Mother's Day Interview with our Founder Kate
How did you start O.B. Designs, and why?
I started O.B. Designs in 2008 when I became a new Mum to my beautiful daughter Evie. Naturally, being a new Mum, I took an interest in baby products. At the time, there weren’t many affordable toys and furnishings that related to modern family tastes or lifestyles. The industry seemed out of touch. On one hand there were mass produced brands with primary colours and on the other were very expensive designer products I couldn’t dream of affording. I decided to create a brand that found the balance. So we began our first prototype of our first toy “The Dingaring”!
In the beginning, O.B. Designs was a partnership between myself and Leesa Hallahan. We sewed the Dingaring toys ourselves at the kitchen table and started selling them in local stores. When we realised we tapped a market for these cute little 3-in-1 toy rattles we decided to go into full scale production in 2008. We choose our top 5 designs: an Owl, Koala, Cat, Mouse and a Bunny. We took them to the Life Instyle Trade show and had a great response with about 40 new stores. In 2019, I took over as sole trader of the business. I am proud to say OB is now stocked in over 600 stores in Australia, 600 stores in the United States and also have key distributors in New Zealand, Europe and Korea.
My focus has always been on our customers. Every decision made in O.B. Designs is based on what makes our customers happy. In a nutshell, this means delivering beautiful high quality products people enjoy. O.B. Designs has taught me so much and I have grown with the brand as much as it has grown with me! It has been a lot of fun and I hope the next 15 years are just as exciting as the first.
What are your passions in life?
My passions in life are my family, camping in the great outdoors, exploring new cultures, wine, interior architecture, delicious food and of course O.B. Designs. !
How do you find work / life / mum balance?
The work life balance is always tricky. My husband and I now have two teenage daughters and a son. My rock is my husband, Luke. He is very supportive and always has been. Even when OB didn’t make a cent for the first couple years he always believed in me. He has been key to my success. For me, I prioritise my family and business and then everything else can fall into place. There are times when OB takes up more time and times when the kids are on holidays and it's time to enjoy them! Getting up early in the morning, getting the chores done and house tidy before work is key for me. I have worked from home for 15 years and it is fantastic but it is important to treat it as such i.e. stay focused on work!
What is your vision for O.B. Designs?
My vision is to continue to grow O.B. Designs into a leading children’s brand with the help of my amazing team. We will continue to design eco-friendly and ethically made children’s toys and nursery decor families love! I also strive for OB to be a socially responsible company. We employ busy Mums and allow flexible schedules and support a variety of different children’s charities.
Where do you see yourself in 5 /10 years time?
In 5 years, Businesswise, I hope to see the brand having a solid presence in international markets eg USA, Europe and Korea. They are looking very promising. In terms of family, I look forward to watching my daughter’s graduate High School and hopefully become young Entrepreneurs! I would love nothing more than to be able to share the business with them. My son will be in 8th grade so hopefully I will still be cool enough to join him surfing…
In 10 years more of the same really. My husband and I will be empty nesters so we will be traveling more and I will have an amazing GM running OB so I can enjoy life!
You’re a mum, but you're from the states, Mother’s Day must be so special but also a hard day?
Mother’s day is a bittersweet day for me. I am originally from Jacksonville, FL. There has not been a Mother’s Day I have not reflected on my Mom. She is my hero and inspiration. My Mom, Jan, was a single Mother and high achieving business woman who broke into the male dominated Real Estate Market in the 80’s. She also was a fun loving Mom who cared deeply for my sister and I. It was a very hard decision to leave my family and immigrate to Australia. Luckily, my husband’s parents, John and Jenni, have been very loving and supportive to me and treated me like their own daughter. Even though I had family support, my University degree didn’t translate so my career options diminished considerably, especially in a regional area like Byron/Ballina NSW. 15 years later I am on the other side of this and looking back I am proud of what I have achieved. However, I am most proud of being a Wife to Luke and Mother to my 3 gorgeous children, Evie (15), Willow (13) and Hunter (9).
One day, I would love to mentor young Mums starting out in business but apart from that I would like to wish a Happy Mother’s Day to all the amazing Mothers out there.