Meet Bec Corteling. Once a national manager for Converse, a buyer with experience in visual merchandising, Bec was climbing the corporate ladder before she started a family, became a mother and decided to follow her real dream.
She’s now the face of one of the Mornington Peninsula’s most loved clothing brands; Marylee Clothing. A fast-growing business, the Langwarrin pop-up and online clothing shop began two-and-a-half years ago and has since taken off.
It’s now a busy, bustling, family run business, managed by Bec and of course her loves husband Ryan and their two kids Brody, 5, and Maddison, 3.
We recently sat down with Bec for a coffee and a chat and to hear more about her inspiring #bosslady story…
MLTS: What made you decide to leave the corporate world?
Bec: I started as a store manager and went to national manager, I loved my job but after I had Brody, it was really hard working in the city every day. I didn’t want to leave but I couldn’t be away from Brody as much, I needed to look at other avenue’s closer to home.
MLTS: Where did the inspiration come from to start Marylee Clothing?
Bec: I knew I wanted to do something for myself, I had Maddison and then 11 months later, in October 2013, my friend, who was in the same boat as me, and I decided to give clothing a go. We started off with one rack of about 50 pieces, a Facebook page and a love of affordable clothing. I was really interested in social media so I concentrated on that and the word got around so quickly that we sold out in the first week! Then six months later we launched the website and started doing pop up shops from our home and then got a regular pop-up spot at Gateway in Langwarrin.
MLTS: Did you have a certain demographic in mind when you started the business?
Bec: We always wanted to make it a shop for women, like us mums, who want to look good, have something that’s the latest fashion but don’t want to have the price tag of country road for example. We knew it needed to look good but be affordable. No matter what size or shape you are, you still want to look nice, presentable and unique.
MLTS: What made you decide to keep the business local by launching your pop up shop in Langwarrin?
Bec: We were both from Langwarrin and we wanted to stay local and even now I don’t plan on changing that. I love seeing the mums on the school run dressed in Marylee, it really makes me proud. And my customers like to see that I’m just a mum like them. They like to know I am a real person, doing real things like dragging the kids along to suppliers, walking the dog, doing the groceries – you know, all the usual boring mum stuff!
MLTS: After a year, you had to make a decision to take soul ownership of Marylee, was it a tough decision to keep going on your own?
Bec: It really was, I had to decide if I was going to give this a crack by myself or give it all up. But to be honest, it was because of Ryan I decided to stick with it. He has been amazing. I wouldn’t have gotten this far without him. At first though he was like “oh my god, what are we doing”. Ryan has always been really hands on with the kids, I had an emergency c-section with Brody and he had to take the reins and I think that gave him the confidence to realise he was capable. He is the backbone of this business, he packs orders, he packs the car, he does racks, he knows how to do everything and he loves it now and he feels part of it.
MLTS: We love that your hubby is so hands on with the business, it sounds as though you’re both really motivated people?
Bec: If someone was a fly on the wall in our house they would think we were absolutely crazy, I’m sure we will look back and be like “what were we thinking”! It is so crazy! It’s not normal. Both our personalities are like that though; we are both driven, we both like to succeed. Our lives are super crazy but we wouldn’t have it any other way. We are not the type of people who just sit down and watch movies, it’s not in our DNA.
MLTS: Is it just Ryan being involved that makes it a “family run” business?
Bec: No, I also get heaps of support from my extended family, both his and mine, they help out with babysitting, they drop eftpos rolls off, they help at the shop, they are just always there to help us at the drop of a hat no matter what we need.
MLTS: And your gorgeous kids, Brody and Maddison, how do they feel about Marylee?
Bec: The kids love Marylee because I’ve involved them. I’ve taught them about what I do and I include them so they can be a part of it with me. They help pack and unpack orders, they help out at the shop. They are heavily involved and I think that’s a really big key to making this kind of thing work. It’s such a big part of my life but so are the kids so we need this to be a family adventure.
MLTS: You have some big fans out there including Australia’s biggest bargain fashion blog, “I Heart Bargains”, has the rapid success of Marylee over the past year surprised you?
Bec: Yes and no. I don’t want to sound cocky but I knew it was going to do well, just not this quickly! I’ve put so much time and effort into this, so if you put that much time and that much passion into something, you are optimistic things will be successful (my fingers were crossed anyway!). I had the confidence from my previous work experience so I knew that would help me move forward and operate the business properly. There are so many aspects to a business, running a shop, managing staff members, buying stock, dealing with leasing, how to price, how to style so I just took the bits and pieces of knowledge I had from my old job and moulded it all together to make Marylee work.
MLTS: How do you juggle everything, not only being a mum but also finding time for yourself?
Bec: That’s the hardest part. To be honest my stress levels are pretty high, that’s something I am working on. I am also trying to find the time to do something for myself and have a bit of down time. I really struggle to find down time and with so much going on and a lack of sleep, it can really play havoc on your health. I worry about so many things, but it is part and parcel with being a mum, we aren’t perfect, we all have our issues. Having two young kids this age is peak of stress.
MLTS: We’ve heard there is some very exciting news, tell us about the new venture!
Bec: Well, it’s been a massive dream of mine and the chance came up to open a shop in Gateway Shopping Centre in Langwarrin, so I took it! Ryan said to me, if we don’t give this a go, you’ll regret this. And I knew he was right. I think because of our marriage and our personalities, that if it doesn’t work we know we can say “oh well at least we gave it a crack!”.
MLTS: In a nut shell, what would you say makes Marylee Clothing stand out from other clothing brands?
Bec: I think it’s our motto. We are all about making other women feel good about themselves. I want my customers to feel amazing. I don’t care if they spend $10 or $100 as long as they feel good wearing the clothes then that means the world to me, that’s why I do this. Sometimes when you have kids you can lose sense of who you are and you might even give up a little but I think if you can look good you feel good and that then comes out of your skin.
MLTS: What advice would you give to other mums who might be thinking of following their dreams and starting their own business?
Bec: Go for it! I love to see other women happy and I love to support other woman with their goals and I think we all need to stand together and encourage each other. For us, as woman, we are doing the hardest job being a mum, if we can be successful as well as being the best possible human being we can be, then that’s wonderful. I want to see people do well and be happy in life and see them flourish. Be honest with yourself too, it’s a hard journey being a mum, so if you’re having a hard day, say so and be there for someone when they are having a bad day too. Also don’t forget to stop and smell the roses. Look around you and perhaps you might realise your dreams have already come true.
Thanks for the chat Bec! You are one goal kicking inspiring mama!
Marylee Clothing will be having the grand opening of their new store at Gateway Shopping Centre Langwarrin mid March.