Relationships between mothers and daughters can be many things – from a special bond, to close-knit and very complex – every one of these are unique. But not many of us have ever considered running a business together.
In honour of Mother’s Day, Style sat down with Brisbane duo Lorilie Cunningham and her daughter Stephanie Rooke to talk about how they took their relationship to the next level when they opened their colourful Paddington boutique, Happiness Place.
How did you come to start Happiness Place?
Lorilie: I have a colourful background, starting out as an accountant and then branching into fashion design with my own label Bows & Hearts Designs (based in Rosalie in the 90s), followed by many years in the healthcare business over in Nashville in the USA. Despite spending most of my career in the dry and analytical sphere of finance, I’ve always had a creative flair and a huge interest in design and decorating.
Stephanie: I come from an advertising and marketing background, and moved to London soon after graduating from university, where I spent many years working in various agencies. Lorilie visited me many times when I lived in London, and as we spent many days combing through the stunning halls of Liberty (and other gorgeous stores) and chatting over endless glasses of wine, the idea of Happiness Place started to come to life!
What is the inspiration behind the store?
Stephanie: It was born from our mutual love of colour, which Lorilie had instilled in me from a young age, through both a wildly decorated family home as well as bright and bold fashion choices! It was inspired by years of living overseas, and we wanted Happiness Place to adopt the best of both of these worlds. From the over-the-top presentation and 'theatre' of American retail and packaging, to the quirky eccentricity of English designers and decorating, Happiness Place was to be an extension of our homes, a haven of colour a and treasure trove of home wares and gifts not found elsewhere in Australia.
What are your roles in running the business?
Lorilie: We share the buying and ordering, visiting either the US or UK on an annual basis to pick up new designers or view new ranges, in addition to attending Australian trade shows to ensure any new spectacular local designers are included in Happiness Place's fold. We try to spend as much time as possible actually working in the shop, so we can continuously perfect the visual merchandising and displays, as well as actually getting to know our gorgeous customer base.
Stephanie: In terms of dividing and conquering, Mum utilises her accounting background by running 'the books' and I look after the marketing, social media and the website. But, life is always more busy than a simple divvying up of roles, so often we are both across everything in some way or another! Mum has also been a great support when I recently had a baby boy in February last year. I have another due in July so the challenges of being a working mother have been made much easier by the fact that mum is my business partner!
What is the dynamic between you both, you must have a great relationship to run a business together?
Lorilie: We are extremely lucky to work together, as we get along like a house on fire and agree and disagree on the same things - most of the time! We've always had a strong relationship and it never would've been a question of working together if we didn't have this foundation - however, let's not be too gushy - there are certainly moments when Happiness Place is not always so!
Stephanie: Mum is what I would describe as 'hectic' (the woman doesn't ever stop!) and conversely, she is hilarious with a sometimes bizarre sense of humour that often has to be reigned in…so things can get definitely get pointy. But we laugh a lot, often point out the ridiculous in both of their natures and make sure they look after each other, as running a business like Happiness Place is a lot more demanding than it looks.
Are there any downsides to working with your mother/daughter?
Stephanie: Realising that something annoying your mother does, is something you do too. For example, I can see myself becoming more hectic by the day!
Lorilie: There are times when I would like to be able to spend more time in my grandmothering and mothering role, rather than working like a mad woman.
Both: Holidays. We love going on big family holidays and it can be challenging to make this work when it means we'll both be away from the business, but luckily we have a fantastic group of staff who do a wonderful job of holding down the fort while we're gone.
What do you have planned for your Mother’s Day?
Lorilie: Mother's Days in our house always include a big family get together, whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner and we all contribute in some way to make it extra special.
Stephanie: Mum will usually set a spectacular table, I will cook a dessert and then it's up to the boys in the family to make the rest magic! It's becoming a bigger affair by the year, with the advent of more and more babies joining the mix.