Living, working and traveling together for one whole year would be enough to test any relationship, right? Add a busy toddler and a global fashion business into the mix - yet somehow this couple managed to have the trip of a lifetime, returning with their business and relationship well and truly in tact.
We wanted to find out just how the heck they did it, so meet Alex and Ryan Hutchinson of Australian label, Mahiya, also parents to their adorable son Ziggy, caravan owners and avid travelers.
Here we chat about going from market stall to global business, running a business while on the road, the implications of COVID-19 and much more.
Alex and Ryan, you started out as a small business peddling your wares from your market stall at TVM seven years ago, how has the business grown for you both since then?
Hi Girls, thanks so much for having us. Yes we launched Mahiya seven years ago on July 1st (wow where did that time go?) at TVM and online, not really knowing where it might take us.
We started around the time that Instagram was really starting to take off so we were very lucky that people started loving our images and sharing them, this way we were able to grow our audience pretty quickly.
The majority of our stockists have found us via Instagram. Over the years we have had over 100 stockists here in Australia and overseas but have recently refined our list to focus more on our online store.
Amazingly our business can run with 1 full-time staff member and I (Alex) do all of our social media, shoots, website and design.
We are currently working with a marketing agency in Sydney for our online advertising. Since COVID-19 hit, Ryan and I have been back working full-time but are about to hire another staff member.
When you launched the brand, was it purely for the love and a side hustle for you both, or did you see it becoming a much bigger business long term?
We initially invested in the business dreaming that it would be successful and growing over time but didn't realise how fast it would. We were both still working part-time but ended up stopping our other jobs 6 months in.
We started with a small amount of stock in our spare room, then to our garage and now we have a warehouse in Currumbin with an office and a showroom .
So you are both working full-time on Mahiya, what are your roles in the business and how do you make this work as a couple?
Yes at the moment we are both working full-time, we have our son Ziggy in day-care 5 days a week at the moment but soon we will have staff again so we will get a bit more spare time.
Ryan pretty much runs the business side of things. He pays all the bills, orders all our packing materials, does all our finance and all the stuff that I hate doing.
I get to do all the fun stuff, designing, social media, product shots, update the website, stock ordering, photoshoots, EDMs and also recently packing our online orders during COVID-19.
Working and living together in a relationship sure does have its challenges but luckily we are the best of friends and can separate work from family, so it somehow works for us.
You recently travelled Australia in your caravan, with your little man Ziggy in tow, how did you set your business up so that you were able to take this time as a family?
Travelling with a one-year-old toddler is definitely hard work and then add-in working on the road and you have a pretty crazy situation, that’s for sure.
Ziggy was awake at 4am every day (I don't miss that), so we would be up early on our laptops before the sun came up. We luckily had an amazing full-time staff member Ash who took care of our business while we were away for the 11 months.
We were still working online and doing photoshoots and markets but business ran as usual while we were gone. We had to make sure we always had internet close by to where we were staying but we totally trusted in Ash to take care of things if we were out of reception for a while. She was our travelling Angel and we are so grateful for her.
What were the top three places you visited during your tip?
Our favourites would definitely be Redbluff, Coral Bay (both in WA) and Cape York in Qld. They were seriously the most beautiful places we have ever seen but there are seriously sooooo many incredible places the whole way around Australia.
The Temple Cape York is a must if you’re ever up that way, the owners Jason and Katie are awesome and will show you best time.
Do you find you are most inspired, whilst travelling? What inspires you, creatively?
I would definitely say yes! I was feeling a bit of a slump after Ziggy was born and was so in need of some inspiration. I found inspiration in the craziest of things, whether it be the earthy red dirt of WA, rustic old buildings in small deserted towns or for our latest knit range I was inspired by a gorgeous crochet cushion I had seen.
How has the current global pandemic impacted your business so far?
At first when COVID-19 hit Australia we freaked out, as I am sure most businesses did. We closed our showroom and wholesale orders came to a halt as other stores closed.
We prepared for the worst and put plans in place around what we would do if the business slowed down a lot. Amazingly online stores are all experiencing a rise in sales, we just had our 2nd biggest month ever so we are feeling very lucky and so grateful to all of our wonderful customers who have supported us.
Do you have any tips for other couples that may be thinking of going into business together?
I think if you both have the skill sets to make it work I say go for it.
Nothing beats having your own business and reaching goals together. Luckily Ryan had run his own roofing business in the past and was amazing with organisation, figures and costing’s, which is one thing you really need to make a profitable business. It’s so easy to lose track of how much you’re spending.
Where to next for Mahiya in travel and in business?
Unfortunately international travel is off the cards at the moment with the crisis but luckily we have just had the clear to travel in QLD again so as soon as we can we will be hooking up the caravan and heading off on some smaller trips.
Business wise, the world is a huge place and I feel we still have many more people to reach online, so our main focus is this at present.
You are a global business but still attend TVM from time to time, why is this?
We absolutely love TVM and our local customers. It is where we started out and we have so many friends who also have stalls there.
It’s a great place to find new customers and introduce them to our brand, we take our sale items there so our locals get a great deal and it’s always such a fun and happy vibe to be amongst.
You’re both two very healthy looking humans, how were you maintaining your health and wellbeing whilst at home?
We have definitely been struggling since the gyms have been closed. I’ve been doing lots of walks and we have set up an out door gym which we should use more but we are generally active people and with a two year old you’re never off your feet. We enjoy eating healthy but also love a good glass of wine.
What are you both currently:
- Listening to? We love all kinds of music and listen to a huge variety of styles. We do love Ziggy Alberts.
- Reading? We are currently reading Rich Dad Poor Dad and the 80/20 rule. We have been doing a bit of investing in the stock market and always love learning about ways to make life better for the future.
- Watching? Currently watching Billions. We do love a good show on Netflix or Stan to kick back and chill.