Tell us about yourself – who you are and what you do?
I am Dee Mayocchi, designer and owner of Brisbane based fashion brand Maiocchi.
What was your first job and education?
I studied fashion design at Mt Gravatt TAFE and my first job in the industry was working for Stephen Elliott – a menswear designer.
Whilst at college we did a subject in menswear and for an assignment we had to interview a menswear designer.
I interviewed Stephen Elliott and kept in touch, and when I finished college I got a job as his sidekick!
It was just him and I and we did everything together so I learnt heaps and I loved it.
What was the pathway to your career or owning a business?
Whilst still working for Stephen Elliott, I started a market stall on the side to save money for an overseas trip.
I made printed tees mostly, my plan was to do the year in Europe but when I got there, I kind of missed home so I came back early and did the market stall as a full time gig.
I would sew up things all week to sell on the weekend.
I also did market stalls at the Livid Festival and Big Day Out which was super fun.
I then also started doing more fancy frocks and selling them on consignment in my friends shop.
From there I was approached by local fashion boutique owner, Natalie Denning to sell in her stores,
so I decided to start wholesaling. I did all the selling myself and got 15 stockists in Australia for my first season.
My Mum and I were doing all of the sewing ourselves, so we had to quickly hire someone to help us.
We hired a sewer, Amanda, and told her we could give her maybe 3 days per week of work, from then on she worked 5 days for us every week!!!
And she worked for us for 12 years!!
We were doing the cutting out on a ping pong table and using the 3 bedrooms in the upstairs of my Mum’s house.
One day I was looking through the Brisbane News magazine and I saw a shop for lease in Brunswick Street in the valley.
We then opened our first store and leased a huge commercial space just around the corner in the McLachlan Street in the Valley.
We have 3 sewers, a patternmaker and a production assistant, as well as Mum and I.
This is when we got our first computer and had to get my Dad on board to do the bookwork and accounting.
We just grew from there!
How did past recessions impact you personally and in your work?
They really impacted our wholesale business. At one stage we had over 80 boutiques stocking Maiocchi, but stores kept closing, and it became increasingly difficult to get paid.
For a small business, it was difficult because we paid for our fabrics and makers so far ahead and then would not get paid for 60 – 90 days (if we were lucky) after shipping product to the stores.
I think that things like recessions, the fluctuating Aussie dollar to the US, so many big retailers coming to Australia and the growth of online has really affected the retail landscape.
It has made it really tough to compete for small businesses, running on small margins.
A lot of small business don’t know how to compete or don’t move with the times with regard to online and over the years we have seen many retail stores go under or simply close down.
I think that now there is a growing consumer sentiment towards supporting local businesses which is just great!
Who/what helped you along the way?
I recently worked with a business mentor who really helped me think about what I really wanted my life to look like and we worked backwards from there.
As a single Mum to a 9 year old little man, I increasingly felt that I had too many balls in the air.
Working with a mentor helped make a decision to streamline my business, and focus on the bits that I love doing.
I moved my business to home and am making changes to simplify things.
It has been fabulous, I am able to focus more on running the business and the design part which is what I truly love doing!
By looking at what areas of the business were profitable and which not, I was able to make good decisions about how to move forward.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given and by whom?
My business mentor told me that every moment in your life that does not make you feel happy needs correcting.
I wrote this on a piece of paper and stuck it to my computer monitor. I find it’s the little mindset changes that can make a big difference to your life.
When I started with my mentor, I told her I only wanted to work on business stuff, I didn’t want to waste time doing personal development stuff – I’ve done all that before, I told her.
She said she has never seen anyone succeed in business without succeeding with themselves first.
So we did the personal development work and you know what? She was right!
How do you deal with challenging times?
I eat chocolate!!! And then I ask my Dad what to do!!!
What drives you?
I am a hard worker, also I love getting out of bed in the morning and I love getting to create colourful prints and fun frocks.
It’s 7am now and I have been working since 3am because I woke up and got excited about the print designs I am going to be working on with my textile designer Kellie today.
Because I have my run my business from the downstairs of my house, I just popped downstairs and started working.
One of my staff just arrived and am still in my pajamas – ooops!!
What are you most proud of?
The customer base I have created and how much love they have for Maiocchi.
I started a private Facebook group last year as a place for our Maiocchi Mavens to share their pics and we sometimes have 10 pics posted in a day!
We have such wonderful ladies wearing their Maiocchi frocks and seeing their pics just makes my day.
They are a wonderful, bunch of clever and just lovely women, who always have such nice things to say.
How lucky am I that I get to dress them!!! xo
What’s your greatest regret?
Hmmm, I don’t know, maybe not being better at the business side of stuff and not planning more?
What have been the biggest lessons you have learnt (in life and/or business)?
I think to Just Do It!! I try to just get things done rather than mulling over them too much.
It means I stuff up sometimes, and I look back and think oh I should have done it that way, why didn’t I think of that?
My Mum has always said that I am like a ‘bull at a gate’, and it’s so true. I am a creative person with not a lot of patience at times, but at least I keep moving forwards and having fun!
What advice would you give to young women just starting out who want to succeed in the workplace?
Work hard and be nice! Also, if you are not good at the business stuff, get a mentor to help you look at the financials of your business so that you know where you are headed.
SheSociety is a site for the women of Australia to share our stories, our experiences, shared learnings and opportunities to connect.