Phoebe, welcome to Business Minds … You’ve recently opened a new store called Soda the Store; can you tell us a little about it?
Soda the Store is the new women’s clothing and lifestyle store located at the Coffs Harbour International Marina. Focusing on casual daywear and coastal accessories, Soda is home to an easy-living style and features some new and exclusive brands previously not available in the region. Think coastal, natural, a little bit salty! Our doors opened early December 2018, and it has been non-stop since! There remains a hint of that fresh paint smell; it’s a nice little reminder of achievements thus far … It’s quite surreal to feature in Business Minds.
What inspired you to take the leap of faith to start your own business?
It has always been one of my goals since completing my tertiary studies to be involved in or run a small business. Like many, I just wasn’t sure how, what or when it would take form.
I have had the fortune to be surrounded by inspiring and successful business owners throughout my life, and I’ve also helped others pursue side hustles and dreams of their own. I figured if I could rustle up enough belief in someone else, then surely, I have enough to believe in myself. I saw an opportunity and decided to take the initiative to turn my pipedream into a reality.
Retail and fashion is a tough game; what do you think it takes to stand out from the
Every industry has its challenges and risks. I think it’s important to be aware of these and to mitigate and manage expectations; going in with open eyes – and fresh eyes can help shake up the status quo. I believe creative vision, passion, being adaptive, and giving life and a soul to your business play a key role in defining a unique business brand and identity. And let’s not forget learning from your mistakes – anyone who is (or has) started a business understands the joy of learning from mistakes! Sometimes learning the hard way is the best way! At the end of the day, you have to enjoy what you do, because it reflects in everything you do.
What sort of experience and products can people expect from Soda the Store?
Soda the Store is a welcoming space to chill out and peruse the clothing and goods on offer and enjoy the shopping experience. You are just as likely to find me pottering on the shop floor as you are sitting on the couch having a chat with a customer who has just dropped in to say hi! I love the concept that visitors can adopt this at-ease vibe, particularly as we often find ourselves rushing about in our day-to-day lives.
Soda offers women’s clothing and accessories, from beach towels to hats, sunscreen, sandals and more. With a focus on daywear and more natural fibres, Soda provides new and different brands for the Coffs region. Where possible, Soda stocks Australian-made products and is supporting other local businesses. It will continue to evolve, and I’m keen to see how it develops!
You’ve had a diverse career so far, mainly in marketing and events roles. What
motivated you to start a retail store?
It may appear a little left of field; however, the retail business allows for marketing and events experience and to add your flair. From planning launches and photo shoots to designing marketing plans and the store’s persona – you get to put on a bit of a show, but this time I’m the event owner, so it’s interesting being on the other side of the table.
There’s a great level of local support for small businesses on the Coffs Coast. How
important is the local community’s support for your store?
The local community has been incredibly welcoming and encouraging, and I am very grateful for this. It is so lovely to now be part of not only the hub of small businesses at the Marina, but the business community of the Coffs Coast. It’s exciting to be in a position to collaborate and support other small businesses too. When it comes to small business – the more, the merrier – we are greater than the sum of our parts. Competition is healthy; it makes for better and more diverse businesses.
What marketing activities have you found, so far, to be the best way to promote the
At present, I am focusing on social media
(@sodathestore) and word of mouth. I will have an official launch shortly to kick off Soda’s entry into the market. There are a few other ideas and collaborations in the pipeline, and they will unfold throughout the year!
What’s your connection to the Coffs Coast?
The Coffs Coast has always held a special place in my heart. While I grew up on a farm in Mudgee, my mum grew up on a banana plantation just outside of Coffs, and we made the long haul to the Mid North Coast almost every holiday to visit my grandparents and extended family. Naturally, many special memories and stories involve this area.
A few years ago, I found myself visiting Sawtell for a well-needed hiatus, and you guessed it – I’m still here! It’s an incredible place to live, and now the special memories and stories can continue. The banana boxes on display in Soda are from my family’s banana plantation – a loving memory of a beautiful property and time, and a tribute to the history of the Coffs Coast.
Any favourite motto or advice for other budding small business owners or those yet to take the leap?
These are my three favourites:
1# Back yourself. It can be a dangerous (and natural) habit to turn to others for answers. It’s okay to get advice and bounce off ideas, but you have to call the shots. As soon as I forced myself to make the decisions and back my ideas – that’s when things started to go right and feel right and seriously take shape. Because at the end of the day, it’s your vision – you have to be the Director. Sit in that chair. Call the shots.
2# Enjoy the ride. It’s a rollercoaster, and it’s meant to be. It’s part of the fear and beauty of executing a dream. I am often reminded there are things we can control and those we cannot. Timing is not always perfect. Sometimes you just have to roll with it, let go and trust. A little bit of faith goes a long way.
3# Support crew are gold. From a “you’ve got this” text to a seven-point motivational speech, to a hug. They help keep you on track. And sane! They are worth their weight in gold.
Photo by Jessi Simpson (@bloompress)