This week in our ongoing Meet the Maker series, we’re getting to know Josef and Grace, the craftsmen behind boutique brand Blue&Grae. Josef and Grace live and work together in the suburb of Teneriffe in Brisbane Australia, and are in the midst of transitioning from working at their day jobs to full time artisans. We’re excited to share their story with you!
LBC: What inspired you to take your leap as entrepreneurs?
Josef and Grace: Several years ago Grae dared me to make a camp-sit – a little leather and hardwood camping stool – so I did, and immediately saw the potential in what I had just done. The business was born soon thereafter and we are now in our third year part time. The real leap is happening right now as we strategize our leap from our day jobs to full time artisans. Its a very exciting time for Blue&Grae.
LBC: When you first got started, how did you envision your business would be defined?
Josef and Grace: We have always wanted our business to be defined by the quality and robustness of our craftsmanship. It’s never been about being rich; for us, it’s about fulfilling our need to create and staying true to the essence of the materials that we use.
LBC: How would you describe what you create?
Josef and Grace: We hand-craft a variety of leather, canvas, and denim goods. Every piece is designed and made by us in our Brisbane studio/workshop using age old techniques and time-honoured sewing machines. We use only full grain Australian leather from Australian animals – it’s amazing stuff.
LBC: Where can we find your products?
Josef and Grace: In our Etsy shop.
LBC: Walk us through your typical work day.
Josef and Grace: Whilst we are planning and saving for our transition to full time artisans, we both still work full time, so that takes care of our 9-5. The real work starts in the evenings; we are both hardcore night owls, so that suits us. Our golden time for creativity and productivity is 8 ’till midnight. During those hours, you will find us at the sewing machines, cutting materials, updating our Etsy shop, or working on new products. The weekends are reserved for photography, machine maintenance, coffee, and toast.
LBC: What are 3 things makers should think through when they initially decide to start a business?
Josef and Grace: 1) Try to identify what your strengths really are, and think about how you will deal with your shortcomings.
2) Think about your business’s core values, and then think about how you can achieve these, realistically and ethically.
3) Think about the integrity of your materials and processes. Where possible, we think makers should source their materials in such a way as to protect craft industries and local businesses.
LBC: When you’re overwhelmed, what brings you back to focus?
Josef and Grace: The smell of wood smoke. A long hot bath. A bike ride along the Brisbane river.
LBC: Tell us about a few of the best business decisions you’ve made to date.
Josef and Grace: I think our best decisions have been around the materials we use. For example, dealing directly with the two Australian tanneries that we use has enabled us to learn so much about their process’s issues and roadblocks. Often we can work together to prevent these in the first instance, and arrive at a better product and a better deal financially for both parties.
Investing in the best quality machines that you can afford is also really important. For us, that has meant buying older machines and restoring them to their former glory. It really is true in this instance: They don’t make them like they used to.
LBC: Please share one mistake or obstacle from your business experience. How did you bounce back/overcome it?
Josef and Grace: We still dread bad reviews as anyone would, but the more we talk honestly to people about our products, the more confidence we get that we are staying true to our values. You can’t please everyone with your products, and the sooner that is really understood, the better.
LBC: Is there a cause or organization that you contribute to that you’re particularly passionate about?
Josef and Grace: We have recently started collaborating with several education centres/craft organisations to share our knowledge of leathercraft to likeminded creative types. Its an enjoyable thing for us to be able to see other people enjoy the making and crating process and hopefully to spark their inner artisan.
LBC: What are 3 essential resources in your business toolbox that you can’t do without?
Josef and Grace: Google Drive – Enables us to store our documents in a central location and access them anywhere.
Our chalk board – We put all of our current orders and jobs on a chalk board in the workshop. It helps us to stay focused and prioritize our work (and its cool place to doodle).
Good old notepad and pen – Doodles become ideas, problems are solved, lists are written.
LBC: Suppose we had a time machine. If you blasted ourselves forward a few years, where would we see your company?
Josef and Grace: All things being well in a few years, we should both be working full time at Blue&Grae. Our product line will have expanded, and hopefully the relationships we have built with our suppliers and our clients will still be going strong.
LBC: What’s one thing you would eat, if you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life?
Grace (Grae): Toast. Just Toast.
Josef (Blue): Roasted vegetable lasagne.
LBC: What’s your favorite quote and who said it?
Josef and Grace: “Look for the bare necessities / The simple bare necessities / Forget about your worries and your strife / I mean the bare necessities / That’s why a bear can rest at ease / With just the bare necessities of life.” -Baloo the Bear
LBC: If you were given a million dollars, but were not allowed to keep a single penny for yourself, friends or family, how would you spend it or give it away?
Josef and Grace: We would love to create a craft co-operative for the underprivileged, perhaps giving homeless people or those less fortunate than us the opportunities to learn a craft, and produce something that they can then sell to work their way out of their predicaments. Not everyone wants direct charity; just the opportunity to earn their keep.
Thank you, Josef and Grace, for sharing your talent with us! We absolutely love what you’re doing and we look forward to all the wonderful things ahead for Blue&Grae. We’re cheering you on…
Want to see your brand featured in our continuing “Meet the Maker” series? Drop us a line: hello AT luckybreakconsulting.com. Please use “MEET THE MAKER” as the subject line and be certain to include your web address. We look forward to hearing from you!