When looking for a brand that are working to reinvent an everyday product, we chose to sit down with Mel Walker, the founder of homegrown business Johnny Devil. Johnny Devil was born out of a need for a new line of chef’s apparel that could withstand the everyday challenges of the profession. We spoke to Mel about style, creative freedom and how starting a business can help you live a life you love every day.
What was your inspiration in starting Johnny Devil?
About 9 months ago I was looking at getting back into being a chef after being away from that profession for a few years. I was super excited to go shopping for new chef gear but I was so disappointed at what was available, it was so boring - so I decided that I should do something about it.
Where did the name come from?
I wanted to personify my brand by coming up with a character who I thought my target audience could really relate to. The name ‘Johnny’ is just a name that I think is a cool name for a dude and the ‘Devil’ is because chefs are bad-asses!
Who have been your mentors/inspirations?
As far as mentors go I have my business coach Kaylene and my Mum who I talk to regularly about business. Both Kaylene and my Mum come from really different professional backgrounds to me, which is awesome because the ideas and views that they have are so different to anything that I would've thought of myself. They challenge me and help me grow which I love.
I’m actually inspired by so many people all the time, basically just anybody who has worked out which values are important to them and are creating a life for themselves based around those values. It doesn't necessarily have to have anything to do with business or money because those things aren’t important to everybody. We’re so lucky living here in Australia at this time, we are free to chase our dreams and do whatever makes us happy.
You have owned a business before, what do you think are the key skills of entrepreneurs?
Being thick-skinned is really important, some lucky people are born with it and some people like me have to develop it. The first business that I had was a food business; if I ever got a bad online review it could literally keep me up all night thinking about it, even though there were probably a thousand extremely happy customers for every one unhappy customer. I learned a lot since the early days of that first business and stressing about a few unhappy customers really is a huge waste of time and energy. All you can do is try to rectify the situation as best as possible and then let it go.
Being persistent is really important too, maybe a marketing campaign doesn't work or a product isn't quite right, you have to just persistently move forward, tweak things and learn from your mistakes. You have to be your own biggest fan and keep on pushing forward.
What is the hardest part about running your own business and how do you overcome it?
The thing about having your own business is that you’re it! You have to wear so many different hats - you’re the product manager, sales rep, marketing manager, receptionist etc.. So for every aspect of your business you either have to be good at it, learn to be good at it, or pay somebody who is good at it. I really enjoy learning about how to grow a business and there are so many resources out there to help you, I’m always reading books or listening to podcasts about business, I love it.
I outsource to a creative agency here on the Gold Coast called 40/40 creative; they took care of my website, branding and photography. The guys at 40/40 really understand my business and have similar values in their own business. I think it’s really important to make sure that anybody doing any work on behalf of your brand really ‘gets’ what you’re all about.
What are your top 3 tips for young people looking to start their own business?
Start building a social media presence early. Even if all you have at this point in time is an idea and name, let people know what you plan on doing and get the pre-launch marketing rolling.
Work out how much you think it will cost you to start your business - then double it to get a more realistic idea of how much it will really cost. Don’t let this put you off starting though, having a longer pre-launch phase while saving some more cash is a good thing.
Learn to roll with the punches, you have to expect that not everything will go to plan on your entrepreneurial journey. There will be setbacks and challenges but don’t let them get you down. Realise that your time and energy are precious so don’t stress over anything that you can’t control.
Words: Jess Mackay