Women Who Do What They Love - Jennie McClelland

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Who is this woman? Jennie McClelland

What is her passion called? Posie Patchwork (retail) and Edna&AliceMay, Vintage Sensibility (wholesale).

Where can you take a squiz at her stuff? www.posie.com.au and www.ednaalicemay.com.au

How long has she been doing it now? I’ve been sewing seriously for 10 years, and officially in business since happily retiring from the ‘work force’ after having twins in 2001. The wholesale label, Edna&AliceMay, started two years ago and has international stockists, too.

What does she actually produce? Primarily I’m a sewing business, where you pick and choose your favourite fabrics from my extensive collection, and I create the products for you. I specialise in handmade patchwork quilts, tote bags, cushions, children’s decor, fashion and accessories. After my hobby grew into a serious business, I started a French toy shop with vintage style wooden toys, knitted rattles, a zillion badges, magnets and key rings, a dedicated fabric shop, gift cards and Italian stamps.

Why does she do all this? I have always been super artistic and creative, making clothes for my toys when I was little. My mother was the ultimate 1950s housewife and made all our clothes, food, furnishings and gifts. Also married to the military with four children, my mother made it all look so easy to be dedicated purely to family. I had no idea I wanted the same thing . . . until I had it! Along with a whole new respect for my mother – who I call Barbie, for many reasons!

What is this talented woman’s story? I met my soldier husband when I was a teenager and still at university. We’ve been married for 12 years with four children aged 10 to five years. We move interstate every two years – Sydney, Darwin, Canberra and next stop Brisbane. I studied pharmacology and psychology at Sydney Uni, worked in the oil industry for two years between having our first daughter, then had the twins. My family is my world; we do everything together as a family – travel, play, cook and adventures.

How has her business journey been so far? I paced myself – I didn’t want to be too big too quickly. Whilst ambitious, I was realistic about starting from scratch, making the products myself. My husband and babysitting jobs funded my initial investment, and gorgeous friends and family were my first customers. Business has grown because of my experience with products and my ability to manage it, even with four young children and minimal support.

What pesky obstacles have tried to block her progress? Trying to explain to a web designer (or 20) that you have no money to spend on a website, but you know exactly what you want, you are pregnant with your fourth child, but have a business vision, and trying to get men to take you seriously (at meetings with children – well-behaved children, but children nonetheless!). I had confidence and was convincing in my drive to make my business a success – and that’s catchy! I reinvested money in the business from sales rather than borrowing money, which keeps you out of trouble. I’m incredibly patient (obviously – I work from home with four children under 4½ years) and the children have all slept to the hum of the sewing machine. That’s just how our family works.

What are her greatest joys in doing what she loves? Being available to my family, volunteering at school, being at home where our hearts are! When you’ve dropped the children at school, then a celebrity places an order while you’re at the supermarket, it’s kind of surreal. Then you are asked to feature as a designer in a huge craft book . . . I’m humbled. Market stalls are fun, but it’s time away from family on the weekend, however, when customers squeal with delight at my products and fabrics… it’s rewarding! Markets have been really successful, too. I only started after I weaned my last baby… until then it just wasn’t going to happen!

What item is she loving most right now? The magnificent handmade patchwork quilt, but a super handy Posie tote as a baby bag is pretty cool.

What is her inspiration? Oh, easily my children. They are all so different, fun, quirky, interesting, alive and giggly. They have such a variety of interests, suggest great ideas and really love particular fabric combinations. They are so bright and innovative. I had to find something I could do from home, be available to move around the country, and raise my children. On line, with a 1800 number, solves all those problems.

If she could do anything in the whole wide, entire world – what would she do? I do love what I do, but it’s for a purpose – it’s our family income, so my dream career would to be a full time mum. Even though all the children are in primary school, they need so much more of me now.

Where would she escape to if she could? Easily Italy. We went there on our honeymoon and my husband’s grandparents were Northern Italian. So a big family holiday experience of eating, adventuring, shopping and discovering some heritage, too.

What would she buy there? Soft furnishings, blankets, crockery, wooden stamps, stationery and trinkets for the house, lots of leather goods, Hugo Boss for my husband, an amazing overcoat for me and divine Italian children’s wear for our children.

What are her secret aspirations? I’m so thrilled with how things are going. Next on the production line is a children’s range called sTaRt oF FaShiOn for both the Posie & Edna&AliceMay websites. Some preview clothes have been in the magazines (Shop4Kids and Australian Parents). It’s very exciting.

What is her greatest achievement? Managing it all! My husband still comes first and I love him to pieces. Our children are our whole world – they are happy, healthy and entertaining, plus I still get to have this fun creative outlet and career.

What would be her absolutely perfect day? Husband home; children playing – running wildly through a field; lovely selection of cheeses, breads, salads; big family-sized picnic rug. This would be in our dream coastal/regional house and farm.

What five words sum her up? Wife. Mother. Happy. Love. Determined.

What really fabulous advice does she have for others wanting to Do What They Love?

Find something that you are great at, or can learn to be great at. Be true to your own designs, concepts and ideas. If you’re a mother and that’s why you are starting your own business . . . choose something that you can start, stop, start, stop – that won’t spoil or frustrate you. Work around the kids, even involve them in it, so they get what you do, understand why you’re doing it and appreciate your skills! Start small, let it grow, keep it close to your heart. It’s going to be a massive part of your life for a very long time, so you have really love what you do.

Drool over Jennie’s delectable wares at these upcoming Canberra markets…

Race & Taste at Thoroughbred Park Canberra, Monday 27th April, 10am to 5pm, free entry.

MOCCA Locally Made Fair at Manuka Childcare Centre, Flinders Way, Manuka, Saturday 2nd May, 9am to 2pm, free entry.

Handmade Show Case, Civic Shopping Centre, outside Smiggle/Target, Saturday 16th May 9am to 5pm.

Handmade Canberra’s UpMarket, Albert Hall, Yarralumla, Saturday 23rd May, 10am to 4pm, free entry.

Are you doing what you love? Please contact me here if you would like to tell your Do What You Love story. I’d love to hear from you – no matter where you are in the world.

1 comment:

posiepatchwork said...

Wow, thanks so much Tania, that's lovely!! Race&Taste is Monday 27th of April, can't wait to go along. You should so join us!! There is a little Handmade gang of us going. Thanks again, love Posie

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