In late November, Amazon launched its online retail service in Australia, much to the delight of online shoppers everywhere. Yet, while this e-commerce giant may be a long-awaited addition to Australian retail, Style Magazines is taking the time to reconnect with some of our favourite local businesses: boutiques that have shaped Brisbane’s innovative and thriving retail scene.

Christine-CurroAt a time when many businesses are closing their doors or downsizing their services, Christine Curro’s boutiques are thriving, with the launch of her second store earlier this year. Having started her own business and working as the sole employee, White Bungalow and its sister store White Havana now employ more than 15 team members and offer a wide range of chic homeware goods, styling services, workshops, and even a florist.

What were you doing before you started White Bungalow?
My husband and I own a shop fitting company where I worked in an administration role. Previous to starting this business I had worked for many years in retail management for brands such as Fossil and Louis Vuitton.

What inspired you to start White Bungalow?
I have always had a huge passion for decorating and interiors. As a local on the north side of Brisbane, I realised there was a lack of homewares stores and, in particular, ones that focus on styling as opposed to just gifts. I really wanted to share my love of interiors and especially the colour “white” with people and help them create beautiful spaces in their homes.

When you first launched White Bungalow, what were some of the biggest challenges?
Probably the biggest challenge was adapting to the new social media platforms for marketing your business. I didn’t have an Instagram account until I opened my business and I have to say it has definitely played an important role in our success! Given our location, it was always planned that our store would become a “destination” store and with the use of social media tools, it has allowed us to reach people that might never have known or heard about us.

Did you have any concerns or fears launching a retail business?
I guess there is always the fear in the back of your mind that maybe people won’t like your taste or perhaps the store location I picked might not work. After all, when you look at the statistics of how many new small businesses don’t work it is really daunting. But very soon after opening, those fears quickly vanished and I was so overwhelmed at the response my store had. I am still to this day in disbelief of how this venture is turned out, I could never have imagined it in my wildest dreams!

With the launch of White Havana and the fact that you are now overseeing two stores, how has your role changed?
Not too much has changed in my role. I now have a much larger team including a strong management team to help with the basic day-to-day running of the stores, which then allows me to focus on buying, styling, merchandising and managing my business.

Your stores also offer a wide range of services. How did you decide to extend your offerings to include a florist and workshops?
If you had told me five years ago I would own a florist, I would have told you you’re crazy, but I guess it was just one of those ideas that evolved out of chance. When the opportunity presented itself to double our floor space within the first 6 months of opening the White Bungalow store, I knew that I needed to offer a different product range than just homewares. I basically thought to myself, “What else do I like to buy apart from beautiful homewares?”, the answer then presented itself – fashion and flowers! The whole concept when you think about it really just made sense and our customers absolutely loved the new addition.

For business owners who are just starting out, what advice do you have for them?
I think it is so important to have a really clear vision of what it is you want your business to be. I know business plans can be boring but they really can be such a valuable tool in making sure you have a clear picture of the direction of your business. And probably the most crucial advice I have is not to worry about what other people in your industry are doing. If you spend all your time worrying about competitors or trying to copy them you will always be living in the shadows of other people’s success. Be your own biggest fan and the rest will follow.

Gail-SorrongaFor more than a decade Gail Sorronda has been a name synonymous with dark, innovative, and inspired designs. After launching her eponymous label in 2005, Gail then pushed herself to open her flagship boutique, Gail Sorronda, in Brisbane’s illustrious James Street precinct. Now, working alongside her partner Atlas Hardwood, Gail is gripping the international fashion community.

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How did you and Atlas realise that you had complementary skills?
It has been a bit of trial and error and it is something we work on ongoing.  Atlas is glass half empty and I’m glass half full so we balance each other out!

What has been one of the most rewarding aspects of working with each other?
Sharing the experience.  Learning and growing together has been character building.

Since launching in 2005 at Australian Fashion Week, what has been one of the greatest challenges you have been faced with?
My own personal fears! Each collection is a exhale until the next wave.

With your flagship boutique on James St, a thriving social media presence, and creating new collections, what has been the greatest challenge working across all aspects of the business?
Time management and maintaining a balanced lifestyle!

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What is the most satisfying part of the work you do?
Creating, storytelling and learning.

What are you looking forward to achieving with the Gail Sorronda brand in the coming years?
Evolving as a designer, refining my skills and communication so I can better share it.

For fashion designers who are thinking of launching their own boutique, what advice do you have for them?
Resilience beats resistance and try to be as involved as possible, you learn so much more by being hands on and present.

Jessy-CameronLaunching her successful jewellery business, Molten Store, at 23 years old, Jessy challenges the stereotype of how a business begins and flourishes. Her strength is her ability to captivate her audience and create an experience that is more than just purchasing a piece of jewellery.

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What were you doing before you started your business?
Prior to starting my business when I was 23 years old, I had worked in retail for Sass & Bide while studying for my Bachelor’s degree in Advertising at QUT. I also ran a vintage store through eBay (Wide Awake Vintage) and would spend any spare time road-tripping out to op shops on the outskirts of town to hunt for clothing that I could customise and restyle. In my final year of university, I landed a job in marketing and then travelled to New York to intern with a production agency. When I arrived home, I was offered a job as a publicist for an online fashion retailer – I was there for a little over a year before I left the corporate world to venture out on my own.

What inspired you to start your business?
I’ve always been a bowerbird by nature; prior to launching Molten Store, I would spend hours treasure hunting for otherworldly jewellery online. I had a large crystal ring (one of my proudest online finds) and so many people asked me where I had purchased it from – I saw a demand for unique jewellery, and figured I could put my treasure hunting skills to good use.

When you first launched your company, what were some of the biggest challenges?
Access to capital was a challenge so I started Molten Store with my personal savings and I’ve grown the business out of our revenue year on year with no external investment.

How have you managed to integrate digital marketing (e.g. Instagram) into your business plan?
Molten Store is an omnichannel business, meaning that we sell online and in store, so our digital marketing channels enable us to showcase the physical manifestation of our brand in the online realm.

Instagram is our most valuable channel; we’ve started hosting regular interviews with creative women we admire and we live stream them across our Instagram Stories. We’ve found our niche as a brand that celebrates the concept of the sisterhood. We’re a popular destination for women of all age groups and our products serve as personal totems of self-expression, so we use digital marketing to amplify inspiring women in our community.

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Did you have any concerns or fears launching a retail business?
In all honesty – I think I was guided by blind faith. What I lacked in ability or confidence, I made up for in determination. As long as you keep your risks minimised, you can revel in the process of trial and error.

As your business has become more successful over time, how has your role changed?
When I first launched Molten Store, I handled everything from customer service to buying to marketing – I even used to iron the calico pouches we used for our packaging so they would look beautiful when they arrived in an order! We now have a team of nine between our store and our head office, so my role is far more overarching. My team are incredibly talented, dedicated and clever, which leaves me with more time to dream and plan on a more strategic level.

For business owners who are just starting out, what advice do you have for them?
Don’t let perfect get in the way of better. Just begin, and do the best you can with what you have – you’ll have to reinvent your business over and over again anyway!

Feature Image via Molten Store

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