Branka is one of those people you meet who you instantly feel like ‘she knows her stuff’, whether it be around copy writing, customer experience communication strategy or graphic design or by her ‘get it done’ approach and driven work ethic. Add to that a super powered laugh (that no matter how crappy your day is will make you laugh too) and a beautifully warm presence and you have a super talented mama of two who founded and grown the amazing One Tiny Tribe. I caught up with Branka to talk all things business, favourite design from the range and to get her advice for busy mamas out there who are thinking about starting their own gig. This interview is extra special for TDP, as I have had the pleasure of working with Branka at a fintech startup and to now see her business flourish is truly amazing! Prepare yourself ladies for an abundance of advice, knowledge and inspiration from this super talented lady, who tells me she is also about to open a cafe, which has me wondering…does she sleep?!
Hi Branka, thank you so much for taking time out from your hectic schedule to chat about One Tiny Tribe!
Let’s get straight into it…
Tell us about One Tiny Tribe, how it all began and the inspiration behind the brand?When I went on maternity leave for the first time, almost 8 years ago, I didn’t know what had hit me. My work has always been a fulfilling part of my being, so having that stop suddenly and having my life flipped upside down really threw me off. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t hating on motherhood, but I did struggle and it took a while to figure that out and to find that part of myself again. So when I was going on maternity leave the second time, I was ready for how that would affect me mentally and emotionally. And instead of waiting until the kids are older to start my own thing, I decided I’d do it just before giving birth. For a while I had been watching the Instagram scene and noticed that a couple of online stores had popped up and I thought “I’m just going to go for it – live and learn”. So I put together some designs (I’m a comms person by trade, but I used to do a lot of visual art when I was younger – including finishing a diploma of the Adobe Creative Suite), pulled together a simple online shop, and started promoting my work on Instagram.
Back then Instagram was a whole different ball game. There were only about 10-ish online stores catering to the baby-mama market. And everything was chronological. You knew that if you posted at prime time – 7pm on a Sunday night – you would get crazy engagement and even sales off the back of those posts. Building a community was easier too, because you quickly showed up in front of the people you wanted to attract.
For me, that was mums who were looking to decorate their boys’ rooms and nurseries with something other than posters of trucks and dinosaurs. Having gone through the process myself with my son’s room, I realised there was a huge gap in the market. For girls’ rooms, there was lots of variations. For boys’ rooms, however, the options were very limited. So the artwork I created has always been inspired by incorporating meaningful messages and trying to make sure that it speaks to both mother and child. I believe that’s why our signature posters “And then, one day, there was you”, “Messy bear”, “Golden Days”, and “I loved you first” have been so popular.
What is your professional background?
I’m a customer experience communication strategist by profession. Basically, I’ve spent my whole ‘professional life’ helping people find the right way to communicate their business that showcases their brand, but is also optimised for converting their potential customers/clients into actual buyers. When I was fresh out of uni I landed a gig in a creative agency. I didn’t quiet know what I wanted to do at the time, but I shared an office with a copywriter who got fired 2 weeks after I started and I sort of ended up taking that job and getting thrown in the deep end. Turned out copy writing was something I really enjoyed, so I ended up pursuing that path.
But working ‘agency-side’ was really full on. It took a toll on my social life and relationships. I also didn’t really enjoy the relentless context switching. In a single day I would be working on a radio script for a yogurt company, a microsite for a charity, TV ads for a sparkling water, and flyers for something or other. Some people really thrive in this kind of environment. Me? I much more prefer to dig deep into a problem, to analyse the research, and to optimise both the communication and the experience of a business to truly delight the customer and turn them into an advocate. Which is how I ended up specialising in customer experience. So these days I work on optimising not just the One Tiny Tribe experience, but also the experience of GigSuper (the self-employed super startup I’m part of).
What is your favourite design that you have released so far?
Gah! Tough choice.
Messy Bear has always been my favourite ‘graphic’ design. I love that he’s ‘not perfect’ but he’s so beautiful in his own way. And there’s something a bit magical about his universe hues. But lately, both the “Golden Days” and the “Be kind” posters would have to be my fave typographical designs. Be Kind because it’s the quality I want my kids to grow up with and Golden Days because it is such an important reminder. We have the Golden Days poster up in the kids’ shared room and on more than one occasion it has been a great way for me to remember to enjoy the messiness of parenthood and to live in the now, not worry so much about the past or future.
“Golden Days” and the “Be kind” posters would have to be my fave typographical designs. Be Kind because it’s the quality I want my kids to grow up with and Golden Days because it is such an important reminder to enjoy the messiness of parenthood and to live in the now, not worry so much about the past or future.”
What is the most rewarding part of owning your own business?
The confirmation of my skills. I know that might sound strange, but when I set out on the One Tiny Tribe journey, my intention was never to build an empire, go global, and have hundreds of staff. Instead, I saw a hole in the market, I wanted to be amongst the first to fill it, and I wanted to use the skills I’d learned over the years to do that successfully without anyone staring over my shoulder, micro-managing me.
And I’ve ticked all those boxes, *plus* more. That feeling is truly rewarding.
The most challenging?
I’d have to say the most challenging part of owning my own business is the reality check of how many hats you have to wear to actually make the whole thing run smoothly. When you have to be the head honcho, the whole marketing department, the ops manager, the coffee lady, the finance team, and about 20 other roles – it can take it’s toll. And it often does before you realise it’s time to outsource.
For the longest time I tried doing everything myself, but I realised that in order to do the things I do best, I had to let go of some of the responsibilities that were taking up way too much of my time but not adding an equal amount of value when they were being done by me. Things like accounting and liaising with suppliers. Since doing that, things have become a lot more manageable and it’s allowed me to find more time for the most important things in life – like being present with the fam.
What advice do you have for busy mamas out there who are thinking about starting their own gig?
If you’re thinking about starting a side hustle/business, do it while you’re pregnant or when your children are really young. I know that sounds counterintuitive, especially for anyone who has been through that newborn haze. But I’ve noticed a trend, especially in the last 4-5 years, where starting a businesses during that time works well for new mums or those with newborns. The business almost becomes a mental escape from the often mind-numbing routine of feed–change–lull to sleep–repeat. I know it worked wonders for my mental health at that time.
Today, there are heaps of resources to get something up and running within a day or two, and to test if your idea is viable with very minimal investment. So if you’ve ever wanted to try something out, even as an opportunity to earn an extra buck while you’re on mat leave, now’s the time!
“For the longest time I tried doing everything myself, but I realised that in order to do the things I do best, I had to let go of some of the responsibilities that were taking up way too much of my time but not adding an equal amount of value when they were being done by me.”
Describe the feeling when you see one of your prints out in the world, being enjoyed by your customers?
It’s wild. Absolutely WILD!
I’ve seen my handwriting and artwork in homes all across the country (and the world), in renowned magazines, in celebrities’ homes, all over the internet. Something I created is bringing joy to people and filling a need that they had for creative expression. That’s seriously an incredible feeling. And one that I’m eternally grateful for!
Plans for 2019?
Having spent the last two-ish years helping other people build their business, I’ve been less active with One Tiny Tribe. So I think it’s now time to rekindle that fire. We’ve got some new artwork designs coming out over the next few weeks, plus I’m working on some other value-adds for our community. Still no world domination on our to-do list, just good ol’ community building and nurturing.
Thank you so much for sharing your business journey and such valuable advice with us Branka! Cannot wait to see what the rest of 2019 and beyond brings for One Tiny Tribe. Follow the journey and stay up to date with the latest range on Instagram and check out the website for more!