Nesting is a natural instinct during pregnancy. Some women spend weeks setting up their jungle-themed nurseries, others decide to paint their entire house a shade of opal grey and reorganise every cupboard in their kitchen.
When Chloe Brookman was expecting her first child in 2009, she was desperate to find the perfect nursing chair. Shopping in London, she says, “I spent a lot of time picking out all the details for my son’s nursery, but when it came to picking a nursing chair, the options were a vintage grandma looking rocker or a lazy boy covered in pleather.”
Frustrated with her choices, she decided to design her own. With some help from her sister Olivia, they had the chair made by a local furniture maker. When a few of their friends asked if they’d make them one too, the sisters happily obliged.
After seven orders in two months, Brookman realised there might be a market for their designer nursing chairs. Despite being told by a business manager that their “market was too niche and they wouldn’t make any money,” they still saw potential.
Olli Ella was born in 2010 and picked up by Harrods [the department store] not long after – proving their business manager oh-so wrong. “Getting picked up by Harrods straight away really solidified in our mind that there was a market for what we were doing and it catapulted our brand in Europe,” says Brookman. “[After the meeting with Harrods] I remember we went into the bathroom, held hands and squealed.”
There have been many squealing milestones since. Olli Ella now turns over $4 million annually and is stocked in 2,000 stores worldwide, with offices in London, LA, Sydney and soon to be Byron Bay – where Brookman recently relocated with her family.
They’ve expanded into home wares, décor and toys, and have customers all over the world. Brookman says the rapid growth in the last 18 months of the business has been challenging. “I’m not going to lie, it’s been full on,” she says. “We’ve had the problem of not being able to fill the demand quick enough. It’s a good problem to have, but it is really challenging.”
With a multi-million dollar business, a house renovation in Byron and three kids, Brookman says there’s no such thing as a work/life balance. Instead, she tries to have more highs than lows every day. Here’s how…
Secret to success: Love what you do.
Breakfast of champions: Pancakes with strawberry compote, maple syrup and some crispy American bacon.
Best advice: Turnover is ego. Don’t worry about what you’re turning over, just look at what your company is doing in terms of profitability and customer retention.
Hardest lesson: You’re going to be copied. The important thing to focus on is moving forward and innovating – and not worrying about what other people are doing.
Top interview tip: Do your research. There’s nothing worse than asking someone what their favourite product is when they’ve never been on the website.
Coffee order: A latte with two sugars.
Wind down: A glass of wine. Or a hot bath – with a glass of wine!