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Getting to know…Carmel Griffith of Puggle Post

Puggle Post is a newly launched online store specialising in beautifully made Modern Australiana for kids. Carmel Griffith tells us about her inspiration for starting the store and what Modern Australiana means to her.

Tell me about yourself
I moved to Australia from the UK in 2006. My partner had a job opportunity here and we came to give things a go! We saw it as an adventure and didn’t have much of a timeframe in mind. That was 10 years ago! Well we’re still here, and are now married, with 3 energetic young 3 boys: a 3 year old and twins who are coming up to 2.
Since moving to Sydney I’ve spent most of my time living in the Inner West, apart from a three-year stint on the Northern Beaches which I loved. We also spent a year travelling around Australia in a campervan, which was an incredible experience.
I currently work part time for an Environmental Consulting firm in the waste industry. I work closely with councils to advise on waste strategy and alternatives to landfill, which is running out and is expensive.
I also volunteer with the Inner West Multiple Birth Association where I coordinate a program to match twin families and volunteers to enable twins to attend swim lessons.
And then there’s my business baby, Puggle Post!
Congratulations for having just launched! Can you tell us about the business?
Puggle Post is an online store, specialising in Modern Australiana for kids. It is filled with beautifully made, special things that celebrate Australia in a really authentic way. Think enchanting and beautifully illustrated puzzles by contemporary artists, nursery prints that feature gorgeous Australian creatures in simple understated ways, and handcrafted colourful wooden toys designed to last a generation and more.
Being originally from overseas, has that inspired you to open the store?
Definitely. When I send gifts overseas, I always look for things that represent my adopted home of Australia. I love to send things that are a bit different, meaningful to me and memorable to the recipient. It’s my way of saying that despite living on the other side of the world, these people are still very much in my heart. There’s also the hope that the gift will remind its recipient (or their parents) of me from time to time, perhaps even enough to visit one day!
Ultimately it’s a way to connect with loved ones, and to celebrate the arrival of little people into their lives, no matter how far apart we are.
Are you specifically targeting people who will send gifts overseas?
Initially I thought this would be the case. But actually on starting Puggle Post I realised there was just as much, if not more, demand for authentic Australia themed products amongst Australians for themselves. People are ready for a modern representation of Australia, for themselves and their homes and to teach their children about their country.
With an overabundance of tacky ‘Australiana’ items, are you concerned that you might be taken for an online souvenir shop?
There is no doubt that Australiana as we know it has connotations with being kitsch and tacky. I’m finding that people are put off, embarrassed even, by what is currently available. I’m on a personal mission to revolutionise the way we see Australiana. There are so many talented creatives who are breathing life into the concept of Modern Australiana and representing Australian culture and natural beauty in their design and art. I want to help bring them to the forefront. Modern Australiana is not about souvenirs. It’s for us.
Is Puggle Post a complete change from your environmental work?
Yes and no! The day to day is obviously very different, but it is still very much driven by my sustainability principles. The toys that I stock are thoughtfully designed and made to last. All products are ethically made and environmentally sound. Where products are manufactured overseas I only deal with suppliers who can vouch for the ethical and environmental standards of the facilities.
What other differences can your customers expect to see?
Puggle Post aims to take the pain out of sending gifts overseas! Often the hardest thing is actually finding something that you love. We cater for all budgets; customers can expect to see a range of quality products from bespoke, handmade items to more established brands. All products are designed, if not made, locally in Australia.
The next hurdle is often postage; not just the logistics of going to the post office (which can be a mission in itself with little ones in tow), but also the costs involved. I know from personal experience that postage can be prohibitively costly when sending anything overseas. So another major draw card is the competitive overseas shipping rates we offer. Many of our products are lightweight with postage in mind, and we also have an ‘extra light’ product category where the lowest shipping rate applies.
In addition we gift wrap and supply cards that can be personalised and that we handwrite for you. We aim to make the whole process effortless and seamless!
Did your year travelling around Australia provide inspiration for Puggle Post?
Without a doubt my love affair, respect, and real interest in Australia were cemented on that trip. There was so much to see and visit, and often the most memorable places were those that we went to spontaneously following a recommendation from someone we’d met. We did a sort of figure of eight around the country, taking in the East and West coasts and a lot of the centre.
I loved the outdoor living and slow pace of life. There is a real sense of kinship outside of the major cities and people were so friendly and helpful. And I was truly inspired by the resourcefulness of people we met along the way and peoples readiness to stop and chat and share stories and resources. I’d love to do something similar one day with the kids. But with air conditioning!
 You have 3 very young children and a new business, how are you finding the time to manage it all? What tips can we learn from you?
I’m not sure I do manage it all to be honest! There are certainly areas that have taken a back seat, such as any form of social life, catching up with family and friends online and life admin. I try to keep it all in context by focussing on the bigger picture and reminding myself of my personal goals for the future.
My kids are in daycare 2 days per week and I generally work evenings and some weekend time if I have a lot on. I find what works for me is being flexible in order to deal with whichever hand is dealt for the day and to be prepared to work with constantly moving goal posts.
What would you say to other mums looking to start their own unique business?
I could do a whole interview on this topic alone! It’s not even been a year but I have learnt so much about what to do, and what not to do. To anyone just starting out, I would recommend you invest the time and resources to educate yourself, particularly if you are going into small business for the first time.
Join a Facebook group for women and/or mums in small business. These groups are a mine of information and some offer free webinars and podcasts to help you get started. And they are just really supportive places to ‘hang out’. View them as pots of karma; it might be you asking all the questions to start with, but it won’t be long before you can give back and add value yourself.
What do you do in your spare time, for you?
I don’t have, or give myself, a huge amount of spare time at the moment. But my newfound love is my box bike. It’s a way I can exercise while taking the kids out. It’s essentially a tricycle with a large wooden box at the front – it looks like an old-fashioned ice cream bike. It has 4 seats and I get the 3 kids, provisions for the day, a scooter and 2 ride on top cars in it. Before the bike I was always pushing them in a double pram and carried one child on my back. Whilst I was constantly moving, it wasn’t cardio exercise, which I love.
The difference has been remarkable and I feel more positive and better able to get things done. It also increases our range – we can go further afield, the kids get a change of scenery and we can cycle down by the water around the bay, which makes me happy!
Is there anything you would like to say to the Inner West Mums?
Yes! I’d like to say a massive thank you for the support and feedback I received when researching my business idea earlier this year. I put a survey out to a few Facebook groups, and had an overwhelming response from Inner West Mums. It’s a wonderful, supportive community and I am proud to be a part of it! If you ever see an unidentified wheeled object, packed to the gunnels, pedalling slowly towards you, give us a wave – it’s probably me!
Favourite spots in the Inner West?
Anywhere close to the water – or the feeling of being in an open space. I love the Bay Run and since having kids I have discovered more of the Inner West than ever before. We enjoy discovering new parks and playgrounds in beautiful surroundings pretty much every weekend. I love anything with river or harbour views such as Abbotsford, and Cockatoo Island, and also I love the historical feel of Balmain. We spend lots of time at Glebe foreshore at Bicentennial Park – we often go there on the light rail as it’s a real highlight for the boys and I can take the bike too, although obviously not during rush hour!
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