When Sarah Murphy started her home and body brand Murphy & Daughters eight years ago, she wanted to create beautiful, handmade products while giving back to the community.
Murphy had travelled the world as a buyer for Melbourne homewares store Market Import and was inspired to create products she couldn’t find in Australia.
“I was constantly impressed with the quality of beautiful handmade products [overseas] and thought wouldn’t it be fantastic to make product of this calibre here,” she says.
“I wanted to create a product which was simple, high-quality, timeless and handmade, which could be produced sustainably and be socially responsible. It has always been extremely important to me that each product gives back and building a company with sustainable and ethical production.”
All Murphy & Daughters products are made in Australia, many of them by hand, with a focus on the integrity of the ingredients, quality of the items and beautiful packaging.
The first product Murphy developed was the brand’s signature Bon Bon soaps, which are triple milled and wrapped to look like Christmas crackers (or bon bons). This unique packaging design led Murphy to partner with Ability Works, a social enterprise that empowers people with disabilities by providing employment and training. Murphy & Daughters uses Ability Works to package the soaps and Murphy says the service is perfect for her business.
“The Bon Bon soap is quite unique and the wrapping has an element best realised by hand,” she says. “When I first came up with the idea, the biggest hurdle was working out how to wrap them.
“It is repetitious and could be considered tedious work but the folks at Ability Works help do a brilliant job and produce a beautiful final result. They are very adaptable to different tasks, are flexible with varying workflows and can produce high volumes of product when the need arises, which is perfect for small businesses like mine.”
Other Murphy & Daughters products are just as lovingly crafted and include hand cream, body wash, candles and jewellery. The modern Australiana designs are inspired by Murphy’s childhood spent on the banks of the Murray River.
“I think we have an amazing country filled with beautiful, fresh produce, very able people and I really love trying to make products to the highest standard,” says Murphy.
“Also seeing other cultures around the world producing special and beautiful products with an emphasis on the execution rather than mass production [was inspiring].”
Although her products are now stocked in stores around the world in Japan, Singapore, South Korea, New Zealand and the UK, Murphy says she didn’t start her business with a plan in mind. In fact, she had no idea what would be involved when she set out.
“The biggest challenge is trying to grow my business whilst still being intimately involved in every aspect… I wear all the hats and make sure all of the balls are in the air all of the time. I go from developing products and packaging to being the storewoman, delivery person and saleswoman to bookkeeper, marketer and publicist.
“To be honest, when I started this business I had no idea what would be involved. I had an idea of what I wanted to create and a ‘how hard could it be?’ attitude when I began.”
By Ruth Cooper