‘Put your head down, bum up and work hard. Don’t wait for things to happen, make them happen for yourself and never give up’―this is what Urban Rituelle owner, Leanne Haining’s dad taught her and it has certainly paid off.
The home fragrance supplier, which was officially launched at the Sydney Gift & Homewares Fair in September 1999, has gone from strength to strength and besides being available in over 1,000 independent stores nationally, it is now stocked in countries such as the US, Japan and New Zealand and counts US retailer Anthropologie as one of its customers.
“Anthropologie, one of my favourite retailers in the USA, placed an enormous order for their 200 stores nationally, which confirmed that we were manufacturing an Australian-made product with global appeal,” enthuses Haining.
However, exporting products to the US meant coordinating 80 US sales reps, managing different time zones, and exhibiting at eight US trade fairs annually, all while running the company’s Australian operations with a six month old and a two year old. “And then the GFC hit. This sure taught me how to get back up, once you've been knocked down.”
Urban Rituelle is very proud of its Australian roots and its biggest market is still Australia, however, Haining believes its products are meant for the worldwide stage.
“We strongly believe that we are manufacturing a world-class product. We were approached by various international partners from the US, Japan, New Zealand and others who all wanted to take our products into their markets. Of course we couldn’t resist such an exciting venture. We love the opportunity to visit these countries and see our products sitting proudly on the some of the best retail shelves in the world.”
Over the last 10 years Urban Rituelle has had steady and consistent growth overseas and in the last 12 months it has seen fantastic growth in Japan and New Zealand, with an increase of 100 per cent in sales revenue from these two markets.
“Our export business is a smaller part of the overall business revenue; however, we believe we have great potential for continued growth internationally. Our two biggest export markets are New Zealand and Japan, where we have been doing business for over 10 years.
“New Zealand is obviously a much smaller market than Australia but in contrast Tokyo is the world's most populous metropolis and a shopping mecca.”
Launching and trading in an international market is challenging and Haining says the first step to success is to set up a partnership with the right people in the right market, and then comes negotiation on pricing, marketing and product selection. She also urges businesses that are keen to export to visit the overseas destinations.
“When trading in an international market there are different laws and regulations that we need to abide with. To succeed in these international markets you must have the right partner who believes in your brand and product as much as you do. To be a success in the international market, you need to make sure you are designing a world-class product.”
Having a well-functioning website is a crucial element to marketing your brand, as is having a social media presence and Haining says this has allowed Urban Rituelle to showcase its extensive collection to the world as well as tell its story and connect with its customers.
“Our wholesale customers can order online 24/7 and have full access to all product knowledge, ingredient information and images at the touch of a keyboard.
“Social media is a very big focus for our business as it allows us to connect with our customers around the world in real time. We often ask our customers to help us select new product designs, catalogue covers, fragrance suggestions and more. Our customers can also easily share their feedback and testimonials on these channels which we love reading and sharing.”
Many of today’s hugely successful businesses started out small and very often from someone’s kitchen table or garage. Urban Rituelle was started at home by Haining and her husband, Scott Kelly, and they learned on the job every step of the way.
“We worked consistently and tirelessly to build the business from the ground up and had to learn to really understand the financial side of the business, along with managing cash flow and inventory levels. Also, finding a balance between our work and home life as a husband and wife team was quite a challenge.”
So what is the secret to success for Urban Rituelle? According to Haining it is all about celebrating life’s simple pleasures and enhancing your daily rituals.
“We are constantly inspired to create products that are boutique and unique, it’s what I love most about our business. We do this by focusing on product design that is true to our heart. Our small team is passionate and dedicated to creating products we genuinely love and believe in.
“The highest quality ingredients and formulations available are sourced for each product line, offering genuinely beautiful products with a distinctive design. I don’t often look to see what others in the market are doing, but instead listen to what our customers are asking for in new product.”
As for anyone starting their own business she says grow slowly and steadily, surround yourself with a circle of expert advisors and create a great team. “Plus make sure you know your numbers,” she adds.
“Running a business can be very difficult at times and when I asked my dad why he always reassured me with the response ‘if it was easy, everyone would do it’.”