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Cate Gilpin


Business: Brown's General Store
What? A retail + gallery space in Brisbane, and online, committed to selling local, ethical and handmade products.

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Business Description

 Brown's General Store is a retail + gallery space in Paddington, Brisbane, and online, committed to selling local, ethical and handmade products. As a gallery we showcase the works of Australian artisans, and we also run events and workshops to encourage community building and conscious consumption.

How did the idea for your business first come about?

 I have loved beautiful, handmade things since forever, and I am drawn to anything creative or artistic, I have such great respect for it. I realised many years ago that there are extraordinary Australian craftspeople and designers, and I wanted to create a shop and gallery that showcases and supports those creatives.

When did you have a ‘f*ck-it moment’ and decide you were going to go all-in and start your business?

We were in Japan last April (2017) and I was just blown away by the beautiful spaces there, and the respect for well crafted things - captivating ceramics, hand stitched linen dresses, carefully carved wooden products, beautifully crafted gardens... I was working in higher education at the time and really unhappy. My husband, son and I were sitting in the most beautiful cafe/atelier and I turned to Nick and said "what am I doing, we have to open the shop", and so we came home and changed our whole lives so I could do this.

What were some major challenges you had when starting your business? And how did you overcome them?

 So many! And I didn't overcome them well to be honest.

Money - so much money was just pouring out of our savings to sign the lease on a building, set up a website, fit out the space, purchase stock. But in reality the worst thing for me was my overwhelming fear. I was so scared (and really, I still am) that it wouldn't happen, that it wouldn't work, that I couldn't do it, that I was being silly, that no one would visit. The support of my husband, and his unflinching belief in me, as well as my fundamental belief in the values that underpin our business helped me overcome this. But it is ongoing, it really is.

What has been your biggest “pinch me” moment?

 It is still early days, so I've had a number of lovely moments, but if I'm honest I haven't had the great moment of 'I've got this' just yet. There have been many days in the shop though where people are loving what we stock, talking with me and really 'getting' our vibe, and oh those moments just delight me and fill me with belief.

Christmas last year was also pretty amazing, I realised I could actually make a living from what I've created, it's not going to be flowing easily for awhile, but the potential is certainly there.

Starting a business can be gruelling - what keeps you motivated, and keeps you going?

My husband is incredible. Nick is so supportive, he believes in me, and he just thinks I'm good at it when I'm doubting myself like crazy!
But also that belief in the makers I stock and showcase. I believe so strongly in supporting local, ethical and handmade makers and businesses, and I particularly want to support those businesses created and run by women, and those businesess that are giving back. 

Finally it's my belief in conscious and ethical consumption and providing people with a space that supports them to consume in this way.

How do you create a work-life balance?

 Right now I'm in the guts of this and trying so hard to work it out.

Sometimes I get it so right, other times I'm just flailing around like a headless chicken! 

I have a three year old who has a big, gorgeously challenging personality, and my husband also runs a business, so we are constantly rushing, running and tripping. 

I am learning though that I need plenty of sleep to cope with this big, complex life. I also need to meditate daily. I need to make time for some basic self care (like, nothing major, just a walk or a 5 minute bath). And sometimes you have to throw money at the problem, even money you don't have, for me that means having staff work for me 2 days a week. It's not ideal at this stage in the game, but we can't manage any other way right now.

Words of Wisdom / Personal Quote

 "Life's too short to wake up with regrets. So love the people who treat you right, forgive the ones who don't and believe that everything happens for a reason. If you get a chance, take it. If it changes your life, let it. Nobody said it'd be easy, they just promised it would be worth it." Dr Seuss