We are all familiar with kids toys, books and clothing stores. Imagine a store that not only stocks your go-to kid’s products, but curates the best in children’s education, health and nutrition. Say hello to Young Bondi, a retail store based in Australia’s iconic Bondi Beach.
Opening your doors during the height of the pandemic comes with its challenges, for owner Monique Svenson it was always about finding the positives. When life was a little uncertain, Australian small businesses and local communities have rallied together, pivoting into new operating models and discovering business avenues that have now become their bread and butter.
We caught up with Mon to chat about the inspiration behind Young Bondi, supporting local and opening a retail store during a pandemic.
SQ: Firstly, can you introduce yourself and tell us a little about your background?
M: Absolutely, HI! I’m Mon. I’m a Virgo, I like long walks on the… just kidding! I grew up in Sydney until at twenty-one I embarked on a six-week vacation. Seven years later I returned from living in various places including NYC, San Diego, Vancouver and the mountains of the Pacific Northwest. Along the way, I undertook my apprenticeship in joinery, and upon returning home decided to extend my skills by moving to Melbourne and studying furniture/industrial design.
Fast forward another six years and I returned home to Sydney with two beautiful children in tow. The title “jack of all trades, master of none” has been a reliable theme in my early years. I have tried my hand at a host of different jobs and business ideas, but I never seemed to find something that stuck.
SQ: What made you decide to start Young Bondi?
M: I always promised myself that I would stay home with my kids until they found their feet in the world. When the time came to look for things I could do, it got a little tricky. What skills could I put on a resume? Who would hire me? I mean, I knew how to separate whites, and had mastered the art of a mean lamb roast. I could help you work through something that was upsetting you, hug your tears away or teach you good manners, but what job needed that? In short, the statute of limitations had run out on my skills. I didn’t feel hireable, I didn’t know who would hire me, and best of all we were in the middle of a global pandemic.
I decided that I was going to have to build a job for myself. One that would give me the flexibility to be there for my kids. I had always lamented the lack of kids stores locally in Bondi, that was my opening – I went for it.
SQ: You are located in the heart of Bondi Beach, what drew you to this location?
M: The shop space and the location. It’s on my route to the beach and I can walk my kids to school. After the florist moved out, I contacted the building manager, however, another business had secured it. Luckily for me and unlucky for them, their business closed its doors soon after and my race was on. It took eight months to secure the space, and I know many other people who were after it. I thank my lucky stars that it was my turn.
What I love most about the location are our neighbouring businesses. 7 Ways in North Bondi has an amazing small business community, not to mention the local community support. Our businesses work together, look out for each other and want to see each other succeed. It’s rare to have a bank of small businesses like that, especially in the city, but we do, and to me, that is magic.
The local community was a big factor too. People here say hi, they know who you are, they want to support you, that’s priceless. It’s the fuel that gets you through the low times.
SQ: How have the past two years and the pandemic affected your business?
M: I signed my lease in May of 2021 and Sydney went into hard lockdown in June – we have been affected since day one. The negatives have been the restriction of movement, people need to come into stores to shop, and though online serves a purpose and is important for business, nothing beats being in-store and discovering for yourself.
We have all been impacted by the changes in consumer spending due to the pandemic. For Young Bondi, it reflects in the lack of gatherings, celebrations and parties. This is our target audience. If people aren’t celebrating, that means we don’t have a pain point to solve for our customers.
I think a lot of small businesses can agree that the past two years has seen consumers move towards saving their money when life has been uncertain. We were told that people being home would be good for business, and the fact that people weren’t travelling meant they would have more money to spend. But, what we have seen in the data is that when faced with uncertainty, people do tend to put their money under the mattress before they spend, which affects our bottom line.
On the positive side, I got to open and meet our true local customers. I got to know the familiar faces while packing click and collect orders. It also gave me a chance to soft launch the business, which was a blessing in disguise. I got to iron out opening procedures, sort out shipping, learn my software and get across inventory before the doors officially opened.
The pandemic has opened customers up to the concept of click and collect. It’s such an amazing service that small businesses can provide, and allows your store to operate outside of opening hours. Time at home forced consumers to adopt new habits and I think that has been invaluable for retail. It’s one of the selling points that brought me to Square – the ease of click and collect as an inbuilt feature.
SQ: What are your tips for retail businesses navigating re-opening post lockdown?
M: Take everything with a grain of salt, there is a lot of change happening, I don’t think we are seeing a normalised state of affairs yet, but I’m optimistically cautious. The pandemic has changed consumers behaviour and allowed businesses to diversify. What can you learn from it? What do your customers react to the most? Why not keep these things post-pandemic?
SQ: Top Christmas gift for kids right now?
M: Our beautiful silicone beach buckets! Seriously, we can’t keep them on the shelves!
SQ: What has been your biggest challenge so far?
M: Time management! Ensuring that I use my energy and time in the most efficient way possible. It’s so important to make sure everything is as automated as possible and that systems work.
SQ: Why did you choose Square to help run your business?
M: I love that it does everything in one place! Square impressed me initially with the Square Reader. That was the product that made me think hey, they are looking at details, not just the fastest solution.
I was also tired of other platforms that advertise a price and then end up being far more expensive after you have added all of your support apps to your package. I love that Square solves all of my needs in one place, including in-person merchant sales and POS seamlessly. From analytics to stock management, communications and marketing. I still don’t have time to get it all done, but at least now I have it all in one place!
SQ: Retail is open again just in time for Christmas! Why is it important for Aussie shoppers to support local businesses this Christmas?
M: I think Aussies are still learning about the value of supporting small businesses. When you shop with a small business, it’s not only the one business you are supporting. You are also supporting the array of small businesses that they work with. I like to say to my customers 1 + 1 = 5. On average, by buying something from us you are supporting five other businesses at the same time.
When you think about business and how much of a positive impact you can make, then you can start to see the value in shopping small. If every person in Australia spent just $100 each per year with a small business, they would channel $2.5 billion to Australian families. For me, that is the real value in shopping small – the little things can make a big difference.
SQ: How does Young Bondi use Square for Retail on a day-to-day basis?
M: We would not work without Square, it is at the core of our business. I probably check my Square Dashboard more often than Instagram or emails, and that is saying something!
We use Square for Retail as our in-store POS system, as well as hosting our Online Store and sending EDM’s with Square Marketing, all through the same database. This allows us to keep track of stock levels in real-time. Square adds a lot of value in that it’s simplistic to use and gives me time back to run the business. It also allows us to connect our marketing database to our customers. Square keeps a record of their purchasing habits and that’s exciting for us!
SQ: What plans do you have for 2022 and beyond?
M: Young Bondi plans to continue to find, support and uncover more Australian small businesses. The heart of what we do is supporting small businesses, there is a symbiosis with Young Bondi and Square’s mission. I care deeply about helping people find their customers and deliver products that are interesting, cool and well thought out.
I think it’s crazy that there aren’t more kids stores; we have toy stores, book shops and clothing stores for children. But, we don’t have kids stores with education, lunch boxes, feeding and health. We are here to be a store for children and families that provides quality and cool products. Retailers at their core curate high-quality products that have value and that consumers need to know about.