Phoebe and Tom Simpson • Mornington Peninsula
Phoebe and Tom have used the Small Business Digital Adaptation Program to bring their Hosea Store concept to life. With Shopify they have been able to reach their target market and build the community they had envisioned for their furniture and homewares business.
“Yes, it’s a great space to get help, especially for someone learning to run a business. For people without that background experience, access to these tools is amazing. It was a really nice surprise to find that the support was there when and if we needed it, and how helpful it was to be able to cross-reference our pre-existing experience.”
Hosea Store is a furniture and homewares business based in Mornington that specialises in cane and rattan.
Husband and wife duo Phoebe and Tom Simpson created Hosea alongside their full-time business Double Creative, a branding studio that helps businesses shape their brand and connect with their market.
“For the last three years we’ve been helping businesses find their unique story and engage with their market in a meaningful way,” Phoebe says.
“So, when an opportunity popped into our world to start our own brand with beautiful furniture and homewares, we couldn’t resist.”
With backgrounds in brand strategy, identity and communication design, the couple were able to apply their knowledge and practical skills to build their brand identity online before opening the ecommerce side of their business.
“Our passion has always been brands and understanding how they work, as well as creative direction and working with people,” Phoebe says. “Hosea Store is an experiment, a side-hustle, a mountainous challenge and an exciting adventure. We’d experienced turning an idea into a fully-fledged, functional business and brand before, and yet this time it feels like a totally new experience as we learn to tell this new story we are so close to.”
Originally from Byron Bay, Phoebe wanted to emulate the laidback, effortless cool of coastal living with their products.
“Hosea Store is built on the idea of creative expression and beauty in the everyday, so it’s fitting that our process of bringing Hosea Store to life is filled with the creative expression of learning new things, sharing beauty and connecting with people in a natural, authentic way.”
While the couple knew how to run a B2B (business-to-business) company, when it came to learning how to run a B2C (business-to-consumer) store, there was room for growth.
“We definitely have found that running this business is not as relaxing as the seaside lifestyle that inspired it!” Phoebe says. “But using products as a means of inspiration for consumers has been really fun, and it will be interesting to see how we continue to grow in the furniture space and expand into the homewares range.”
Restrictions in June 2020 meant Phoebe and Tom weren’t able to create the marketing campaign they had in mind to promote the stock purchased for Hosea Store.
“With ongoing lockdowns, we really couldn’t get out there and do what we needed to do. It took a lot longer than anticipated,” Phoebe says. “We could only work on things from a brand level. This included building a strategy for the identity and the aesthetic of the brand, as well as the brand story.”
Once restrictions eased and they were able to travel farther from the home, they got cracking on the marketing campaign to officially launch the business.
“The main thing we wanted to do was our launch campaign. We took a bunch of our furniture to the back beaches of Mornington to have a photoshoot in the dunes. We really wanted to make it unique, given what a saturated market cane and rattan furniture is at the moment. We wanted to capture it as an art form.”
They launched Hosea Store’s social media presence in November 2020 to build brand awareness and a community base.
“We had a pretty long prelaunch on social media. It’s a good way of connecting with people from the start and sharing your vision.”
Once the campaign photography was done, they pulled everything together to open their online store for business in March of this year.
“We could only work on things from a brand level. This included building a strategy for the identity and the aesthetic of the brand, as well as the brand story.”
“Building a brand online is a massive part of our business. Being an online store only, having a digital presence is everything to us.”
Phoebe and Tom learnt about the Small Business Digital Adaptation Program through clients of their branding studio. While they found themselves recommending the program to others, they realised it was a great resource and learning opportunity for their new business as well.
Through the program, they subscribed to Shopify, which enabled them to fully digitise their store and learn about building an ecommerce website.
“One of the biggest challenges was shipping the furniture and finding the right person to do it. Shopify were easily able to integrate factors such as these for us.”
With Shopify’s help, they were able to incorporate fully customisable shipping into their website. Rates are automatically calculated depending on which state in Australia the order needs to be shipped to.
“Their customer service was amazing. Any time we needed help [with Shopify], they were really responsive and helpful.”
Phoebe says that their biggest concern going into this year was whether they would be able to reach the right people to purchase their stock by building a presence and community online.
“Coming out of COVID was a tricky time to start something new. On top of trialing selling furniture online, we had all the challenges that come with learning to launch and run a business. Shopify simplified this process for us, and it’s great to know that all the tools and templates are there for us in the future should we ever need them.”
Phoebe and Tom see the future of Hosea Store as digital. They look forward to continuing to explore digital tools, expand their business online and build a branding empire with Double Creative as the base.
“We feel as though we’ve created a business that can develop and grow to incorporate other products, homewares and art – all passions of ours,” Phoebe says. “We’re not just building a brand for ourselves, but a community so that we can get other artists, creators and creatives on board. Shopify makes this expansion easy. There’s a lot of backend coding that you can apply, making it flexible and meaning you’re not restricted within the program.”
Shopify has been crucial in allowing them to build their brand from just an idea to a marketplace reality online.
“It has provided us with a really solid base, with room to grow and move our business into other areas.”