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Tips from a small business leader

"There is always more that you can do in any business so knowing when to stop can be difficult."
Miyo Fallshaw - Oishi-m

#SmallBizTips

Miyo Fallshaw of Oishi-m

Miyo Fallshaw has seen a great deal of change and growth over her ten years running Oishi-m, a thriving children's clothing business in Torquay on Victoria's Surf Coast.

Recently recognised as one of Inside Small Business's Top 50 Business Leaders, Small Business Victoria asked Miyo what she has learned from the journey, and her best tips for other small business owners.


You were recently named one of Inside Business’s Top 50 Business Leaders. What, to you, makes a successful leader?

A successful leader is surrounded by an exceptional team. We are so fortunate to have an incredibly passionate, skilled team at Oishi-m. Behind the scenes we challenge each other and try and bring forth the perspective of what's best for Oishi-m at each crossroads of decision making. It is nice to be recognised for the hard work that we put in, but this is totally a reflection of what we have all been able to achieve as a business.

Your business is in Torquay. Are there any challenges you face operating from a regional area and how do you overcome them?

Even though we're down a little arcade in Torquay's Gilbert St, we feel that the world is our oyster. We're not limited to the foot traffic that walks down our street. The world of online has enabled us to be able to tap in to customers 24/7. Having said that, a new website is like building a store in the middle of the outback; you still need to work hard to build traffic and build a customer base with a great offering. Though we are regional in Torquay we just fit into the Express Post delivery network for Australia Post. To deliver next day to customers in metro areas around Australia, or in just a few days via Fed Ex globally, is a remarkable thing to be able to achieve. We have the benefits of living in a small community but the opportunity to play on a global scale. It's a pretty incredible time to be in business.

The business was originally run with a partner. How did you divide the running of the business and how did you complement each other?

Up until last year I was in Oishi-m as a partnership. A friend Fiona originally started the business and I came on board to enable her to focus on the product whilst I focused on commercialising the business. Hitting the 10 year milestone last year for us as a business was a great opportunity to reflect on what we had achieved, the compromises, and our accomplishments. It was a great opportunity to create the vision of what the next stages for Oishi-m were. 2016 was the end of an era to see our Founder Fi move on to start other ventures, but also an exciting time as we cement the growth that we have had and look to what is next.

What have you found are the most successful methods to promote Oishi-m? (And how did the Offspring opportunity come about?)
What strategies have you found work best to drive customer loyalty?

Doing a great job = repeat customers and increased likelihood of promotion through positive word of mouth. Starting with our product, the way that we deliver our product and the experience that our customers get whether that be in-store at our Torquay store or online has always been a big focus for us to exceed expectations. We make sure that we engage in our community of customers through newsletters, active social media and being part of our community.

We approached the wardrobe department of Offspring back in 2012 and were very fortunate that they liked what they saw. We have provided the wardrobe pieces for little Zoe Proudman's character (Nina's daughter) for the last two seasons of filming. Offspring is so very Melbourne, we couldn't have written a TV show so suited to our quirky colourful kids fashion as Offspring. Our team are avid watchers of the show, each season we have a big team night where we celebrate seeing our clothing being showcased on the TV.

With Oishi-m operating since 2006, and running both bricks and mortar and online, how has technology impacted your business?

Technology has massively impacted our business. From automated processes in our e-commerce offering to having much of our software that runs the business live in the cloud. As working parents, it's nice to be able to check in from anywhere that has an internet connection and allow our staff to work remotely. Whilst most of our team are based in Torquay, the technology allows us to have freelancers working with our team from all over Australia. Our paperless book-keeping has also enabled our book-keeper to keep our records up to date and organise payroll even whilst snowboarding in Europe!

What tips do you have on achieving work/life balance?

Employing amazing staff enables me to take holidays or let go of responsibilities. As small business owners there's a tendency to want to control and hold onto every little detail. I can be a workhorse during the week but can enjoy weekends and holidays knowing that the business has been left in capable hands. I try and get to the special occasions at school or kinder and also try and take some time out for health and exercise. Running your own business does take a lot of time and a lot of head space, and you have to manage the guilt of not working on the business or not spending time with your children. On the other hand it is amazing to look at the accomplishments, at the community you have created, and to experience the satisfaction of having your product stocked in a store. There is always more that you can do in any business so knowing when to stop can be difficult.

What was the best piece of business advice you were given when starting out?

To be honest, I can't remember the advice that I was given when starting out with Oishi-m. I think I was just so excited to be in business and I was consuming so much info on how to run a business, business strategy and getting my head around business models and financials. There was so much to do and juggle and get our heads around.

If you could go back and give yourself a piece of advice, what would it be?

Think of starting a business like going back to study. It will cost a small fortune, and you most likely won't get paid for your time but you will learn a heap! Really understand what motivates you in doing business. Is it to share something, is it to own something or is it something else? I probably under-estimated the effort, time, headspace and funding required to get a business started, but then also to grow it and keep the momentum up. Understanding why you are going into business helps define and justify what you're willing to compromise and give to make the business work.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned?

A business today is expected to be all over product, customer service, graphic design, visual presentation, e-commerce and social media. The constant evolution of testing, feedback and implementation is a big one that we tried to keep doing. Get something out there, learn from it, make it better and get it out there again. The variables of each business, market and point in time can have differing effects on how the business runs. Surround yourself with good people, freelancers and mentors. A great team makes for good commercial decision making that enables you to foresee opportunities and also potential risks. Lastly, remember that life is not all about work or business. Work enables us to enjoy life; it's not something that should rule it.

Oishi-m have a retail store at 2/19 Gilbert St, Torquay, online store at oishi-m.com and can be followed on Instagram @oishi_m.