Interview: Bow and Arrow
To have a point of difference, and something that makes you stand out from everyone else is something we're told as business owners is really important. It's the holy grail of marketing – to find your individuality and celebrate it.
Yet, even though we know this, the temptation to fit in and be the same as others, especially when you see others doing something successfully, is strong. This applies to the products we choose to sell, how we market them, our brand voice, and how we put ourselves across on social media. It's all too easy to look at someone else and decide to go the same way.
To operate by your own rules, and to walk on a path that hasn't been well-trodden by others is brave and risky! It's not easy to put yourself out there without any assurances of how you'll be received, or if people will like what you're doing. But, while it can be harder to do things this way, it's the only way to ultimately bring meaning and purpose into our businesses.
Today's interview is with a business owner who stepped away from the sea of safety, and not only decided to do something different with her own business, but has a genuine desire to help other people to express their individuality as well.
Bow and Arrow is a fashion, jewellery, homewares and art store in Manly, and it belongs to Tash Iannis and Myles Pritchard. It all came about because Tash was frustrated by the lack of variety in the designer boutiques in Sydney, where you see the same labels over and over again. While the store celebrates some special Australian designers, they will, and do go all over the globe to source the best of the best – designers and artists who are following their own heart and creating items that are truly original and have a story worth telling.
When I discovered this store not long after it opened, it quickly became one of my favourites. I noticed that every time I picked something up, Tash or Myles would dash over with some kind of insight about the designer, or the fabric or material it had been made with. I would totally buy into their stories, and it made me feel great about owning something that's been made with such care, thought and expertise. Being so passionate about the stories behind their products, and going to extreme lengths to find products that are truly original is what makes these guys special.
Here's Tash's story...
What is Bow and Arrow and what do you do?
Bow and Arrow is a carefully curated space filled with men’s and women’s fashion, jewellery, homewares and art from all around the world. We also have an adjoining studio where we work, do photoshoots and host all kinds of creative workshops.
What was the tipping point to make you decide to go for it?
I have worked in the fashion industry in some shape or form for about 15 years. I studied design and colour which led me to fashion styling, and I did a lot of personal styling as well. I quickly became frustrated at the lack of unique pieces that were available in boutiques. I was constantly referring my clients to online stores to seek points of difference. I had always wanted a store of my own – a place that housed unique pieces from around the world. I wanted a store that celebrated beautifully made clothes, as well as jewellery and art.
The tipping point is very clear in my mind, and was a moment I will never forget. After years of freelancing and being taken advantage of (something that happens to freelance artists a lot), I was ready to give it in! And in that moment, I had a life-changing conversation with my Dad (a man who has run a very successful business of his own for over 20 years). He almost got cross with me and said, “I never want to hear you say that you're going to give up on your dreams. Dreams are important. You never give up on your dreams, ever!” To say that those words pierced my heart is an understatement. It was the kick in the behind that I needed. I then focused all my attention on the possibility of opening a store, and, like it was always meant to happen, an opportunity presented itself that I couldn’t refuse.
Bow and Arrow is packed with beautiful things you’ve handpicked from across the globe. What are the common attributes you look for in the products you source?
Products we love! There is nothing in the store we wouldn’t or don’t own ourselves. My main criteria is:
- Fabric – the quality of the piece, whether it be a garment or a piece of jewellery
- Construction – where it is made and the physical construction on a piece – no seam is unseen by these eyes!
- Lastly I look at whether the product is in the market already. In Australia we have a market that is over-saturated with the same products / clothing etc. The vision for Bow and Arrow is to bring together unique pieces that we physically find ourselves. We do 90 per cent of the buying overseas.
Every time I’ve been into your shop, you tell me a story about whatever I’ve got in my hand. Do you intentionally choose products that have a good story behind them?
I love beautifully crafted pieces. Whether it's leather goods or stunning pieces of jewellery, I am drawn to pieces that will last. We focus on ‘style‘ pieces as oppose to ‘fashion’ pieces. Pieces that compliment your style; your personality. Often those pieces tell a story. There are some extremely talented artists out there in the world, as well as locally (we do support a selection of local designers as well), whose work deserves attention and we want to highlight those artists and designers who are passionate about their work. These people work very hard to produce beautifully crafted pieces, and in a fast moving world where everything is mass produced and instant, those artists are important. Their work is important because they represent a human touch that inspires us to think creatively.
How do your customers respond when you tell them a story about a product?
They respond because they know what they're buying has a longer life space, and it has a human touch. They, in turn, become part of the story these artists and designers are telling. Storytellers are visionaries and without vision, people perish.
Has marketing your business come easy to you?
Yes and no, however, Instagram has made it really easy. It's the best marketing tool in the world at the moment – it has enormously helped my business. A picture tells a thousand words, does it not? The stories we have from Instagram are endless. In my opinion, the best form of advertising is speaking the language of the time, and Instagram is doing that loud and clear.
What marketing skills have you had to master to get your business out there?
I don’t know if I have mastered any marketing skills, other than learning to be social media savvy and to really treat every single customer like they are the most important person in my day. And that's because they are! Sometimes that can be really hard to do, but, at the end of day, the best form of marketing is a very happy customer.
Tips on how to stay on top of everything?
DELEGATE! Know what you can and can't do. There are things that are not easy for me to do in my day, so I have hired the right people to help me. If you’re doing too much, it’s impossible to stay on top of everything. We need each other.
What does a good day look like for you?
Every day is different: a combination of emails, stock movements, cleaning, visual merchandising, meetings and most importantly tending to my customers, whom I love.
What about a hard day?
Retail can be a tough business – even with a healthy economy. It has its ups and downs. I do get my energy from people so ‘quieter’ days can be harder on me. However, those days are an opportunity to get things done and there is always a lot to do! So, days aren’t ever really hard – just an opportunity to be creative.
Career highlight so far?
At the risk of sounding cheesy… I constantly have ‘career highlights’ every time a customer comes in raving about the store – expressing their love and how it makes them feel inspired. That to me is the biggest high, because it means we’ve achieved our vision, and means we're on the right track.
Any low points?
Not really. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not super human; it's a huge weight to carry on your shoulders. I have just found every low point is an opportunity for growth, and when you view it like that, it helps you get on with it.
What advice would you give to yourself if you were starting out again?
To be honest, I’m not sure I’d do anything differently. I think if you knew everything you were going to face, you would never do anything. I’d probably just tell myself what I tell myself every day, and that is that I'm blessed to be in position I am in, and let that be the motivation to work really hard and keep moving forward.
One piece of advice for other business owners?
Give yourself a break!! We tend to work too hard and all the time. Every now and then it's important to stop, get out of your ‘work’ space. Get inspired, breathe, and renew your mind. The trips I take overseas are important for buying, but they're just as important for inspiration. To go and marvel at something – something bigger than myself – puts everything into perspective and helps me work better in my business. We are not machines!
Name 3 businesses that inspire you?
Myles Pritchard – and not because I am biased or because he happens to be my best friend, but because he genuinely inspires me every day. He's an artist and everything he does, he does with vision and passion. Watching him work has inspired my work, and has pushed me to be better. We work really well together and I feel really blessed to have him in my life. He's been a huge support, and a positive and creative influence in the store.
Natalie Marie Jewellery. She happens to be a very good friend of mine and we've had her jewellery in store since the very beginning. She's extremely talented, passionate about the pieces she crafts by hand, and one of the hardest workers I know. She’s amazing.
Lastly and most importantly my parents business, which they built from nothing. They are a constant reminder that if you have a vision and you're prepared to work hard – and I mean really hard – then you can see that vision become a reality. Seeing what they have created inspires me every day. They are incredible role models.