Olivia Mew | President of the Stay Home Club
My name is Olivia and I’m literally the president of the Stay Home Club. I always have trouble describing the company succinctly, but our tagline is “a lifestyle brand for people with no life” – if that helps clarify things at all!
I started this endeavour 4 years ago. At 24 years old I had recently graduated art school, had spent the last few years studying, working an office job and spending my nights piecing together whatever creative pursuits I thought would earn me some money on the side. Along the way there were several Etsy shops with offerings ranging from hand stitched dolls to detachable peter pan collars to vintage clothes. None of these things were really paying the bills, and I always considered these projects and my day job as ways to save up until I could afford to go out on my own and try my hand at an illustration career. As such, I didn’t spend much of my early twenties partying – I was more interested in holing up in front of some internet TV while working away on the crafts I wanted to sell. When university ended and I was still in the same office job, I set myself a savings goal for the day I would quit and pursue a life of self employment. A few months later I met that goal and shortly after that Stay Home Club was born! The name was inspired by a favourite song but also nodded at my beloved lifestyle of staying home to work or laze about rather than going out and socializing. While I’ve now come to know that this preference is widespread and that being a “member” of the Stay Home Club is something thousands of our customers relate to, at the time I felt like the odd one out amongst my friends and peers. Stay Home Club was once a lonely place – but not for long.
The brand began its life as a homewares line featuring prints by myself and the illustrator friends I’d met through Twitter and Etsy. I remember my first big business expense: $1600 on blank cotton pillow cases for which I’d spent months choosing the art to print on them, seeking out a Canadian manufacturer, getting everything just right, down to the weight per pillow case so they’d be inexpensive to ship. That investment felt like a terrifyingly huge leap at the time, but I gritted my teeth and wrote the cheque. When we finally launched and people began placing orders, I really felt I was onto something, but alas – it turned out I had neglected to research pillow case sizes around the world, and now I was getting angry emails from Germans to Australians asking why the cases did not fit their standard pillows! This was my first experience with confronting a major reality of online sales: customers who haven’t seen, tried, felt products in real life experiencing buyers’ remorse from across the world. As I scrambled to troubleshoot this mistake, more and more people were asking me to print a t-shirt featuring our logo (something I’d designed, posted on Tumblr, used on the brand website but hadn’t actually printed on any of the products). In the wake of pillowcase-gate I did just that, and the shirt took off more quickly than anything we’d sold before. It became immediately clear: Stay Home Club was destined to be an apparel brand.
Now firmly in the world of apparel and accessories, we operate as a team of 5 out of a studio. After years in my apartment doing all the designing, emailing, packaging, shipping, book keeping, etc. the business finally reached a size where help was required, and I’m so amazed and proud that Stay Home Club is now able to pay 5 people’s salaries. It might be my favourite thing about all of this. I do all the in-house print designing but we also license work from other illustrators and artists, just like in the beginning. It has been amazing being able to delegate the daily work to the point where I can spend a good chunk of my time being creative, whether I’m working on designs or going back and forth with an artist as they work on prints for us. It often feels like I’m “living the dream”. That said, being your own boss comes with its own stress and set of challenges. When your business is your baby, so many seemingly insignificant happenings can feel so hurtful. The main concerns that plague me these days are to do with staying original and fresh in a world where you can’t tell who is ripping off whom, whether you did something before it became trendy or subconsciously did something because it was becoming trendy, etc. I’m full of self doubt all the time! The best I can do is try to stay true to myself – to my own taste, to the things I think my customers actually care about. I’m very careful to do “due diligence” whenever I have an idea for a design – to make sure it hasn’t already been done, it doesn’t lean too heavily on someone else’s pre-existing idea. We have customers who’ve been with us since 2012 and who are still buying new items when we put them out, which gives me confidence that we’re evolving and growing with our audience. That’s really what I work towards now and what I try to focus on when I’m upset over everyday bummers like some big company making a shirt that’s uncomfortably close to ours.
The main characteristic that I think has allowed Stay Home Club to flourish is my own stubbornness. By saving money first through a daily grind I hated, I gave myself a solid base to take a chance on this business and never looked back. Merging creativity and business isn’t always easy, and I often see people with great talent become disheartened by one side or the other and give up before their ideas come to fruition. Of course there are infinite factors that dictate whether a business is successful or not, but for me not quitting when I’ve been down has felt like the most important thing. While self deprecation is a big part of my personality (and Stay Home Club’s!) I gotta say – I’m so proud of what this company has become. Hopefully my insecurity will continue to sneakily work in my favour and push Stay Home Club to new heights!