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Business Mentor Series: Hobbs & Co

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Welcome to the second in our series, shining a spotlight on the success and growth of small Kiwi businesses with the support of Business Mentors NZ.

Katrina Hobbs is the owner and designer behind Hobbs and Co, a boutique NZ business creating limited edition artworks reflected in textiles, cushions, homewares & scarves.

Tell us a little bit about Hobbs & Co and what you do?

Having spent most of my life in front of the camera acting and presenting, I felt a niggling desire to stretch my creative arm. While on a break in production, I started out small, creating a few paintings and then with the help of a wonderful team of (very patient) printers in Sydney I created a capsule collection - only 4 cushion covers to start!

In time, and with a great deal of experimenting, confidence grew that perhaps this idea could work.

After being commissioned to create artworks for private clients, I bit the bullet and crafted my first full range for Hobbs & Co, “Storm in a Teacup”.

With 3 collections under our belts (yes we are very new still!) we now offer each collection as a range of limited edition artworks: silk velvet and pure linen digitally printed textiles, cushions, cashmere scarves and throws. With plans to develop more products in home and living in the year ahead.

How did you get started in design and with textiles?

After studying Interior Design at Sydney Design School, I realised my real passion in this area was in colour - creating textile designs felt like a natural way to express this.

Designing fabric the way we do is a bit challenging as there’s not much digital correction. The artwork and colours are simply digitally formatted to create the repeat for printing.

We’re lucky to have a very skilled and reliable team on this digital side to make sure the finished fabrics reflect the artworks initially created.

You are now stocked in Australia, Europe and the USA. How challenging was expansion as an NZ based business? Where did you get support to help you with this?

We treasure our relationships with unique NZ brands, however expanding overseas has always been on our growth agenda, we see huge potential that competing in the world home and lifestyle market offers.

We’ve been very lucky to have continued support from our international stockists, found through various trade fairs and through our Hobbs & Co website.

How did you go about asking for help from Business Mentors NZ?

After realising how much an inexperienced entrepreneur like myself could benefit from outside advice I started looking for a mentor, and found the Business Mentors NZ website. They were very helpful and after joining, I was allocated a mentor.

Tell us about your experience with Business Mentors? How did you find the process?

Meeting my mentor Charles for the first time was both exciting and daunting. While I may have the skills to create our designs, I was lacking in crucial areas of business knowledge. My creative background allowed me to forge ahead with ideas without the fear of hurdles known to others …however Charles was instrumental in helping to direct this bounding energy into the right places. He helped me to understand and look out for pitfalls that I would not necessarily have seen without his advice.

Charles also continued to challenge product expansion ideas and plans that didn’t fit within the ethos of the company. He kept me focused and aware of being true to the brand I was creating. This was not only crucial to keeping the brand true to the vision I had, it was hugely helpful in keeping a very creatively active mind focused!

What’s the ongoing relationship with your mentor like?

I signed up with Business Mentors NZ for 12 months and Charles was fantastic and generally available for advice during this period.

Hobbs and Co cushions

What successes have you had recently? How have mentors helped you with these?

We’re very excited to be stocked in two exceptional art galleries in Europe: Mudam Gallery in Luxembourg and Barberini Gallery in Berlin. It’s fantastic for us to have this ongoing relationship with two so highly regarded galleries in Europe. We also have two beautiful galleries in NZ stocking our products: the new Christchurch Art Gallery and Red Gallery in Nelson. Being represented in art galleries is fantastic for the brand, as it acknowledges the creative elements we hope to express in our products.

My mentor Charles was instrumental in helping to gain both European galleries as stockists, assisting me plan and execute a trip to Maison & Object, showcasing Hobbs & Co to Europe for the first time. The galleries were very impressed with our work and have continued to support each of our new collections in their stores…more importantly they are selling very well!

As a home grown New Zealand brand, how do you feel it differentiates you in the global market?

There are both positives and negatives from being a NZ brand. We are a small country and our boutique brands are sometimes seen as too small to be taken seriously, however with thorough planning, a great team and reliable suppliers, slowly but surely, we are making a place for ourselves.

Though we may be seen as small, we are also seen as unique and fearless in our endeavours. While I’m grateful to be seen as unique I’m not so sure about the fearless element. What’s the phrase…”Feel the fear and do it anyway”?  That’s us!

What’s next for you?

We are looking to make 2018 an expanding year for Hobbs & Co, moving to Australia to grow our market share. We’re also developing more homewares such as pure linen tablecloths and napkins, tea towels and drapery – onward and upward!

To see how ASB can help you achieve your business ambitions, click here.

For more information on Business Mentors, visit their website.

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