when I can afford it), Rachel Castle art and bedlinen – I think I am her biggest fan. I have recently discovered the artwork of Des Sweeney from @8footwalls – fabulous.
My new obsession is ceramics! I buy most of these online – I love a British Designer – @marigoldandlettuce – she does chunky white china that goes in ovens, dishwashers and the microwave! Also my friend Sandra who I used to stock in my store does the most beautiful rustic and imperfect pieces – they are amazing @allfireduppottery and I’m dreaming of owning some pieces from Hana Vasak from Melbourne @dasaceramics.
Speaking of three kids and a business … How do you do it? How do you keep all the balls in the air?
It varies. Sometimes it’s chaotic if I’m not organised (which is half the time). My big boys are both at Uni, and can actually cook themselves something – however they don’t know how to use the washing machine or clean their rooms! But I’m learning not to sweat the small stuff! Nic is still only 14 – so I do feel a bit of mum guilt, however my boys have grown up with me basically always working, and know that we are doing it for them. I try to be home when Nic gets home from school to feed him and supervise with his homework.
They have grown up in a world where they appreciate that mum works – I think they are quite proud of me.
I’m a terrible cook – luckily my husband loves it – so that helps enormously.
What has been the most challenging part of establishing a business?
Goodness – so many things!
Firstly we used all our savings to fund the GlamSwag – so there were many sleepless nights wondering whether people would actually like them!
It took us 3 years from when we launched, to produce the prototype, find the perfect suppliers – which was not the case in the beginning, a lot of travel, and obviously mistakes throughout the process. However we both believed in the product – that we pushed on and people do love them – thank god.
Plus having three kids – there was the obvious guilt about not being around as much as other mothers – but they are very proud of the blood, sweat and tears we experienced – and that we are now reaping the rewards of all the hard work.
What about the balance - what have you found most challenging?
Definitely not to bring work matters home. Naturally this doesn’t always work, but it’s a work in progress. We’ve made it mandatory not to talk business over dinner, rather catch up on the boys news and what’s going on in the world.
How do you feel about the mental load, and how do you make it work in your family?
I must say it’s constantly on my mind, being a start-up I can tend to get into bed and monkey brain sets in. But I never let the kids know if I’m stressed about work. Weekends are strictly family time – no work talk!
Do you feel a responsibility to set a good example for your boys as a businesswoman and mother?
Totally. A quote from Anna Wintour really resonated with me. “I think it’s very important for children to understand that women work and that it’s fulfilling and it doesn’t mean that they love you any less or care about you any less.”
What does self care look like for you?
Well – it’s pretty non-existent at the moment to be honest. Our stock arrived during the school holidays, so it was non-stop work. I used to take at least 4 yoga classes per week, I love it so much. I have one of those brains that never stops – and yoga really calms me. So I am determined to start going back this week!
I love going to the movies to chill – again not happening enough so will work on that too! I LOVE the beach – we have stunning beaches here in Perth – so when I’m really stressed I grab our pooch Juno and head down to Cottesloe Beach for a walk and a swim. Bliss.
What goals do you have for GlamSwag?
Well most importantly I would love to see GlamSwags become recognised as a product that everyone needs in their life no matter what age.
We would also love to break into the American market – but that is a while off.
We are in the process of developing some exciting new products that complement the GlamSwag. However if I told you I’d have to kill you!
What businesses and businesswomen do you admire or look up to?
I admire Rachel Castle tremendously. I have followed her for years firstly through magazines and now social media. Apart from being a super sweet person, she also started small and has worked damn hard to get to where she is today.
As for businesses – it would have to be Cultiver. They started with linen sheets and now have a huge repertoire of products and have a US factory as well. I understand how much work they would have put into this – and I personally only sleep in Cultivar linen.
What’s next for you and for GlamSwag?
Conquering the world. I hope!