I first met Shannon Heitmann when I came across her cushions, wallets and notebook covers, sold under the label The Rabbit & the Duck, at the Magnolia Square Market back in August. If you were at Finders Keepers market last weekend you may have seen Shannon’s stall as well.
Today’s HOT Chat is about Shannon and her lovely business. I’m inspired to hear that she trained to do a ‘proper’ job but then found a much more satisfying creative outlet through her business. Thanks Shannon!
Shannon, tell me a bit more about your background and how you came to start your craft business The Rabbit & the Duck?
I’ve always been a crafty girl; from as early as I can remember there were either knitting needles in my hand (thanks Mum!) or some other project on the go. My first experience with sewing was with my Grandma, we made a pencil case that I still use today!
Despite this crafty upbringing I ended up in a town planning course at university and after graduating worked in various offices for a few years. It was not a good fit at all and I soon felt the urge to do something more creative. I then moved to retail and sold kitchens, homewares, and then stationery – the list goes on! But still something was missing…
One day I decided to take up sewing again and bought myself a second-hand machine. Soon there was fabric taking over the house and a big pile of finished projects that I didn’t know what to do with. I had heard about Etsy being a great place to sell handmade things so I opened a store and haven’t looked back!
From these small beginnings I now have over 20 stockists across Australia and run my business pretty much full-time – I sometimes have to pinch my arm to remind myself that this is my job!
The first thing I noticed about your products were the beautiful printed fabrics you used. Where do you source your materials?
I love hunting out unusual fabrics. Most of the fabric I use comes from Japan, but I also use a lot of local hand printed fabrics, such as those from Ink and Spindle. I’ve also started a collection of vintage fabrics for an upcoming project!
What’s your favourite The Rabbit & the Duck product?
Definitely the snap to it! wallet. I love the simplicity of its design – it can be used as a coin purse, passport holder, business card pouch, or for many other things. I have about 3 of them in my handbag right now!
Where do you turn for art and craft inspiration?
Inspiration is everywhere! I love getting out to the countryside around Melbourne – the open space clears my mind and I am always in awe of the beauty of nature. I also find inspiration in my favourite magazines (such as Frankie and Peppermint) and love seeing what other designers are up to. And sometimes just a pretty piece of fabric will inspire me!
What has been the most challenging thing you’ve faced in starting up your own business? What advice would you give to a small business owner?
It can be quite daunting when you realise that as a small business owner you are now fully responsible for generating your income! The highs and lows from month to month can be tricky and can also be a bit of an emotional rollercoaster.
My advice is to surround yourself with a network of like-minded people – I have found the craft / handmade community in Melbourne to be a wonderful support, both in terms of offering advice and providing a social outlet (I work from home so it can be isolating at times!).
And don’t give up! Building a business takes time. Set your goals but be flexible – things can change (and they will!) but the beauty of running your own business is that you can change with them.
What are your next plans for The Rabbit & the Duck?
I would love to see The Rabbit & the Duck stocked overseas, perhaps in each of my favourite cities so I can plan ‘business’ trips to them! I also have other plans for a new venture, but that is all I can say at the moment, as it’s still top secret….
Finally, where are your HOT places to visit or things to do in Melbourne?
CERES Environmental Park (Cnr Roberts and Stewart Streets, Brunswick East +61 3 9387 2609) Just like visiting a farm but in the middle of Melbourne! They have a great café and a twice-weekly organic farmers market.
The Vintage Shed (93 Mornington Tyabb Rd, Tyabb +61 3 5977 4795) If you love all things vintage then it’s worth a trip down the Mornington Peninsula to visit The Vintage Shed. They have the most amazing collection of vintage clothes – I never leave empty handed!
Gertrude Street, Fitzroy – My favourite shopping street with a great collection of small boutiques, cafes and galleries – the perfect way to spend an afternoon! (Joyce – the Gertrude Street Shopping Guide from The Design Files may help you).