Founded in the coastal town of Byron Bay, Australia in 2014 by Lara & Matt Fells, St. Agni is a luxury lifestyle brand built from humble beginnings. The label was created with a vision to create functional, refined, quality pieces that Lara couldn’t seem to find elsewhere. Fast forward to 2019, Lara & Matt now have 19 staff members and 2 retail stores, not to mention a beautiful head office workspace. We spoke to Lara Fells about how it all began, what tools she relies on to keep her team organised, what she has learnt along the way and how she personally & professionally stays organised herself...
You started St. Agni back in 2014, tell us about its beginning and how the brand has grown since then?
My husband Matt and I started the business in 2014 from humble beginnings. We didn’t have a business plan and experience or much money to invest, but we did see a gap in the market for simple leather goods – well made pieces without the fuss!
Our first collection launched in June 2014, I think we had designed 4 different styles of leather tote bags and we had about 3 pieces in each style. My friend made us a website and I started an Instagram and we just went for it. I think about a month in we got our first stockist who purchased all of our stock and that’s where it all started.
Our first 2 years we worked in our full time jobs managing retail stores and would reply to emails and post orders in our lunch breaks or stay up late working on our little side hustle.
Then in 2016 we found a warehouse in the Byron Bay industrial estate and opened our first bricks and mortar store – this came so naturally to us both as Matt and I both had retail backgrounds.
Since then our business has grown to two retail stores and over 100 stockists.
How many people are in the St. Agni team, what tools do you rely on to keep everyone organised?
We have 19 staff across our HQ/warehouse and retail stores – so its still a really tight close team!
Everyone in the team has their own way of staying organised and we just let everyone do what works for them. For some its digital calendars or apps and others prefer to write everything down on paper.
What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learnt from your business growth?
Because our business started so small with Matt and myself handling every aspect from design to marketing to packing orders to accounting it’s been tricky to let go. I think the biggest thing we have learnt is to trust our staff and believe in them and even if they don’t do it just as we would everything will be ok.
It’s a lesson we still haven’t completely grasped – but we are working on it.
What inspires the St. Agni collections?
We get inspired by so many different things, I’m a very visual person so most of the time I will be inspired by architecture or a beautiful piece of furniture.
I am constantly taking photos and screen shots of all the things that catch my eye and when it comes to the conception of a collection often the last few months of images tell their own story that comes to life in our work.
What are your top three ways you stay organised in your personal and business life?
I am not a very organised person, however I don’t think you would pick that up from meeting me. The saying “Be like a swan on the surface but furiously paddling below the surface” is me to a T. I do use a An Organised Life Daily Planner though as my main organisational tool and find it really helps me remember meetings and appointments.
What is one thing you are notoriously disorganised at?
I have a drawer in my kitchen that is so unorganised, once again if you come to my home on the surface it would look organised, but if you open a cupboard or draw you will get a very unorganised shock.
When it comes to stationery what products are a must to keep you organised?
I’m pretty simple, I use a Daily Planner and I also like to fill in a Weekly Notepad each week and put it on the fridge so Matt and I can keep track of what’s happening during the week with our son Jude and business meetings ect.
Do you prefer lined or plain paged notebooks?
I like lines!
With such fast growth with your business, who has been in your support network during this time?
We have so many great people that support us in different areas, we were really lucky when we started the business we found a really great accountant who has been on the journey with us since day 1. We also ask our families for lots of advice on different things. Our Wholesale agent Bianca Gregg has been so pivotal in the growth of our wholesale business and we work with a consultant Hayley James who is helping us with structuring our business for future growth.
We also have a really great network of entrepreneurial friends in Byron who we regularly meet with to chat about all things business.
What are your goals and plans for 2020?
I’m so excited for 2020! We have just secured a huge shed that we are currently renovating to be our new HQ / Warehouse / Shop / AIR B&B / Café - so I’m looking forward to welcoming the New Year in our new space.
Want to see more of St. Agni?
Visit the St. Agni Website HERE
Follow St. Agni HERE