“Be fearlessly authentic”
This is the advice Managing Director of Bindle, Catherine Blackford, has for her nearly two year old daughter this International Women’s Day. Anyone who is contemplating, or has already taken the plunge of starting their own business should also take heed.
Catherine’s love of Australian products is what drove her to create a platform that represented and celebrated our local artisans – showcasing quality and individuality over mass produced products shipped in from overseas. Both her background in landscape gardening and her weekend meandering through local markets drove the project with a real purpose of place and sustainability.
Knowing that at some point she’d like to start a family but also have a ‘side hobby’, Catherine started collecting products and launched a simple website. This side hobby soon filled every nook and cranny of her spare time outside (and sometimes inside) her full time job and after three years of juggling both, Bindle had grown to the point that Catherine knew it was time to go ‘all in’. Even if no one else around her seemed to share that same confidence. For the first few years Bindle just covered its own costs but slowly slowly, along came a baby and so also Bindle’s first permanent employee.
Catherine admits that Bindle was much more than a side hobby in the first few years of motherhood, and that this has been her biggest and most unrelenting challenge by far – trying to find the balance between business and family. Other challenges she lists include making ends meets in the initial years and being bullied by larger businesses trying to dictate terms with her. Quitting crossed her mind on more than one occasion… and while the speed bumps only seemed to get bigger, the more time and investment she put into the business the harder she found it to walk away.
Catherine calls it ‘stubbornness’, but those close to her call it resilience, persistence and drive. “You can’t please the world,” she says, “so you just have to do what’s right for you – back yourself and believe in yourself. And be loud about it.”
Catherine attributes much of her success to three influential figures along the way. An informal mentor (friend) running his own accounting business was, and still is, willing to answer or return every call relating to Bindle. A formal business mentor, who Catherine basically cold called for advice and over a period of nearly a year shouted him a fortnightly breakfast in return for his pearls of wisdom. And lastly, Catherine’s business and life partner who provides unconditional support and a daily sounding board for the inner and outer workings of the business.
Business highlights for Catherine include being nominated for the Telstra Business Awards, the Nurture 4 Nurses campaign and having 19 wonderful Bindle staff attend last year’s Christmas party.
Although Bindle is still the primary cause of Catherine’s ‘mum guilt’ she is working on the balance, whilst also being kinder to herself. And while Bindle has proven to be an incredibly successful ‘side hobby’ to motherhood, there’s an understanding now that business and family doesn’t always have to be mutually exclusive. The right work/life blend can be just as satisfying as work/life balance.
Bindle’s recently launched signature brand is testament to this. You’ll find the luxurious Albert + Olive (named after Catherine’s children) hand poured soy wax candles within some of the Bindles.
Catherine now has her sights set on Bindle becoming B Corp certified, so it appears the goal posts of her side hobby continue to move as Bindle continues to grow and expand. Catherine is ok with this. She owns it. In her own fearlessly authentic way.