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Interview: Madeline Prince, The Mantel Store

As the retail industry continues to shift in drastic ways, business owners really need a strong point of difference and a story to tell to succeed in such a volatile market. Maddy focusses on ethical brands that are good for the environment and beautiful for your home. Here’s her story…

Tell us about The Mantel Store, what do you do?

About six months ago I set up a small home-wares shop, The Mantel Store, in Ripponlea and I stock ethical brands that make unique and beautiful things that you won’t see in every other home-wares/gift shop in Melbourne!

I’m the owner and operator of the store so I do everything at the moment although the one thing I outsource is my accounting to RBK as I do not have a mind for numbers or tax law.

Why did you choose to go into business?

I’ve always loved interior design and wanted my own store for a long time but it took a spate of awful jobs to finally give me the push to do it – as well as gaining a bit of creative confidence through completing an Interior Decoration course at The Design School.

I also hadn’t felt excited walking into a shop in Melbourne for a really long time and I simply wanted to create a space that made me feel happy! 

So many stores in Melbourne (particularly southside), stock the same brands and are either affordable, very safe and trend driven or beautiful and artistic but more like a gallery and completely cost prohibitive. I wanted to create a space for smaller brands that are making their products in an ethical way yet are still affordable – I love that these are items you can use everyday and they’ll bring you joy and are less likely to end up at the charity shop in a few years time. 

What have been your biggest hurdles and biggest wins so far?

There are many hurdles to small business I’ve discovered but one of the biggest is just trying to get people through the door. Ripponlea is one of the smallest suburbs in Melbourne and has a beautiful village vibe and community. The downside of this is that it’s not a destination that a lot of Melbournians would think of to go for shopping so I’m really relying on the locals to support my business and because I don’t sell ‘necessary’ items, sales can be very unpredictable and sometimes weather dependent as it’s strip shopping.

The biggest win is the flipside of the above, where I’ve been amazed at the positivity and support from the local community who love coming in and compliment me on the atmosphere and range of stock, it’s an eclectic area and I love chatting with my interesting customers!

How have RBK helped you along the way?

As someone who was put into ‘cabbage maths’ from the age of 15, RBK have been instrumental in taking the stress out of the financial side of the business – it feels very simple and streamlined especially using Xero.

The advice I received over and over again when I was setting up, was to focus on what I’m good at and not to waste time and energy on things that take away from making the business the best it can be. A family friend who set up his own business (Franks cafe) a few years ago raved about RBK and how they had helped him and I went for a meeting and felt huge relief knowing that I would be in safe hands. It’s great to be able to ring up and ask questions whenever I need and it feels like having a security blanket – RBK advisors have so much knowledge acquired from working with other small, creative businesses similar to mine.

Tell us about one of your products that you absolutely love and why?

I love all the products in my store! I guess the brand that I was most thrilled about when they agreed to be stocked at The Mantel Store was Slowdown Studio. They are an amazingly cool company based in LA who choose small, up and coming artists to team up with and create unique blankets depicting different artworks that can be used as throws or wall hangings and I’ve even seen them used as bedheads which looks incredible! They are also ethical in their manufacturing using 100% cotton grown, spun and woven in North Carolina. 

You can visit The Mantel Store online, or at 32-34 Glen Eira Rd, Ripponlea.