Meet the Maker: Erin Smart and Leif Smart, Founders of Martini Furniture
Team Buy Aussie Now
This story was written by several Buy Aussie Now team members.
Creating a little magic where the magic happens, Martini Furniture are famed for their luxurious upholstered bedheads and cushions. Handcrafted, made to order in Melbourne, and seen on the likes of The Block, it’s fair to say that these pieces are just as dazzling on the silver screen as they are in your homes. We spoke to Erin and Leif Smart, the Founders of Martini furniture to find out about their homegrown business.
How did you start your homegrown business?
The idea for our business came from my husband, my mutual love of colour and desire to get out from behind our computers of our day jobs and work with our hands. I run a marketing agency and my husband, Leif, is a writer, so we are both creative in our own way, and have a similar taste in homewares, art and decor, so we thought, why not start a side business making luxurious upholstered bedheads?
We are both “do-ers”, so once the idea was formed, we set up a makeshift workshop in our dining room in our house in Melbourne, and within eight short weeks, we had designed our first range, made and photographed samples, built a website and launched the business into the world!
Three short years later, we’ve been featured on two series’ of the TV show The Block, we’ve set up a proper workshop to cope with the volume of orders coming in, and have delivered our products to customers all across Australia.
What inspires you?
Colour, pattern, customers. We work hard to differentiate ourselves from our competitors and provide our customers with a choice outside of the standard monochrome/grey/beige options that are available at the big retailers. We get so excited when our customers choose our brightly coloured products – colour makes us happy!
What are the benefits of manufacturing locally?
By manufacturing locally, we can keep our overheads low, employ locals, support local raw material suppliers, and provide great quality, unique products to help our customers inject personality into their homes. We are also able to make our products quickly and get them to our customers much quicker than importers can. Our absolute record turnaround was two hours from phone call to delivery, when we had to make a custom-made bedhead and deliver it to one of the contestants on The Block for a challenge! (They won the challenge with our bedhead as well!)
What makes the Australian consumer unique?
Australian customers appreciate quality products and know the value of investing in great quality products for their home. We’ve loved seeing the groundswell of support Australian consumers have actively shown Australian small businesses this year as we have all been trying to navigate the series of challenges that 2020 has thrown at us all. We truly appreciate every person that chooses to spend their money with us.
What is the best business advice you have ever received?
“Build it and they will come.” My husband and I are full of ideas and are not afraid of spending the time to bring these ideas to life. We figure, if we like our products, surely others will too – so we create them and then find our audience of customers who love them too.
What are some of the biggest challenges you have had to overcome in business?
Like all small businesses, cashflow is a challenge for us, as it is for any and every business owner. It’s the make or break of business, so we’ve had our challenges with this, especially while our business has been growing. I am a huge fan of bootstrapping, and not taking on debt to grow a business – choosing to reinvest our profit into growth, supplies, creating new styles, and promoting the business. It has worked so far, but it has been touch and go a few times over the years.
Another challenge is making decisions on products and pricing and staying true to those decisions. That’s a tough one because we never really know what our customers will think and how they will respond – just got to have faith that we’ve made the right decision, and then be quick to tweak it if not!
What has been your positive takeaway from the COVID-19 pandemic?
COVID-19 has been the biggest leveller of people all around the world – it has affected everyone regardless of their location, wealth or status in a way that no other thing in our lifetime has before - but it is seeing the kindness that some people have shown each other (often perfect strangers) throughout all of this, that has brought me joy and restored my faith in humanity. Reading the stories that are posted to the Facebook group “The Kindness Pandemic” is one of favourite things to do each day throughout this uncertain time.
Do you keep your vegemite in the fridge or pantry?
Favourite Australian film quote?
“It’s just the vibe of the thing.” – The Castle
Checkout Martini Furniture for some Aussie-made luxuriously soft, high quality upholstered bedheads and cushions.