Coronavirus has made quite a diverse impact on businesses in different states and territories across Australia - and one of the challenges many people are experiencing is the lack of facetime with their customers. Erin Browne, owner of jewellery brand Tinka the Label, is accustomed to the working from home lifestyle that has come with COVID-19, having run her business from home in Melbourne over the past few years. However, recently she moved back to the Gold Coast, where she grew up, and is ready to get back to the markets and meet new customers.
We spoke to Erin about running a business online, how Tinka has grown over the years and the inspiration behind her designs.
Tell us a bit about how Tinka first got started.
Tinka started at the markets. I used to do up to eight a week, and I had a flagship store at the designer section of Eastland Shopping Centre when it newly opened. Over time, I shifted the business predominantly online and did the occasional pop up in designer markets.
I must admit, I do miss the markets. I had a lot planned for up in Queensland and reaching new audiences organically, but obviously with COVID-19 this changed. But there are going to be a lot more events happening soon, particularly leading up to Christmas.
Where have you generated inspiration for your designs most recently?
Definitely a lot from the 80s. I draw inspiration from vintage pop culture, but also nature. If you look at my designs there’s always a lot of flowers and colours, and also more recently, the beach. Nature is a big inspiration.
What are some of your favourite products at the moment?
In Melbourne I was known to wear lots of earrings, as the thick layering of clothes meant not much of my skin was exposed. However, now that I’m living on the Gold Coast, it’s quite the opposite - so I’m designing a whole range of lightweight necklaces intended for layering on the warmer days.
How has your business been affected by COVID-19?
It’s put things on hold a bit. But luckily I’ve survived, which is more than a lot of people can say. I’m in a position where, being in Queensland, I can go back to doing events and getting out and about, so people can actually see the product. Although it’s been challenging, it’s allowed for more behind the scenes work moving forward - so it’s not all bad!
Have you noticed much change in the online side of your business this year?
The traffic is probably the same, but I’ve noticed people are taking a little bit longer between transactions, because they’re (understandably) prioritising their money. So I’ve noticed that buying behaviour has changed.
What have you learned about running a business with everything going on this year?
I started my business meeting my customers, so I’ve got really good relationships with a lot of them, which is great. This year, I’ve been reconnecting with customers who have been with me from the start, or in the last couple of years, rather than trying to gain new ones. Not that I’ve ever taken it for granted, but I’ve been reminded this year that loyalty is a priority, and it was appreciated by my customers during the time as well. That’s probably the most important part.
How did you get set up with Square, and what tools do you use at the moment?
When Square launched in Australia, I was part of the Square Market, a big exhibition in Federation Square to encourage people to stop in and support Melbourne’s finest small businesses. So I was with Square from the very start! The Square Reader is still so handy - you can’t beat the tap and go. It’s mobile and you can just slide it in your pocket.
What’s next for Tinka?
We will be expanding our product line further - last year we introduced hair accessories, and we anticipate releasing our new line of fashion accessories next year, so stay tuned!
We are also participating in markets on the Gold Coast and Brisbane in the lead up to Christmas.