Brisbane’s Bon Maxie Cashes In $2M After Mom Taps into Big Trend

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Despite her best-selling product being out of stock for nine months, a Brisbane mum has thrived as she helps people with life’s daily hassles.

Clare Spelta’s painting hobby has grown into a business based around solving life’s daily annoyances and is expected to generate $2 million in revenue this fiscal year, but seven years after starting it, she’s still running it from her own home.

When the mother-of-one went on maternity leave in 2015, she was worried about not being entitled to paid leave and wondered how her family would cope for six to 12 months.

After “daily” painting, she took her brushes and began creating custom portraits of babies and toddlers, which she later expanded into nursery prints on wooden wall hangers.

“Then my son got quite mobile and the custom portraits took nine or 10 hours each so I was running out of time to complete them,” she told news.com.au.

She decided she needed to add something to the product mix that was easier to duplicate.

But it wasn’t until she faced her “increasingly frustrated” husband one day as she rummaged through three bowls of jewelry to find matching earrings that the broader idea for her Bon Maxie company began.

“I started researching over the next few months and found that there were a lot of chicken wire earring holders made by old men in sheds and really boring plastic ones. I thought I could mix painting and create something that would look really good on the dresser since I had started exploring interiors and decorating,” she said.

“So I drilled 200 holes in a piece of wood and drew an intricate design and posted it on Instagram and all the earring makers and jewelry designers were like, ‘We need this’.

“So it wasn’t very handmade anymore and I hand-drilled up to a million holes until I thought maybe a machine could do it and I looked to outsource and we’ve steadily grown ever since.”

The Brisbane-based company has now sold 60,000 earring holders but has also evolved to target the organizational space.

“So it’s about anything I can do to solve a daily nuisance because we’re all lazy at heart and there are so many micro-burdens and if I can find little ways to solve them and help people, feeling a little more relaxed and organized, then my job is done,” she said.

But Bon Maxie was also a blessing for personal reasons.

Not long in his life, Ms. Spelta’s son began having seizures and was later diagnosed with a rare genetic condition.

She had returned to work part-time but decided to take a chance on the business so she could be there for him.

“We were pretty busy packing orders until 1am and then he woke up at 3am and I was a wreck all next day but I knew all those things were on my terms and I did I don’t have to move up to an office job and perform,” she said.

Her husband, a nutritionist, also quit his job to get into the business, which meant they could “drop everything” if their son needed it.

The brand has since expanded into leather goods too, which Ms Spelta said was unexpected but she was keen to make bags that are more functional and good looking.

“They have characteristics that you want your bags to have, so I think there’s a lot of fashion concepts in terms of accessories and a lot of features are missing because a lot are seasonal, they come in, they sell, they’re reduced and they go,” she said.

“I wanted to consciously design products that help people.”

The Sidekick Cross Body Bag, which she describes as a “deceptively roomy little bag,” retails for $249.

It fits a 600ml bottle and an iPad Mini, has three pockets for things like phones, snacks and lipstick, a coffee-colored lining so you can see inside, wider straps so they don’t dig in, and even an internal key clip.

The first version sold out quickly, but when the pandemic hit its maker, it shut down for nine months and it couldn’t make it.

“I thought it would be dangerous to have a bestselling item out of stock for so long, but I took the time to list the benefits and talk about why it’s different, and when the time came we uploaded it and did a VIP pre-release and so on. An hour later we released it to the public and it sold out straight away, which was crazy,” she added.

The couple made $150,000 in just 10 minutes.

“It just gave me confidence that the concept was still relevant and necessary and our business wasn’t going down the drain after going quiet,” she said.

“So that was a tremendous relief not only to get funds to reinvest in the business, but we also had the support of superfans despite being in a pandemic.”

The 34-year-old still can’t quite believe she’s turned an initial investment of $300 into a company that’s made over $5 million over the last six years, especially as she controversially doesn’t believe in business plans.

“I’ve always been a proponent of not having a business plan,” she said.

“We have broad financial goals because it’s nice to be working towards and we still have products in the works for the next six months, but I’m always surprised by a small request from a customer or a sudden item that I’m really interested in life and so always allows us to shift naturally.”

Bon Maxie now stock around 100 products including various colors and designs, with the Mighty Mini Wallets also being popular.

She said the pandemic is also good for business, as people stuck inside have sought to “groom” their spaces since they spend so much time there.

She is currently planning to expand the range of bags and recently released a ‘Weekender’ bag that sold out in a week.

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