If you read The Grace Tales regularly, you’ll know we’re a little (or a lot) interior obsessed...
Which is why when we first discovered the work of Rachel Donath, we fell in love. She creates effortless interiors that mix new with old (heavenly wave chairs are styled with Murano glass vases). Her business began less than two years ago – in her garage! – and has grown into a thriving global interiors business. You’ll find her pieces in homes all over the world – and she’s Gwyneth Paltrow approved (her Wave chairs were recently featured by GOOP). She’s case in point that if you have a dream, the time to start is now. “I started off by sourcing a small number of vintage furniture pieces that spoke to me and would list these small collections once or twice a week for sale through Instagram. I sold out every single week which baffled me and encouraged me at the same time,” she says. Here, we step inside her beautiful home and talk to Rachel about having the courage to launch her dream, raising four (yes, four!) kids and why she’s not afraid to take risks.
You started your business back in October 2020. Take me back to what your business looked like when it launched?
I have always wanted to work in the creative space, particularly in interiors – creating and curating beautiful spaces has always been my passion. I felt very much that it was now or never and with the big 40 approaching. I felt a burst of inspiration one Sunday morning back in October 2020, and decided to post to Instagram that this is what I was now doing! I haven’t looked back – it was the best impulse decision I ever made. I started off by sourcing a small number of vintage furniture pieces that spoke to me and would list these small collections once or twice a week for sale through Instagram. I sold out every single week which baffled me and encouraged me at the same time. In creating a post for my Instagram page, I tagged an inspirational image from a designer I have admired for years and she must have seen the tag and popped over to my page to take a look. She started following and messaged me shortly after asking me to source pieces for her. It was surreal preparing my first invoice for an iconic Australian designer who I have admired forever. She became one of my best clients and many others followed soon after.
“ Start small, don’t be afraid to communicate your passion - and let it evolve into something fabulous! ”
You then moved into launching your own range – how have you navigated growth over the last (almost!) two years?
Manufacturing was never in my plans at the beginning, but opportunities came my way and I felt it was silly to say no. I saw a gap in the market for sculpturally beautiful furniture pieces that were unique and not mass produced. My very first collection were designs based on iconic works by Walter Lamb, Royere, Fontana Arte, Giovannetti and Perriand. This small range sold out quickly and I saw that there was sufficient demand. I have built on the manufacturing side of the business slowly – constantly working to improve on processes and quality to produce an end piece that will stand the test of time both aesthetically and structurally. I began in a double garage with a leaky roof, rented from a friend of a friend, outgrew this space and moved after six months into a section of someone’s warehouse but quickly outgrew that space too. I have now moved into my very own warehouse (in Moorabbin, Victoria) and its wonderful to be able to spread out and put down roots.
The logistical side of running a business can be challenging. How have you navigated things such as shipping?
The logistical side of the business has been completely new territory for me and I have been thrown many a curve ball. From knowing nothing about logistics, I am now well and truly absorbed in that world and am dealing with manufacturers, shipping agents and freight companies on a daily basis, navigating port congestion issues, container capacities, delays upon delays and exorbitant (growing) import fees! I work with terrific people in the shipping industry who have years of experience and knowledge and I am always listening and learning. At the end of the day, the decisions and costs are mine alone and so the responsibility is mine to get it right. This is a completely new ball game to me but I am energised by the challenge.
You work with lots of different artisans – why is this process so special to you?
Working with creatives who have different skill sets to mine is inspiring and exciting. I always try first to find manufacturers and artisans in Australia with a passion for what they do. I find that when you work with artisans who have a lot of love for their craft, the end product is 100 times better than I could have ever conceived on my own.
What advice do you have for women who would love to launch a product-based business?
Just go for it! It takes gumption to launch a business. There is no crystal ball telling you that this will or won’t be a success – you really need to find the courage to just jump in, give it your 1000% and not be afraid to fail. Financially, I would say – work within your means. I have never borrowed any money for my business but have reinvested profits into growth avenues. Start small, don’t be afraid to communicate your passion – and let it evolve into something fabulous!
Rachel wears Versify dress, $329
You’ve said you’re not afraid to take risks -what have been some of the biggest risks you’ve taken since you launched your business?
I should re-word that to say, I’m not afraid to take measured risks! I certainly don’t jump at any opportunity – but will jump at an opportunity that feels right. The biggest risks I have taken are definitely financial risks. I have invested in stock on a larger scale, which is a significant outlay and therefore a large risk. I have no financial backing or support in the running of the business – so these risks sit squarely on my shoulders. The other risk I have taken is naming my company in my own name. This means that my personal reputation is influenced by the actions and reputation of the business and this is something that I don’t take lightly. I try my best to ensure the business functions within the same values framework that I as an individual align with – treating people with respect, giving my best, showing vulnerability and a human side, valuing integrity, honesty, and having a bit of fun.
You’re also a mum to four children – how would you describe raising four kids?
It’s wonderful and hectic all at once. Four kids is a lot. I think I realised this a week into my youngest’s life – watching from the couch as I nursed her – with so many little people running around! I grew up as one of 7, so big families are familiar to me and are also something I always wanted. My kids bicker and fight and make lots of mess – but they also adore each other, confide in each other, and have a great time together. Bedtime is when the magic happens – with kids sleepy and laid all over my bed, we have fabulous chats and cuddles. Moments like this make the chaos worthwhile.
As a mum, how do you make work, work? What are your time management tips?
I have always worked, I don’t think I ever took maternity leave – always finding projects and little side hustles to keep me busy. I enjoy work and feel a great sense of accomplishment and purpose in doing what I love and utilising my creativity. In terms of time management, I work during school hours and outsource wherever I can, such as cleaning and sometimes meal preparation too. My husband is hands-on at home and does the bulk of the laundry and cooking. As a team, we make it work.
Has there been a particular stage that has been the most challenging for you with motherhood? And how have you overcome any challenges?
I think the overwhelm of having multiple very little children is incredibly taxing. There is just simply no time left for self. My first 2 and last 2 children are relatively close in age and having them both home full or part-time has been difficult especially as I have always tried to manage work on top of this. The only remedy that I found to work was outsourcing help and enrolling into child care. I did feel the guilt at first, sending my children to creche or family day care from early on, but noticed right away the positive difference in my parenting and in the quality of the time I would spend with my child/ren.
As a mum, do you think there’s ever a perfect time to start a business? Or throw yourself into your career?
Any time is as good as any other. As a mum, no matter what age and stage your children are in, there will always be challenges associated with finding time and energy for career or to start a business. As mums, I think we often procrastinate and think we’re waiting until mothering gets easier to get into work. I worry that if we think like this, we’ll just never do it – because no matter how old your kids are, I’m not sure mothering ever becomes easier or less demanding of us.
You have spoken about having a difficult fertility journey with your daughter – what did this teach you, and what advice do you have for other women who are navigating fertility issues?
I would say simply, keep fighting! Don’t give up searching for a Doctor or specialist who can give you answers and hope. Many a time I was told by doctors to give up and move on, but I knew in my heart that I would always have that yearning if I didn’t pursue it until the end. We are our own best advocates and need to keep on fighting to realise our dreams.
If you could add three things to your cart right now, what would they be?
- The scalloped blazer from Versify! I love a classic, beautiful tailored blazer and this one is just absolutely beautiful.
- A swimming pool for our yard! This has been on the bucket lists for a while now and we are finally moving towards making it happen
- A new artwork for home. I am always scouring art auctions and galleries for a piece that really speaks to me.
If you could paint a room one colour right now, what would it be?
A deep sage green. I would create a library or reading room with sage green walls. This room would have walls of books, the Safari chair with a sheep skin throw, and a beautiful lamp. A beautiful and serene space to unwind.
Finally, describe your perfect Sunday morning…
The ultimate Sunday morning for me.. its pouring rain – so I have the perfect excuse to stay home with the fireplace on, sipping coffee and reading the paper. The kids having slept out at my parents the previous night would be a nice bonus too.