Melbourne designer Georgia Perry isn't afraid to take a leap of faith. The 31-year-old's quirky, fun accessories range has been sold into 180 outlets worldwide, including Nordstrom in the US and Colette in Paris, and she is about to open a store on hip Smith Street in Fitzroy.
"I have always had this instinct for what to do in my career and a sense that everything will be OK, no matter what," she says.
"And that doesn't mean it hasn't been tough, but I have definitely listened to my intuition."
Perry says her free-range childhood in the outback, as well as her parents' influence, also gave her the confidence to take risks, to trust her gut and go for it.
Hill of grace
She was raised in outback Broken Hill by creative parents who ran their own ceramics business. Her father would make the pottery and her mother would paint it.
"I remember going bush to do the pottery firing in a ditch," Perry recalls.
"My parents were like the creative power couple of Broken Hill and I never had to worry about breaking it to them that I wanted to do something creative when I grew up; it was considered normal."
Perry recalls the awe she felt when she moved to Adelaide after high school to study visual communications at the University of South Australia.
"Coming from Broken Hill, it was like the bright lights of Vegas," she says. "I felt like I had finally found my people."
After she graduated, Perry worked in London for two years designing junk mail for a printing house. It was her first proper design job, but it wasn't until she moved to Sydney that things really took off and she learned the crucial skills that would later help her start her own company.
"My first job in Sydney was at a small agency, which is now defunct, and I was designing merchandise and album covers," she says.
"It was a great job and one of the really important things I learned was what it was like to run your own show.
"I learned it isn't just about being creative. There is a lot of admin and chasing people for money and being organised."
Running your own show
Perry isn't afraid of hard work, however, and it was while she was working for her second Sydney agency, a couple of years later, that she decided it was time to take the solo leap.
"Running my own show is something that is practically in my DNA," she says.
"My sister owns her own florist business, while my grandfather runs his own building company and is still building at 80.
"Plus, I am never good at doing something just because someone tells me to do it. I have an innate resistance to authority."
So it came as little surprise to her partner, fellow designer Dave Horne, when Perry texted him during her lunch break one day to tell him that she was quitting to go out on her own as a freelancer.
"He was unsurprised and said, 'OK, sounds good'," Perry recalls. "He had complete faith that I would make it work."
Risk and reward
That was four years ago and the risk has well and truly paid off. When Perry quit the agency she was working for she had two freelance clients lined up, but it wasn't long before her professional expertise and reputation for hard graft was noticed.
"I was so determined to make freelance life work so I made sure that I responded to emails and did jobs on time," she says.
"When you work for yourself you have to be flexible and accommodating. I would go above and beyond what people asked of me because I was determined not to fail."
When Horne got a job in Melbourne, Perry packed up her freelance career and moved south of the border with him. She wasn't in Melbourne long before something just clicked. It was time for her to take another risk.
"I don't know whether it was the energy of moving to a new city, but I started to home in on my own work," she says.
"I started to wonder if I could be my own client."
Perry made a handful of quirky pins — little faces, sardines, fruit — and sold them online through her website.
"Things started to get really busy very quickly and through the magic of the internet, I started getting wholesale requests," she says.
"I literally had to Google: 'How to make a line sheet' and 'What is the mark-up on wholesale'."
2 years ago today (and just for fun) I released my first ever collection of accessories! 😭Six lapel pin designs, and I made just 50 of each. I never imagined things would grow as they have - we're now stocked in nearly 200 stores around the globe, and growing every day. Thanks so much to everyone who has bought my stuff and supported this lil business! I love you and I love working here! 😊
Three years later and Perry has expanded her range to include scarves, key rings, socks, patches and bags, and has employed two full-timers to help with the business.
As Perry notes, career leaps are not one-offs and taking well thought out risks is a necessary part of ongoing success.
"You do keep taking risks and every time I take a leap and it works out it empowers my next decision," she says.
"It hasn't been easy to start producing my own accessories, but it's worked."
And, in keeping with the theme of her life, there is yet another challenge just around the corner.
The next big challenge
This month, Perry will launch her own shop, Kiosk, in Melbourne, which will be her first bricks-and-mortar venture.
"I am really nervous and it is definitely giving me sleepless nights," she says.
"Having a store is a serious challenge. You can't hide from anyone or anything, which you can do to a degree online."
The store will stock her accessories, as well as the work of other makers she admires, and there will be talks and hosted events.
"It's not about shopping, it's about creating a lasting experience, whether that is about customer service or the music we are playing in our stores or through a talk we host" she says.
The store, Perry notes, is about rooting her brand in something concrete, as well as building a lasting legacy.
"It's about people seeing what the brand is all about," she says.
"You want to leave a lasting impression in people's minds and hearts."
Creating that enduring legacy, that sense of entrenched brand awareness, isn't easy these days, Perry concedes.
"Everyone is on Instagram, everybody is creating, so you need to create something that is timeless and will last."
One thing is for certain: Perry is having enormous fun doing it.
"It's unstoppable," Perry says of her passion for design. "I just can't stop looking for new ideas and researching and coming up with new products."
This article was brought to you by Stella Artois.