It’s both heartwarming and frightening to think we’re coming up to our 6th birthday next week… I mean, on one hand I feel like I’ve been doing this biz for an eternity and on the other, I wonder "How the hell did that happen?"
And well, really, that's kind of a legitimate question. Because if I took you back to the very start, and I mean the very start of Sage x Clare, you'd probably look at me with bewilderment, amazement and maybe a slight sense of "I think she's lost it". And rightly so. But I'm going to take you back there anyway, because it's my story... And, while it might not be how most brands start, this is how Sage x Clare came to be.
To do that though, I need to venture further back, to around 8 years ago. The word 'miserable' feels like a tremendous understatement when describing just how I felt in my job at the time. I'd landed what I thought was my dream gig, only to find out it was riddled with a toxic culture that was so bad, I could barely put one foot in front of the other. I kid you not, I had to get out! But what does one with a Law and Media & Communications background now working as a stylist actually do?Well... that little idea came to me via my husband, Chris. We took off to India for Christmas in search of a little spontaneity and adventure. And oh boy, we got all the spontaneity and adventure we could ask for, plus more! When surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the Mumbai streets, he turned to me and said "Why don't you open a homewares business?" to which I replied in a rather sarcastic tone "Yeah, OK". I thought he'd lost his mind. Yes, I loved textiles, colour, homewares and interiors (in fact, it really lit me up) but why oh why would I have any of the skills to do that?But, somewhere between that idea being raised and the 2 months that followed, we'd returned home, I’d quit my job, wrote a kind of laughable business plan, transferred our humble "US holiday savings" funds to a new "Sage x Clare" funds account and landed back in India for 3 months with my sister, Jemma, and Chris, joining me in parts for the ride.Now... I'm sure you're thinking I had some sweet, well organised plan and I knew someone - who knew someone - who knew someone - who hooked me up with all the good contacts. Nope. Didn't know a soul. I landed on the ground in Delhi with nothing but a vague plan to explore the city, before venturing through Rajasthan and beyond in search of artisans I could work with. Sounds kind of risky, hey?
Well, that's what a 20-something, naive thing does with nothing but a lot of determination, vision and with no idea how to find suppliers let alone work with them! On top of that, learning to break through the language and gender barriers, export the product, import the product and build an online store and brand. Woah.
Somewhere along my 3 months in India though, I did make some contacts. I did find some suppliers (some of whom I'd never use again but hey, had to start somewhere) and I did find an export agent who I sent our entire savings to in one fell swoop with nothing but a wish and a hope that he was who he said he was. Fortunately, he was.It was both a crazy adventure that didn't go really, really right but also didn't go disastrously wrong either. As Sage x Clare would not be around if just one of these contacts didn't do what they'd promised to do. I know people use the term 'leap of faith' but man, could you find a more fitting turn of phrase?So after venturing across India, taking a crash course in block printing, kantha blankets, vintage furniture and textile design (fortunately Jemma is a textile designer so that certainly helped) I landed back home and waited for our container of goodies to arrive. Now you may be thinking, arrive where!? Well, the truthful answer is, to our small little unit in suburbia. Yup, we packed up the house, moved our furniture to one side, cleared out our double garage so that when the day came for the container to arrive, we had somewhere to put it.
And we lived like this for 18 months before the brand was even launched. The lounge room became a photo studio, the spare bedrooms and dining room became warehousing, the garage became more warehousing and our own bed was surrounded by boxes. For a house proud, organised, everything-must-have-a-place kinda gal, this felt like torture.
For the next year and a half, I threw myself into styling and photographing all of our wares (thanks to some Youtube videos on 'How to use a Nikon'), wrote the product descriptions, enlisted the help of Jemma with branding, built the website, got to know my way around social media (sort of) among a million other things that had to be done. There were days where I would feel good about what I was doing and where it was going and there were days were the loneliness of it all was palpable. Here I was, working away on something with my ALL, that nobody even knew about yet, that may or may not ever amount to anything more than a silly, little dream. It was both the most defining moment of my life but also fraught with tremendous fear and uncertainty.Fortunately, I had some pretty special people around me. My family, Chris and close friends for one were unwavering in their belief that this was going to be something. And I mean unwavering. With every teary meltdown, they'd just stand by me with the kind of steely resolve that you need when you can't find it yourself. I also met some guiding lights over this time too, the types that just open their arms with industry knowledge and wisdom without wanting a single favour in return.
Eventually, I was ready to launch. And when I say ready, I don't mean mentally or emotionally. I was far from ready in that sense. But, after 2 years in the making, it had to go live at some point and there was not much more finessing or fussing I could do. I'd done more perfecting than I should have and it was time to put what felt like my heart and soul on the line. No more stalling.I remember the day as clear as anything. I hadn't slept for 3 days, anxious with worry, obsessively checking over the website, social media, our product, our packaging. I had no launch plan, other than a dear friend hooking up a feature on Rebecca Judd Loves. Oh and this post below on Instagram - what a magnificent launch post. Just kidding. But that's just how green I was...There was no party, no celebration, jeez I really just needed to sleep. So I made the website live, turned my phone off and went to bed. And want to know who made the first purchase??! My MUM! Thanks Mum.
Now you could say the rest is history... Not really though. That journey to launch kind of resembles what the rest of the journey has been like since. Crazy? Irresponsible? Lucky? Fraught? Fun? Adventurous? Yes, yes yes. I could write a book.
This is just one chapter.