I managed to catch up with Kristy for a chat in between trips to New York and India. This amazing woman is the founder of Incy Interiors, a designer furniture company for children and babies.
Incy came about when Kristy was looking for a “big boy” bed for her son Oscar. Kristy saw the gap in the market for an old style metal frame bed. They were available as a second hand find but usually they were covered in lead paint, something she definitely didn’t want to put her son to sleep in! With a working history in marketing Kristy set about changing the situation of children’s furniture in Australia.
Kristy grew up on a family farm near Oberon with her very large family, surrounded by cousins, grandparents and siblings. Her Dad is one of nine, so there was always someone around to go on adventures with. This allowed her to be creative and think outside the box during her childhood.
“Making cubby houses overlapping the river, driving cars and tractors” Kristy recalls were all part of her childhood.
“We used to have a red Suzuki tray back ute, that was kind of our car. When it would snow we would tow a super bag behind,” Kristy remembers. “The brakes didn’t work, so you had to know to run it into a wooden post, not a metal one.”
But she also loved numbers. So much so she did 3 unit maths for her HSC.
“I always knew I didn’t want to do what everyone else was doing,” Kristy remembers. A majority of Kristy’s peers choosing career paths like Teaching, secretarial or nursing.
Kristy’s Mum was a major influence in her life, she was teacher, and still is, but she was also an original feminist too. She taught careers at a local high school, and loved to encourage children to “push the boundaries”, which Kristy has done so in her career.
After school Kristy studied Marketing and PR in Bathurst before heading to Sydney to find work. She worked for a little start-up company, Ebay for 5 years as head of Marketing and Advertising. This was an amazing time for Kristy to learn all the tricks of the trade in starting a business and the growth Ebay experienced was exponential.
Whilst on Maternity leave the GFC (Global Financial Crisis) hit. This took its toll on the company and a lot of people lost their jobs. On her return Kristy was faced with growing her team up again but something had changed and with a new baby in her life, her heart wasn’t in it.
Kristy’s husband, Simon had his own construction company, and at the time was working in Victoria. He was helping residents affected by the “Black Saturday” fires rebuild. He would fly home every weekend, but this arrangement wasn’t very convenient and so the whole family moved to regional Victoria.
With time to think on her hands Kristy started thinking about life and what she wanted to do with herself. Her son Oscar was ready for a “big boys” bed but Kristy was having trouble finding the right one.
“I wanted an old style black/ dark brown wrought iron hospital bed,” Kristy remembers. “I tried to import one but I just kept coming up against barriers.”
Kristy saw there was a gap in the market, here in Australia, for children’s bedroom furniture. During her travels when working with Ebay, she saw a lot of retail, and she knew what Australia was missing out on. Baby, home and online were the areas about to experience considerable growth according to predictions. Kristy talked with friends, family and anyone who would listen about her ideas. Until one day her husband said, “Just do it, so I can stop hearing about it!”, in a true loving husbandly way I’m sure. “It was the push I needed,” she said.
Her first range consisted of 5 beds, 5 cots and 5 chairs, with the plan to add to the range at a later date. “Everyone wants their homes to be beautiful,” Kristy adds.
She found her manufacturers by researching Alibaba.
“When I started looking for manufacturers I sent over 800 emails,” Kristy recalls. “99 percent of them didn’t respond. Thankfully the ones that did have worked out like they have.”
“Our original timber manufacturer is in Vietnam. He is so lovely, he was starting out when we were. He took a chance on me and I took a chance on him. I liked him from the word ‘go’,” Kristy remembers.
The metal manufacturer Kristy uses is also abroad in Taiwan.
“It’s run by a Dad and his two children,” Kristy says. “And it’s so nice.”
Once she had her final product looking “just right” it was time for the fun part to begin and one Kristy is more than capable of doing, Marketing.
“On 2nd January we moved to Victoria, I found out I was pregnant on the 4th January and I launched Incy on the 11th February. I knew I had seven months to get things up and running,” Kristy said.
“Back in those days nobody was really doing anything online, it was really early days,” Kristy said. So she approached newly started online companies like My Child and Babyology. Together they all set about testing the online space that was just developing in Australia.
On launch day, two retailers contacted Kristy asking to come onboard and by the end of the week she had 25! It was a combination of perfect timing and collaboration that made this “great start”.
“We listen to what our customers tell us,” Kristy says. Customers will ask for new products. Every six months the company has an off-site meeting to discuss the customer feedback they have received.
When I asked Kristy if Incy was considered work or fun, she replied “It’s both absolutely! I really enjoy it but I have pushed it too far in the past.”
Nowadays the family makes a point of taking time off from the everyday grind to go away on a holiday. And Kristy makes time to “look after me” by including exercise in her schedule everyday.
Her close family connection helps Kristy with inspiration for new ideas within the business. Both her sister and brother work in the business too.
“My family keep me going everyday,” she says. “I get energy from other people.” And she is equally passionate about helping others too. Kristy is a mentor to two business people through a mentoring program called Rare Birds.
Incy is a huge country success story, with representation in ten different countries throughout the world. I loved hearing this story, knowing with perseverance and tenacity, little ideas and creativity can take you to great places. I also love that an international creative business like Incy can be operated from a country base.
You can find out more about Incy Interiors and Kristy Withers: