1. You've had a super interesting life - tell us about your childhood, what are some of your favourite memories?
I grew up in a small coastal town called Plettenberg Bay on the Garden Route in South Africa. My childhood was very typical of a coastal town and we spent a lot of time on the beach with friends. My Grandparents owned a Caravan park which was on the waterfront and I spent a lot of time there during holidays and weekends, on the beach and making new friends with holiday makers. There was only one primary school and no high school and as is the case with most small towns, everybody knew everyone. I went to a small far school in High School and there were about 150 pupils from prep to year 10. It was the best and some of my fondest memories as the classrooms were small and we got a lot of attention and were able to be outdoors a lot chasing cows off the rugby field etc. Back then it was still very safe and as kids we were able to roam free and play in the street or walk to the beach and town, which we did almost everyday. As it was a small town we were never reliant on our parents to get us anywhere as we could walk wherever we wanted to go. I always draw the comparison to Plettenberg Bay being similar to Lorne on the Great Ocean Road. My favourite memories are from summer times when the sun rose early and set late with good weather and spending everyday down the beach. December holidays were always my favourite time of the year as Plettenberg Bay was a favourite Holiday destination and the whole town came alive with holiday makers and events.
2. You spent a lot of your early life travelling, what took you overseas?
The first time I went overseas was when I was 23 years old. It was always an ambition of mine since I was very young and I remember watching movies and TV shows that were set in cities such as London, New York, LA etc and always wanted to go there. Growing up my parents did not have much money and overseas travel was never an option, we spent most of our holidays at home or on Caravan holidays close to home. So when the opportunity came for me to go to London in 2001 on a 2 year working holiday Visa I grabbed it with both hands, sold my car and everything I could to get the money together and off I went. My cousin and her husband was in London at the time and a lot of it was made possible by them which I will always be grateful for. This is also where I met Bec on a blind date and we have been together ever since. When I think back now, I don’t think I ever had the ambition to go back to South Africa and in the back of my mind I knew that there were no opportunities waiting for me when I get back. Together we spent just over 5 years in the UK and from here we were able to travel most of Europe. The travel bug bit and the rest is history.Bec always said she was going back to Australia and as our relationship grew over a 5 year period we decided that we would make the move back to Australia together. The opportunity of moving to a different country with Bec was extremely exciting for me and another new adventure. On the way back we spent 3 months traveling South America and have traveled together ever since. We now travel as much as possible and try to do 2-3 overseas trips a year (apart from during these uncertain times with the pandemic where travel is no longer permitted). I am very glad that our kids get to have the travel opportunities that I always wanted and dreamed of as a child and it builds the best memories and experiences we can share as a family. To me there is nothing more exciting than seeing a different country or experiencing a different culture.
3. How did you and Bec first start the business?
We started the business back in 2011 after the birth of our middle child. It was just not viable for Bec to go back to work with 2 children at daycare and we also didn’t want the boys to be in care 5 days a week. The reason we started the business was for more flexibility and freedom with the kids. Little did we know that this would not be the case. During the first few years I worked full time and did some work in the business after hours. Bec would be home with the kids and running the business full time. As the business grew she had her hands full with packing orders and designing new ranges and the admin and everything the business demanded whilst looking after the kids and running the house. I worked in Melbourne and the commute was between 1.5 to 2 hours each way by car. It reached a point where it just wasn’t viable anymore and I hardly saw the kids as they would be asleep when I left for work and when I got home. I eventually found a job closer to home and then managed to get part time work a couple of years later which freed me up to do more in the business. It wasn’t very long after this that the business was able to support both of us full time on minimum wage. It was tough going and most of the money went back into the business to try and grow it. It was then that we realised we were working harder than before with less time for the kids. We did have more flexibility, but the time had to be made up somewhere else. One good thing was that the business has offered us a lot of opportunities to travel over the last few years with the kids while they were little, always combining trips with Trade-fares in Europe, The USA or Asia. Something I will treasure forever as we were able to do it as a family.
4. How do you think your previous jobs help shape Miann & Co today?
I started my career in banking after I left school, however the interest or passion was just not there and after about 2 years of hating my job I took a job in hospitality working at a small country Hotel. I loved how varied it was with no one day being the same. I continued with Hospitality in the UK and was able to work my way up from Reception to more stable hours in Reservations and then Revenue Management and also Sales and Marketing. As the positions were so varied I was able to gain a lot of experience in Sales and Marketing, budgets and forecasting etc.
5. Why do you feel so strongly about natural fibres?
Growing up, my Mom made a lot of our clothes as well as her own, she also knitted and crochet. Both my grandmothers also knitted and crochet so I was always surrounded by the idea of making your own clothes. I remember going to fabric and needle work shops with my mom and she would pick out her yarns or fabric. Thinking back now, there wasn’t such a big emphasis on Natural at all and when she could afford it she would buy 100% cotton, but mostly acrylic yarns were readily available and also much cheaper. I can remember that some of my jumpers were very “scratchy” and irritated my skin when I wore them for extended times due to the synthetic fibres. It wasn’t until I met Bec who has a background in fashion design and after the birth of our first child whom had eczema brought on from synthetic fibres that I realised the importance of natural fibres and how limited choices were when it came to toys and clothing. It’s changed a lot over the years, but when we started the business there really wasn’t much around and hence we decided to start producing with natural fibres and 100% cotton in particular due to its hypoallergenic properties and also that it breathes so much better and is better for your skin all round. It is also much better for the environment which is something that Bec and I are very passionate about and has always been very important throughout our business and personal journey.
6. Did you always know that you wanted kids?
Yes, I could always see myself having kids and have always loved babies. I can still remember when Bec told me she was pregnant with our first child. Even though times were tough back then and we could barely support ourselves, the excitement took over and I couldn’t wait to be a dad.
7. You have now had a third child, how was that?
Yes, number 3 is our little girl. We have a big gap between the two boys whom are now 10 and 12 and Coco whom just turned 3. I think we both forgot how much hard work babies and toddlers are, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. It is such a joy to once again be able to experience life through the eyes of a 2 or 3 year old and share all of those first time experiences again. There is something so beautiful about seeing Coco navigate her way through the first few years of life taking it all in and the excitement of experiencing something for the first time. It is so special how much joy kids can bring to your life and how happy they are about the smallest little things. It teaches you a lot about being greatfull for absolutely everything you have.
8. What’s your favourite thing about being a dad?
My favourite thing about being a dad is having someone depend on me and being able to make them happy and seeing the joy on their faces. I love the excitement that kids bring and they certainly make for the best and most entertaining conversations. I love being able to spend time with them on the weekends and spoiling them with pancakes, French toast or something special for breakfast. I also love giving them new and exciting experiences such as travelling and being able to share all of this with them.
9. What has been the hardest part of your parenting journey?
When they are sick or upset, it is definitely the hardest. Trying to protect them form the harshness of the world we currently live in and are surrounded by and teaching them to navigate some of the negativity out there. It is always hard for me to to see any child struggle at something.
10. What is your favourite thing to do with your family?
Again, traveling. Whether it be abroad or just somewhere close, it is the best times we get to spend together and experience something different and new. It all boils down to doing something together and being able to spend quality time together.
11. What does an average day look like for you?
No day is ever the same and everyday seems to be busy. At the moment I am working from home and doing remote learning with the boys which has been great in a way as I get to spend more time with them, but everyday starts with Coco as her and I are generally the first two out of bed. Everyday starts with a coffee for me and a hot chocolate for Coco with some quality time on the couch. It is after this that the craziness Strats and the house turns into a circus with having to get the three kids ready for school and daycare. Bec and I generally work in the Miann & Co office together 3 days a week as Coco goes to Daycare. Thursdays and Fridays we take turns to work from home with her and these days are filled with work, cleaning the house, washing and everything else you don’t get to during the week. We don’t have any family or support around, so we have had to learnt to manage on our own and in some cases this has made us a closer family as we all rely on each other. Our lives are very busy with running the business and home life in general, but it is also very rewarding.
12. How do you juggle home and work-life?
I wouldn’t call it juggling as there is always another ball being thrown in there. I think I have more of a fake it till you make it approach. You just have to do what you have to do. I take everyday as it comes and I am not a very good planner, luckily for me Bec is! It’s hard to switch off when at home and because Bec and I both work in the business we always have work to discuss or when one wants to switch off the other is ready to go, but it all works out in the end. Splitting time between the office and home is hard as we don’t have family support around, but we always make it work, we have to. We are also fortunate enough to have a great team at work who pride themselves in what they do and no task is ever too big. This certainly helps a lot.