Until now, what is arguably one of Kiama’s most successful businesses has largely flown under the radar locally, despite having a cult following worldwide.
Over five years, Brydie Stewart has built her Mary Maker Studio into an e-commerce powerhouse, supplying yarns and patterns she has designed for macrame and weaving to crafters around the world.
For those who still associate macrame with plant holders in the Seventies, Ms Stewart says it has reemerged as an artform.
To give an idea of the success the former art teacher has achieved, she has 135,000 instagram followers and 100,000 YouTube followers, and one of her tutorials on YouTube has been watched 17 million times. She has also had 4000 people attend classes at her studio in Kiama.
Now, she and her business have shot to national prominence as the face of Australia Post’s national rebrand, which is focusing on small business.
“Australia Post approached me because I am a great customer of theirs, shipping thousands of parcels at a time,” says Ms Stewart.
“They have provided an incredible platform for me to grow my business with confidence.”
The multi-million dollar campaign is seeing an ad featuring her and her business, and mentioning Kiama, screened repeatedly during an eight week campaign on prime time television, with resulting publicity in major national newspapers and other media.
Then there is a four month print advertising campaign to come, to reinforce Australia Post’s message.
“I’m certainly getting some strange looks in Woolworths as people try and work out how they recognise me,” she says.
“I think a lot of people just know me as a mum and Joel Stewart’s wife [Joel owns the Lime Building Group], rather than a business woman in my own right.”
Even before this publicity, her already successful business had experienced a 350 per cent increase in turnover this year, as people turn to craft to keep them occupied and sane during the pandemic.
“We were all given the time to pause, and we all found a thing. Luckily many people found me.
“It has been great to guide people through that reset by teaching them how to make.”
Ms Stewart turned her creative energies to macrame and weaving following the birth of her first child six years ago.
She started her business a year later, when she was unable to find materials she wanted to work with.
“I would spend 20-30 hours on a piece and the products that were available were really poor quality and that didn’t sit well with me.
“So I set out to fill this gap in the market by creating fibres that I wanted to use.
“These days, rather than being a maker, I design bespoke textiles with manufacturers from all over the world and I sell them to makers and our community of crafters.”
All of her products are made with natural fibres, and she has manufacturers in Turkey, Nepal, India and Egypt who work exclusively with her.
She then retails direct to crafters through her website, www.marymakerstudio.com.au
In the last month alone, she has had 60 tonne of product arrive. Despite this volume, she has only taken on staff to package up the orders this year, and bought a warehouse to accommodate the growth.
“You won’t get a more productive worker than a mum that has got 20 minutes,” says Ms Stewart.
“I utilise every second of the day.”
Her website also sells her patterns, supported by free tutorials, and she is in high demand by interior designers to do commissions.
Ms Stewart credits her experience as a teacher with helping her to build the business by developing the necessary technical and marketing skills, as well has enabling her to create demand by teaching people to develop their crafting skills.
“My whole business has developed through trial and error, but I’ve got it to the point that now I am very confident about how to build a business, how to build a brand and how to market what I’ve got.”
She is soon to speak at an e-commerce conference, as some of her focus goes to teaching others how to build their businesses.