Familiar With the Cult 'Roundie' Beach Towel? This Is How It All Started
They say it only takes a spark to light a fire, and in business terms, that was exactly the case for sister-duo Emma Henderson and Victoria Beattie, founders of The Beach People. Growing up on the coastline of NSW, the pair have many fond memories of salty-haired days spent near the ocean. On one such fine day, while watching their husbands surf, the idea to create a luxe, round towel as the first product in a luxury-seaside brand was born, and thus started The Beach People.
The risk paid off, and in two weeks of launching their first product in 2013, the first batch of round towels sold out completely. Since, the brand has seen what can only be defined as accelerated growth, diving deep into not only beach accessories, but also bedding and other lifestyle items that give you a piece of the coast in every room of the home. When chatting to the entrepreneurs, it’s obvious that family also plays a big role in their daily life. Both mothers of young children, the duo has also become experts in the art of juggling, and the women have found their own ways towards a type of “balance” that works for them. Fast becoming authority figures in the world of business (they are both speaking at the annual Retail Global conference, taking place on the Gold Coast in late May) we grabbed a few minutes with the founders to chat about their business journey so far. Truth be told, you're probably going to want to pack your bags, move out of the city and start a venture of your own after reading this.
Did you ever think you'd have your own company? What led you to taking the first step?
Emma: I had moved to a small seaside town and had just had my first child. I was thinking, "What can I do from this semi-rural area that would give me flexibility to be with my family and not go back to my nine-to-five job?"
Victoria: I was the same. And I think Emma and I have always had business in our blood. I think we knew we would always end up in business, as most of our family are.
You created the original round towel, and it sold out in two weeks. What was that feeling like, and did it solidify your decision to become entrepreneurs?
Emma: We absolutely loved the roundie, but to be honest, the public reaction blew us away! Round towels… who would have thought?
Victoria: The reaction definitely got us dreaming bigger and really start to take the business seriously.
There have been a lot of brands replicating your designs. As a business, how have you combated that and kept iterating your product offering?
Victoria: We have a killer IP attorney! We just keep designing quality items that we love and use. But if you breech on our IP, we will take you down.
Emma: We were so upset when we saw the first copycat brand, but now we barely notice unless it’s a big one! We just stay focused on what we are doing next, as the imitators will always be there. As a brand, one of our core values is innovative product design since we believe that well-considered design enhances everyday life.
What are some of the hardest things about owning and operating your own business?
Victoria: Even when you are resting there is a certain weight of responsibility that never lifts.
Emma: Challenges are nonstop. From cash flow, to dealing with Instagram's new silly algorithms. We have learnt to be resilient to the hardships, which is not always easy.
Does running your own company make work/life balance possible, or does it mean you are always “on”?
Emma: It’s totally possible! We avoid the word “balance”, as it’s too hard to have a perfect balance all the time. But there is definitely room in each of our days to be a present wife/mother.
Victoria: I think that it’s totally possible to have it all. You can chase your dream career and still look after your wellbeing, and still be a loving partner, still be a present mum. Trust me, it’s doable.
What are some practical tips you can offer to someone who has a strong business vision but doesn’t really know where to begin?
Victoria: Write a list, prioritise the tasks and dig in! Just do it.
Emma: Get a mentor to help guide you. Surrounding yourself with as many experienced business people you can is golden. Find someone who has walked the path before you, so that when challenges arise (and they will), you can call a mentor and ask for help or advise! Priceless.
What are some major mistakes you see other start-ups make in the beginning?
Victoria: Honestly, I could share a hundred of my own. I see some other brands just starting and having no plan for the future: No budget, no product development plan.
Emma: Plan, plan, plan. As a creative person, my head is always buzzing with ideas. Plan it out. Write it all down. From day one Victoria and I wrote a guideline for our brand and it's been amazing!
What has been one of your greatest professional achievements to date?
Victoria: The other day my son shared one of his toys at play group. I almost did a cartwheel, as I have been working on that for 6 months. Success! But in the office my greatest has been working with my sister designing things that we love and that others enjoy using. I feel like I’m living the dream, really!
Emma: I love seeing our community all around the globe sharing our products, from our linen bedding styled in a loft style apartment in Brooklyn NYC, to a family picnicking with our beach cart, to a beach beauty lounging on a roundie in the French Rivera. So many "pinch me" moments. That's my favourite. Vic and I design products we love and enjoy, and we are so delighted our community enjoys them too.