Sydney Creative People: Koskela

As part of this interview, I asked Sasha, one of the owners of Koskela, what she thought was the key to success. She said, "Follow your heart, trust your judgement and do it with joy." 

Honestly, I think I've seen a version of these words from other business owners, and it can be one of those feel-good phrases that you nod your head to, and you know it's true, but I've been seriously thinking about these words this week...

As a society filled with humans of all sorts, judgements and opinions fly at you from every angle imaginable. Friends, family, strangers, colleagues... people telling you to go this way; look that way; you should do this; you definitely shouldn't do that; you're great; actually, no you're not; you're absolutely amazing; and now you're really, really crap.

Standing strong in the midst of a thousand voices telling you who you are, and how good you are  is not easy. It can become completely debilitating if you start listening to too many of those voices. If you want to move forward, there comes a point when you have to look internally and learn to recognise and listen to your own voice. Trust in yourself to make the right decisions, and then carry them out without fear or shame!

I think this unwavering belief in their purpose as a business is so evident in Koskela. In fact, Sasha's answer to my question is the ideology that Koskela is built on, and is their long-standing mantra. Koskela is a furniture and homewares design retailer, and they are big players in the Australia furniture design space, yet there are morals and beliefs that stand behind the business that are very human and are obviously coming from a very real place.

Owned by Sasha Titchkosky and Russell Koskela, who are partners in life as well as in business (yay for the working couples of the world!), and have been operating the business for 16 years. Before Koskela, they both had high-flying corporate careers, but decided it was time to take stock of where they were at, and start again in an industry that the believed in and were passionate about. 

They sell a beautiful selection of specially curated items, as well as pieces they've designed themselves. They believe that design can be used to affect social change, so they are big supporters of social enterprises, and they have a massive focus on quality and sustainability. They also collaborate with lots of local and Australian Aboriginal artists, and make sure everything they sell is ethically produced. I can personally vouch that any trip to Koskela's retail store in Rosebery will leave you seriously inspired...

This is Sasha's story.

 

Koskela owner, Sasha Titchkosky. Photography by  Richard Whitbread .

Koskela owner, Sasha Titchkosky. Photography by Richard Whitbread.

Before we started Koskela...

Russel and I had a six week holiday, which was the circuit breaker we needed to step out of life and think about what we wanted it to look like. I can remember sitting in a café in Paris talking about what we wanted to do and he subtly suggested we look at furniture as an option. He’d been passionate about being a furniture designer right through his studies and his career.

When we first started the business, we feared failure...

We haven't really overcome that fear. It almost feels as if it's magnified now as the stakes are so much higher. We are bigger, with more employees and more to lose.

How I manage the fear...

I meditate, use exercise and try to keep focused on the positive things, i.e. what's been successful for us in the past. And then I just try and maintain objectivity, and focus on breaking everything into small steps. It can be overwhelming otherwise!

I’d like our commercial furniture ranges to be available internationally...

Our products can definitely stand on a world stage. We have recently completed our fourth international project.

The Classic Sofa  and the  Zen Low Table , both designed by Koskela. Photography by  Richard Whitbread .

The Classic Sofa and the Zen Low Table, both designed by Koskela. Photography by Richard Whitbread.

We primarily focus on Australian made products that are often handmade or sold in limited editions...

If the product is Australian designed, we look at how it's made (is it ethically produced?) and lastly if it’s an imported product we will only stock it if it’s been made as part of a social enterprise.

Collaboration is critical to our business...

Everything we do is collaborative. All our manufacturing partners are our collaborators, as are many of the Australian artisans and makers we work with. It's such a great feeling when you can put your respective heads together, value each other's skill sets and solve a problem to enable an idea to be realised.

We've had support in building up the business...

The biggest thing that has helped me navigate the business side of things has been an organisation I joined called the Entrepreneurs Organisation. It’s been so incredibly helpful. I've really learned a lot through this organisation.

On digital marketing and social media...

It’s been huge and its mainstream adoption neatly coincided with when we were launching Rosebery.

Globe light with copper plug . Koskela in Rosebery. Photography by  Richard Whitbread .

Globe light with copper plug. Koskela in Rosebery. Photography by Richard Whitbread.

On our visual brand...

We worked with an amazing graphic designer when we first started called Dean Hastie. He nailed our mark and then it’s been a matter of adapting the style as the company has evolved. We are in the process of implementing a rebrand now and will soon be launching a new website.

Worry and anxiety are big creativity killers!

When you're worried or anxious, you're not allowing enough space in your life that is unplanned and empty.

If I could click your fingers and change one thing about the world, it would be climate change...

I can't believe this isn’t Government's number one issue.

One of the best moments since Koskela began its journey was getting the Elcho collaboration off the ground... 

I feel proud of that daily. I am really proud that we’ve been working together for six years, and it's getting stronger as we go.

Kitchen homewares. Koskela in Rosebery. Photography by  Richard Whitbread .

Kitchen homewares. Koskela in Rosebery. Photography by Richard Whitbread.

The hardest part about owning a business is...

It’s hard to let it go – even harder when you work and live together. This is great in some ways and means you also have to be very disciplined in others to stop it being totally consuming.

I've learned it's important to...

Take your time in getting to know potential partners – these things are difficult to undo when it doesn’t run to plan.

If I was starting out again, I'd tell myself...

Not to forget to celebrate the wins along the way.

My advice to other business owners...

Be true to what you believe in.

Next year is going to be a great year...

I feel as though we’re going to be coming into a whole new phase for the business and that’s exciting.

www.koskela.com.au

Assorted products from Koskela in Rosebery. Photography by  Richard Whitbread .

Assorted products from Koskela in Rosebery. Photography by Richard Whitbread.