They say you shouldn’t go into business with your significant other – but what if love can actually smooth the way to professional as well as personal satisfaction? And what really happens when two people who share a passion as well as a life together join forces and start a business? We spoke to couples who have done just that – successfully navigating the challenge of being partners in more ways than one while running ventures that help make the world a better place.
Based in Melbourne’s Northcote, Pop & Scott is a workshop cooperative, retail showroom and Australian-made furniture brand created by Poppy Lane and Scott Gibson. Combining their furniture design and making skills, they work from the bright and airy studio space they share with likeminded local creatives.
We met at a dodgy bar on Chapel Street in Windsor. Scotty had been out on a tall ship all day drinking. I sleazed onto him using the same pickup line he always uses. He thought he was being set up by his mates, but it was just a crazy coincidence that we both have a thing for teeth. We have been together ever since that night, which was eight years ago. Right from when we first met, Scotty and I would dream up business ideas together over a few wines. We nearly bought a flower shop a while back, so we really could have ended up going in a different direction! We decided to go travelling together instead, and on our trip we started to dream up Pop & Scott. We kind of did everything backwards: we bought the wood-working machinery really cheap from an old workshop at the airport, then we found the space. We stumbled across this warehouse, then realised we would need to get other businesses in to help us pay rent. That’s where the idea of having a workshop cooperative started. We had artist friends we knew would love to use the space and thought there must be heaps more out there too – and then we were inundated with small furniture businesses that needed a place to get started. Scotty and I loved this, as we were all helping each other out and inspiring each other, and it was the perfect support network for young businesses. We worked the space like this for a couple of years until our own business needed it – although we still have private studios and two other furniture businesses running out of here. We feel really proud of the environment we have created – our crew and workshop residents are all such beautiful, honest, supportive and inspiring people. It is like a really nice little family. Scotty and I love using recycled and ethically sourced Australian timbers for our products; I feel it makes sense to use the timber that is natively grown on our land, since we design our furniture to suit the Australian lifestyle, architecture and landscape. The colours, tones and textures of Australian timbers suit our aesthetic and what we are all about when it comes to design. Scotty and I work really well together. We do have times when we clash, but when it comes to designing, we really bounce off each other well. I always have a clear idea of what I want our furniture to look and feel like, and Scotty is the down-to-earth practical man who helps bring all the pieces to life.
I think our skills and strengths overlap in lots of areas while also being very different. At times I need to look at projects from a practical angle, but this never stops all the crazy “dream ideas” that Poppy and I have together. We are both doers and we find that everything is possible when you have that attitude. I love Poppy’s strength in design – I can look at her ideas and build them into tangible pieces. I think this makes us a pretty good team. Small business is challenging every day – you need to work bloody hard, dream big, stay honest and be good to the people who work for you to keep the life in your business, and that can be extremely challenging. Keeping family life and business life separate is not something we have done at all – I think it’s pretty difficult when you have children. Running a small business is all-consuming, and we’re in a very fortunate situation with the workshop because we’ve been able to have our daughter, Frida, with us every day for her first two years. When Frida was born, Pop & Scott started to have its first peak – we had gone from making furniture, painting pots and running a workshop all on our own to needing to employ staff and get some sort of real structure in our business. We are actually still trying to work this all out now, two and a half years later! We have loads of new designs we’ll be releasing this year, including a bed, couch, chair and lighting. We also have another baby on the way and are opening a new showroom. I love the feeling we get when someone chooses to buy a piece of furniture for their home and family that we have put so much love and work into producing. It’s consistently humbling and inspiring. We love everything about working alongside each other. We get to spend every day together, and Frida gets to see the most amazing people and be part of what we created together. We do have at least one shit day a week, as it’s pretty intense sometimes, but even that’s good because you get to solve the problems and make up in the end. Running a business as a couple is all about communication – you have to talk to each other all the time, and you need to keep in check with each other and make sure you are both happy. If you have a shit day, take some time to make it good and move on.
Read the full story – including interviews with Corrine and Amara from The Rabbit Hole Organic Tea Bar, Jacqui and Arran from Vedic meditation school The Broad Place and Daniel and Justine from social enterprise Thankyou – in Peppermint Issue 29, on sale now. Photo by Tara Pearce.