Sometimes, when you’re not necessarily seeking a brilliant idea, one might just bowl you over like a pleasant slap in the face. While searcing for a missing earring among her extensive collection, Clare Spelta had a life-changing ‘ohhhhh’ idea. It was from this mundane moment, rifling through her room, that a brilliant idea emerged. Enter: Bon Maxie, Clare’s creative Brisbane-based business centred on clever earring storage solutions. She’s putting the fun in functional. We wanted to know more about what it’s like to turn a little idea into a blooming business, and here’s what she told us …
Tell us, who’s the brains behind Bon Maxie?
Bon Maxie is a one-woman band; however, I do get packing and mental support from my husband!
What’s your experience of starting your own creative business been like?
‘Emotional roller coaster’ is an understatement! Things grew suddenly and I don’t think I’ve ever felt like I’ve been in control since I started, though I think that’s the nature of having a business. However, there are fantastic local business groups and plenty of resources around. And, you do just end up making your own network of like-minded people on social media and at events. When you go through self-doubting moments (there are many!), having similar people who help you snap out of these patterns is pretty powerful! Overall, the excitement of thinking of new ideas and seeing a product launch AND get purchased still gives me a bit of a rush.
Have you always been a maker, and was running your own business always the plan?
Yes and no! I’ve always painted and created things – I even studied fine art, creative industries and business (advertising) at uni, but I never thought there was a career in it. I started BM when I was on maternity leave, purely to give my brain another focus then went back to work part time. Shortly after, my son started having seizures and was diagnosed with a rare genetic condition which suddenly stopped us in our tracks. I ended up leaving my job to care for him so it’s almost like this business was being set up so I could do that. Although having a sick son certainly wasn’t the plan, it’s made me realise that owning a business is what I actually want to do.
As a crazy earring lady, I think your earring boards are the best invention since sliced bread; tell us, how did the idea come about?
“Necessity is the mother of all invention” – couldn’t be more true. I was really frustrated one day when I upturned 4 of my 5 jewellery dishes searching for a missing earring, then I suddenly thought – ‘hey, is this that ‘ohhhhhhh!’ moment that people have when they realise a business idea?’. Functional earring storage isn’t a new thing, BUT no one I knew seemed to use any! Plus, there wasn’t anything wooden, customiseable and pretty around, just metal or plastic ones without much character. So I just made one for myself then incorporated a bit of my painting onto it and that was it – I posted it on Instagram and received a great reaction. Shapes, sizes and formats came later from realising not all customers want one particular style.
What’s the response been like from customers – are there a lot of earring fiends out there?
The response was really overwhelming! I am still constantly getting messages saying how my boards ‘just make sense’ and fair few have told me they’ve started wearing earrings again because they can see what they have. I have a feeling I’m probably feeding the earring addictions of the world because empty earring holder holes can seriously taunt you and I love to promote independent earring makers. It’s great being able to support other businesses – earrings truly can maketh the outfit, and it’s hard not to purchase earrings when there are so many unique designs around.
What else are you making for Bon Maxie?
I always have a few things on the go and then put them on the shelf to think through them further, so I’m not sure what will be the next release – but things along the lines of handy storage for dresser items as well as accessories that have double uses. I know that’s cryptic, but they’re still in testing stages!!
What is your favourite thing about what you do?
Knowing that I am solving a problem and people actually need and use what I create is pretty incredible. I love thinking of new ideas (though it’s hard to slow down). It boggles me thinking about where I post my work and I wish I could hand deliver them all – my holders are better travelled than I am! Ultimately though, being my own boss means I can hit pause when I really need to.
What is the most challenging thing about running Bon Maxie?
Time! I’m constantly juggling priorities in my head and that can sometimes freeze productivity. Making the product is only really 30% of running the business – it’s all the behind-the-scenes things that take up time and getting through an entire to-do list is impossible. Caring for my son full time means that my business fits in around him, but busy-ness is always good challenge to have – I just have to accept that I can only ever chip away at things and business management is a marathon, not a sprint.
Can you share your advice for those wanting to start their own creative biz?
Not many things are truly unique these days, so really pushing to think of something different is vital to longevity and success. Copycat designs pop up a LOT but people do clue in to who is the original maker so it’s important to start your business with integrity. In this age, you can put an idea out on social media and gauge who might be interested before you jump in head first and if one stranger is willing to purchase, so are a thousand. At the end of the day though, it’s like any job – if you don’t love it, you won’t put your all into it. Without that passion, things can very quickly dissolve.
You’ve built up a nice Instagram following. What are your tips for creating an engaged social media following?
Instagram certainly was easier to grow only a year ago when it wasn’t so Facebook-like as it was chronological and your followers would actually see your posts. Now, unless people interact, you can disappear from their feeds. I’m still playing around with tactics all the time, but the hard-sell has never worked for me. People get bored with only seeing product images and it’s hard work trying to maintain a ‘business personality’. So I try and mix product posts with promoting complementary businesses, to life hack tips (mostly useless!) and silly posts that are still loosely related to my brand or my audience. I figure there’s too much bad stuff in the world, so if Bon Maxie can be remembered for making people smile, I’m pretty happy with that. People need to feel confident in and positively towards a brand to purchase, so I try to avoid any negative comments or too much personal stuff.
What’s coming up next for Bon Maxie?
I’ve just booked in for some interstate events to promote the brand, so I’m hoping to take things to the next level this year! I’ve tried not to plan things out too much as they always seem to get pushed off track, so I’m excited to see where things end up!