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From a market stall to a million-dollar business

What a long, wonderful, crazy and exciting journey it has been for me venturing into the business world and starting my own ecommerce brand. 

What has transpired into my successful fashion line and online clothing business iland co. started out as merely an idea and a means to escape to my corporate career. 

But the manifestation for me has honestly been a dream come true. I have a job where I am my own boss and can decide when and where I want to work. I can be there as a mum and be flexible in my schedule to be there for family commitments. And of course, I can share in the passion of creating beautiful pieces for my customers and feel proud to have created and operate such a successful business. iland co. that today has become a million-dollar brand, with tens of thousands of loyal customers and a following and real presence in the fashion sphere. 

Yet, let me make this clear. It wasn’t all smooth sailing for my business. There were a lot of uncharted waters and rocky times. It took years of learning and trying and certainly a lot of mistakes and failures. In fact, iland co. wasn’t even my first business venture. 

 My first business ideas and experiences were nothing to do without fashion. When I was 19, I dabbled in starting my own business. It was called Bliss Entertainment. The premise was that I represented DJ’s and musicians and booked them out to parties and weddings. It didn’t take long for me to realise that this wasn’t my ideal business model; I didn’t want to have to chase others to be at a location and be out and about selling my business. What I was after was a tangible item I could sell from anywhere. 

Zooming forward years later, after I was married, living abroad and succeeding in my corporate career, I had a yearning to revisit my drive to have my own business. I was also seeking a way out of my corporate role where I felt unhappy working non-stop and having to outsource to others to run my home life. 

The business and brand that I envisioned was Willow Tree Organics. While I was all onboard with the idea of organic skincare products, I didn’t necessarily think about the potential customers around me. I went ahead and made brochures and a website and bought products, and come market day not a person was interested in my products. Despite desperately wanting Willow Tree Organics to work, it clearly wasn’t. 

At the time, the organics and natural movement didn’t really have much traction especially where I was living in Dubai and had really only just gained a bit of momentum in the western world. It was a hard pill to swallow but ultimately there was no real interest or market for what I was selling. 

As tough as it was having this failure, without this learning curve I would have never learnt this valuable lesson of demand and been set on path for my brand today so I think it all makes part of the business journey. 

So rather stubbornly, I recognised that Willow Tree Organics wasn’t working but from a quick glance around the market stalls, what was extremely apparent was how popular the women’s clothing stalls were. 

And so, with that fresh realisation, I pivoted. I had noticed at the time kimonos were gaining popularity in Australia, as well as being a staple clothing for Emirati women. With the plethora of fabrics and tailors available, I was able to quickly get my hands on gorgeous garments. At my next stall, all my new kimonos sold out. I even saw girls in the carpark posing in their gorgeous new pieces taking photos for Instagram. And that was the ‘aha’ moment, I knew I was onto something. 

Fast forward to today, iland co. operates from my office in the Central Coast. We operate as a small all-female business shipping to customers all over the world who love what we sell and I’m proud of how far it has come. 

Everything has been a rollercoaster of learning. Figuring things out, juggling home and work life. Trial and error. I think my biggest piece of advice for others is to surround yourself with and build relationships with others who can help you. With the way the ecommerce industry has grown today, there are so many more tools and available knowledge to help you as well as people out there willing to share their lessons, know-how and stories that can help guide you on your journey. 

And while the road is still windy, it truly has come in leaps and bounds from when the ecommerce world was still hitting the world by storm just 10 to 15 years ago. 

So, it is certainly onward and upward for those wanting to take the plunge into the business and ecommerce world. Those in business are always to help those starting out as we do know what it is like so reach out to those who inspire you.  

Of course, it also takes a lot of patience and resilience in the business world, so take each down as a lesson learnt and each up as another stride to success. And up by up, you will edge closer and closer towards your dream business. 


Business Chicks member, Jodie Minto, is an award-winning eCommerce mentor,

seven-figure online business owner and speaker.

Her MO? To teach emerging online fashion business owners how to crack the code

of eCommerce success for a life of uncapped income, flexibility and fun. 

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