Meet Leanne Davey, a talented boss lady with a super fine eye for design, Leanne decided to wave good bye to her career in corporate finance after suffering 5 heart attacks in 11 years and instead, start her own business from home, putting her health and happiness first. Read on to learn more about Leanne’s inspiring story…
MLTS – Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us Leanne, you have been a familiar face at lots of local Morn Pen markets for many years now, tell us a little about yourself and your family.
Leanne – I am self employed, work from home, well established maker of unique, custom designed, personalised mixed media art for the home and keepsakes for special occasions. My work hours are spread over 7 days a week and up to 16 hours a day some days! The chaos and mess of running a handmade biz from home is well tolerated and supported by my fabulous husband (a man I was set up with on a blind date with 33 years ago!), my beautiful daughter and even by my young Grandson (he loves being in the studio watching me create and playing under the work bench!)
MLTS – Oh my goodness the whole blind date set up is crazy fun! How cool! So what inspired you to start your own business?
Leanne – I have made and created from a very young age, I think I was genetically wired to do so thanks to my crafty and clever Mother and Nanna . Over the years I have taught myself many crafts (sewing, painting, needlework, mixed media art, upcycling and timber crafting). It was always a natural thing for me to create designs that couldn’t be bought in shops and were unique keepsakes. Thus, the start of Davey Designs.
I have always had an equal love of numbers and worked in corporate banking and finance for many, many years. I have the full left brain right brain thingy going on! I worked in finance by day and created at night and on weekends. After suffering my 5th heart attack in 11 years and quintuple bypass heart surgery just a few years ago (that was a little genetic gift from my Fathers side), health meant I had to give the day job away. SO it was bye bye to the stress of corporate finance and hello to the great chance to work on Davey Designs full time, once I was recovered.
MLTS – Leanne that is an incredible story! We can only begin to imagine what you have been though with your health and can more than appreciate why you have chosen to work from home doing something you are passionate about! Tell us about your business, Davey Design.
Leanne – Davey Designs commenced in 1994 and has been making the current product range for the past 8 years. That really came about from the wonderful world of Facebook. I had always taken photos of all items I ever made and gave as gifts or sold (and by ‘photos’ I mean putting a roll of Fuji 800asa film in the Pentax SLR, taking pics of products on towels on the backyard, then waiting for cheap Tuesdays at the local Rabbit store to print off pics to place in an album!) After I joined Facebook as ‘me’ in 2007 I happened to make a few baby gifts for friends and took photos of the products.
I was new to the fact the people liked posting photos on FB of their food and kids and pets, so figured I would post photos of what I had been making. Many FB friends were unaware that I had been creating for years and began ordering from me. Then their friends starting sending PMs and ordering, then their friends started and on and on it went. Within four quick months I was accidentally running a business, and 8 years later here we are!
MLTS – That is such a great story, you honestly can not beat word of mouth advertising/referrals and social platforms such as Facebook and Instagram are just perfect for that. So tell us about your products, what does Davey Designs produce?
Leanne – I primarily make personalised home decor items and have a large range to choose from. I also design and make an extensive range of timber products and resources that support the Early Year Learning framework for child care centres, kinders and family day care providers. I thoroughly enjoy the graphic art side of designing, doing drawings in my program ready to send to the laser or cnc router for cutting of timber.
Other items that don’t involve timber are all handmade my me at the work bench within my studio at home. Each design is created with many hours of research and thought behind it and it is always such a thrill to finally release a new design to our loyal and friendly customers. Davey Designs has grown and grown due to the quality of our products and our professional customer service. One of my trademarks is that all painted items are in fact hand painted, and with archival quality paints and varnish.
MLTS – How wonderful you can create with a passion and purpose. We seriously envy crafty people! Your social media following on Facebook is quite strong, tell us about your followers and customers.
Leanne – I am very proud to say that our 6500 Facebook followers are all organic! They found us! We have never sought likes by ways of competitions or like and share click bait posts. Almost 85% of today’s orders are from repeat customers who loved their first order so much they come back, again and again. I am super proud of this, I never take it for granted, I truly appreciate it and love the customer relationships I have built with so many wonderful people.
We have a few customers who say they haven’t bought a gift from a shopping centre in over 5 years, we are their one stop shop for gift buying for all occasions and all ages. I also love that because we are respected and have been around for many years, we can ‘match’ an order for customers years after their first purchase, just like when siblings are born and Mum’s are after matching wall names for example.
MLTS – That’s so lovely, a strong, caring relationship with customers is just so important and unfortunately something that a lot of businesses are just not good at now a days so good on your for priding yourself on this! What about working from home, how do you go about juggling home life with work life?
Leanne – That is a skill that is always evolving, especially during the 8 years that I doubled up in the corporate finance world by day and making for Davey Designs at night and on weekends. Davey Designs started as a creative outlet and then quickly grew into a hobby, a hobby for fun and for pocket money. Working for myself from home is full on but fun, is stressful yet provides freedom, is creative but sometimes stifling, is tough but rewarding.
You almost daily experience a range of emotions and external factors and have highs and many lows. Support from immediate family during the start is essential; emotionally, physically and financially.
MLTS – What a fantastic, honest answer! The grass isn’t always greener just because you don’t have to travel to an office that’s for sure! What do you find to be the biggest challenges in running your own business?
Leanne – I face various challenges, (1) Sourcing reliable and trusted suppliers of raw materials, if they are unreliable with quality and deadlines it has a huge impact on my production and customer service. (2) Having my designs copied by competitors, this is something that will inevitably happen to most small businesses and it’s heart breaking! Be clever to minimise the chances of it happening! (3) Balancing work hours vs family time vs down time when you work from the same four walls that are ‘home’, when you run an online business via social media it is easy to fall into the trap of feeling obliged to be “open all hours”.
MLTS – Oh we can definitely relate with the last one! Our blog being predominately social media, it’s extremely hard to switch off and be “closed” even on holiday we find ourselves “working”! Leanne, you have been a well established business for 8 years now, what advice do you have for other Mamas who are wanting to start their own business but don’t quite have the confidence?
Leanne – Rome wasn’t built in a day! Do not expect to take off and grow overnight. You MUST be in it for the long haul and have discipline to run your business as a real business, no matter what size or scale your business is. You need to dedicate sets times each day to set tasks, keep a tidy mind and a tidy ‘Things To Do List’. Research your products and your demographic and audience. A background in basic bookkeeping and customer service is a huge advantage.
Be dedicated, be passionate, work hard and be prepared to work for free whilst you are establishing yourself. If you have a good product and good service, word of mouth will soon spread. Davey Designs started with friends spreading the word (because they wanted to, not because I asked them to) and then a lot of hard work by myself to establish a successful Facebook page and continually growing audience. It can be done, easily and cheaply.
MLTS – So true, it can often be disheartening when you put so much love and energy into a project to not see it gain overnight success, love your advice to run the business as a real business no matter what size or scale. So what’s your number one tip for people just starting out?
Leanne – Research is the key, research research research, for anything and everything to start with! Dedicate part of each week to upskilling yourself, be it computer skills, bookkeeping, mastering social media (A MUST!), market trends (A MUST), competitors, material suppliers, your manufacturing processes, maker support groups, this can all be very simply self taught from in front of your computer – Yes a computer, not a phone! Biggest tip: Observe your competitors, but don’t want to be them!
MLTS – Leanne, honestly you are a wealth of knowledge and fantastic advice! You should start running workshops for small business owners! Just to add into all the time you have! Ha! Away from work now… what’s your favourite activity to do as a family?
Leanne – My husband and I are big lovers of live music. Barely a week goes by that we aren’t at a cute inner city pub or small bar enjoying some time out with a wine and some live tunes. The live music scene in Melbourne is just incredible and ridiculously talented! You will often find us travelling around Victoria just to see a favourite band in an intimate and quirky setting, like a warehouse, an old garage, old churches or private homes. And I have an addiction for all things handmade, so try to visit at least one Melbourne market each weekend.MLTS – So much fun! What a fantastic thing to do, Melbourne is the best isn’t it?! And lastly, leave us with your favourite quote/motto?
Leanne – (I have my motto engraved on a necklace): “The best days in life are the ones when you do something special that wasn’t planned when the alarm went off that morning” And of course: “Life can be short, every day above ground is a good one”.
MLTS – Love them! Thanks so so much Leanne, you’re honestly a wealth of knowledge and a great example of how working hard and staying passionate can pay off and allow you to follow your dreams of owning your own business.
To view Leanne’s beautiful handmade designs visit –