Breathing Life Into Inanimate Objects – William Du

Meet William Du. Co-founder of Short Story, a business with a vision to bring back the intimacy and personal touch once associated with card writing and to breathe life into inanimate objects by celebrating the inspiration behind each product. This is his entrepreneurial story.

Where did you get the idea for your business?

Carolyn and I used to visit the Twilight markets of Melbourne religiously and were intrigued by the free spirit and talents that these artists shared with us. We got the idea for Short Story when we felt there was a gap in the market for beautiful framed artworks. After dedicating many hours creating, cutting, folding and testing our work, we spent half a year cold calling places of interest to no avail. Upon chance, a friend gifted Carolyn a small box of origami papers for her birthday and being in a stressed state, she reverted to what she used to do when she was young and that was folding butterflies. I saw these amazing, intricate little creations and with our leftover frames, put the two together and Voila, Short Story was born! From there, our passion for storytelling and designs that reflected both modern and traditional art led us to develop our first signature frame and a range of inspirational giftwares.

How did you get your business started?

As mentioned above, we failed in our first product for a good half a year before we conceptualised our first Origami butterfly frame. We initially established ourselves in craft markets where we gained a lot of traction for our artworks however the turning point was when we came into contact with a big art exhibition called Art Melbourne. There was a $5000 + entry fee that we had been saving up for and despite the advice we received not to risk it and enter, we disregarded everyone’s protests and took the plunge. We were so incredibly nervous and were unsure as to how everybody would respond to our pieces, however, the decision to enter significantly changed the course of our Short Story journey. We had a sold-out show, got picked up by a London and New York gallery in addition to scoring two commission pieces for Pauline Gandel from the Gandel Group. It was one of the biggest risk and most rewarding encounters we had ever experienced as it gave us renewed energy and confidence to strive and pursue our passions.

What lessons have you learned so far on your business journey?

One of the most important things that I have taken away from my business journey is to ACT, THINK AND DREAM BIG right from the beginning. You need to realise that just because you are starting off small, it doesn’t mean that you can start skipping corners and take shortcuts. If you don’t build a strong foundation for your business in the initial stages, it is bound to collapse. It is critical to plan and do things properly from the start so that it becomes a habit and is ingrained in every decision you make.

How important for you has it been to have a mentor?

We had a number of mentors that we never utilised until quite later into our business journey. Mentors are incredibly important and looking back now, we wished we had reached out to our connections sooner. They possess a wealth of knowledge, tips and advice gained from their experiences. Knowing that someone else has already gone through the journey you are embarking on may save you a lot of time and money.

What are your top 3 tips for starting a business?

  1. Just shut up and do it! Starting a business is very challenging and sometimes you’re not exactly sure where to begin. Don’t let this deter you from following through with the goals you have set. I found that the initial stage is where a lot of business journeys begin and end and while it is easy to talk about what you want to do, it’s better to just shut up and do it. Plan carefully, think creatively and implement action plans to keep you on track.
  2. Find the right people from the start! Working with people who have the same values, vision and passion as you will play a significant role in the success of your business. Throughout my experiences, I have learnt that having bad staff is cancerous and can inhibit growth by a few years and therefore must be addressed immediately. Hire slow and fire fast.
  3. Don’t be afraid to dream big! THINK, ACT AND DREAM BIG! Many businesses that have developed into something spectacular all have the same ingredients. Big dreams, passion and drive, hard work and most importantly… patience. You can’t expect your business to start off big and successful, but you can begin to implement processes as if you were a big company. It is crucial to adopt a frame of mind where you carry out your business in a manner that is sustainable and consistent. Get the important habits built in right from the onset and they will deliver amazing results down the track.

William Du is a graduate of the RMIT Diploma of Product Design Course (2006).

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