Luke and his wife Veronica are the masterminds behind Melbourne timber furniture manufacturer, Christopher Blank. We sat down with the pair to discuss how a backyard coffee table project (that happened as a result of a footy injury) inspired this couple to start a full-time business.
Who is Christopher Blank?
Veronica: Well Luke’s middle name is Christopher and I don’t have a middle name so I am the Blank. These are the things that happen when you comeuppance with ideas over beer.
Luke: Christopher Blank for me is representation of hard work and everything that Veronica and I value – passion, a love for making furniture, beautiful product, great customer experience and ultimately having an impact on how someone lives.
Why did you take the leap and start your own business?
Luke: A few reasons…
- I wasn’t enjoying what I was doing,
- I love a challenge,
- I felt that by working for myself it would lead to greater success and fulfilment
Veronica: I was a little slower to join the party. I was working full-time as a Visual Mechandising Manager and worked on the business at night and on the weekends. In about year 3 of CB, the business I worked for supported me to go part-time so I could manage both (something I am very grateful for). Then after the birth of Sunny (AKA THE BOSS) I didn’t want to manage the three roles so decided to join the business full time. It was when I was fully committed that we really stated to step up the business.
What’s it like co-owning with your husband/wife? Any advice for people looking to do the same?
Luke: I feel like I am going to get in trouble answering this question! It is challenging and definitely not easy and it can be hard not to bring issues home and fight particularly when it is stressful. At the end of the day we both striving for the same goal and I wouldn’t want anyone else next to me. Even though she is bat shit crazy….My advice is keeping a good balance between professionalism and play. What I mean by that is that is that you need to have fun even when your back is against the wall and utilise the bond you have to get though the tough times. Work out what your strengths are and divide and conquer.
Veronica: Hmmmm I feel like I need emojis for this! It works well for us because we have really different skill sets and we have really clear roles in the business. I manage everything customer facing , admin, marketing and creative and Luke turns all of my ideas into gold, quotes, manages process and the team. My advice is really to set boundaries around work and home life. We are nowhere near perfect at this, but I can honestly say that when we have been diligent and set boundaries it is when we have produced the best work.
What has been a hard lesson learnt as business owners that others could learn from?
Luke: Learning how to run a business just full stop is one big lesson. Nothing prepares you for this and you definitely have to be positive to keep pursuing your dreams. Working on the fly can only get you so far, RBK have drummed this in. And the next biggest one would be managing employees, educate your self on how to mange different personalities. Not everyone can be managed the same.
Veronica: Process…. Oh I can just hear Jonny and Jase just cackling away at that comment. I think the introduction of ‘the boss’ (Sunny) was one of the biggest curve balls… Someone needs to write a book on how to baby proof your business. (Insert red face emoji here). Owning a small business doesn’t have the traditional boundaries of being able to focus on your new role as a mother and have maternity leave for a period of time so at first I was working crazy hours to work around Sunny. We have definitely been able to manage this through setting boundaries and not being available ALL THE TIME. We never spoke about how we were going to manage that part so I think putting plans in place (but make them flexible) is important for any big life events that might be coming…
What is the best/ most rewarding part of owning a business?
Luke: Having full control over how things work – but that also means being fully responsible and owning every mistake in the business.
Veronica: I LOVE delivery day…. Knowing that something we made with our hands is now being enjoyed by people is honestly what keeps me going. I also love working and creating with people – from drop in customers to interior designers and architects, working on client briefs that are serving a purpose rather than just looking beautiful is also so enjoyable.
How have RBK helped you along the way?
Luke: Educating me on how running a business works, how to create processes and systems and allow employees to work autonomously when required.
Veronica: Every bit of advice they have given us has been 100% correct. I am a bit of a rebel at heart and love to go against what people tell me to do… and every time I have they have been right. (Is there any way we can block them from seeing this?) RBK are a part of the CB family – a selective group of people that we keep VERY close, people that we trust and that we can’t ever see operating without. We are a bit creepy that way with people we trust (you know, long and lingering hugs). Whilst this is business, CB is very personal to us and we guard it and protect it, so it is nice to work with people that feel the same way about our business.
Finally, what piece of furniture should every household invest in, and why?
V&L: A dining table. It is the heart of the home. The most used and flexible piece you will have – you can eat, drink, play games, argue, dance and everything in between.