Oct 25, 2020
We are calling it some of the best branding we have seen. Combined with a great niche product that is particularly relevant to current times. We take an inside look at the D.I.Y pottery kit promoting conversations about mental health and stimulating creativity in the comfort of your own home. Sitting down with Crockd founders Rosa-Clare Willis and Andrew Ford, we discovered how the concept came to life and how the couple managed to combine their business with a social purpose.
Thanks for squeezing us in before your flight today and great to finally meet you both. Let’s start with an easy one. What are your backgrounds and how did you both meet?
Rosa: We both come from a business background. My background is marketing and have always been in advertising. Then most recently I've specialised in start-up marketing, teaching start-up businesses how to market themselves within the digital space.
Andrew: I came from a more traditional background studying accounting. Doing my CA and then working in finance. I eventually went on to run a large not-for-profit in QLD and more recently working for a tech start-up in the disability space which I am still actively involved in.
Rosa: How we met? I had just moved up to QLD from NSW and unbeknown to me, Andrew had done the same thing 2 weeks prior. I needed to get out and meet people, so I took some advice from a friend and attended a start-up event. I guess we both ended up attending this event because we knew one day that we wanted to start something of our own.
At this point, Andrew is happy to acknowledge that Rosa has always maintained that he stood out in a room full of 200 people because he was the only guy in the room who was wearing a tie!
How did the concept of Crockd come about?
Rosa: The idea (the D.I.Y pottery kit) came from Andrew after we were driving back from a failed attempt at trying to buy some clay. I ended up buying $100 worth of face mask clay (totally the wrong stuff) and Andrew’s like “we should just do our own D.I.Y pottery kit!”. To me the idea was like heaven because I love art and being in that creative space.
Andrew: I was just annoyed! I was like, “I can’t believe we just blew $100 on the wrong product.” We started brainstorming at the end of 2019. We loved the idea that this was a product that provided an avenue for in-home entertainment. Get together with your mates and do something that doesn’t involve consuming copious amounts of alcohol. We recognised that there is definitely a movement of enjoyment coming back into the home, in your own space and in your own time.
Who came up with the branding concept and what did this process look like?
Rosa: Once we landed on the idea and knew what product we were going to base the business around we knew we wanted the branding to be fun. It was always going to be something customers could use to take the pressure off. We wanted something that wasn’t going to be taken too seriously. It was always designed to bring people together. We are giving people the tools to get dirty and find their own creativity.
Andrew: We went through all the practical things like domain search, trademark search, business registrations, socials and getting all the handles locked down. To be honest, that can often rule 9 out of 10 of the brand name ideas you might originally have.
Knowing how some Australians must have felt being stuck at home in lockdown and potentially feeling anxious or depressed about the situation, it’s fantastic that Crockd has been able to provide a timely distraction in such uncertain times. How important is having a social benefit, such as mental health awareness, attached to your business?
Andrew: It is the core most important thing to our entire brand, and every product that we release is centered around that. We see ourselves as being here to break down the barriers to having real conversations with people. The other thing I would say is that the brand is a reflection of us. We actually like sitting down with our friends and talking about key issues. Getting an understanding of each other’s viewpoints. We like being able to walk away from real conversations with our friends where we have learnt something new. If you can live that through your own brand, then everything just becomes much easier.
Rosa: We say that the clay is like a catalyst for conversation because your hands are so busy with the clay, you feel less uncomfortable to talk about the stuff that really matters. We see the questions we use in the kit as a chance to stimulate further questions that some people might originally feel uncomfortable asking. Or they might censor themselves with the fear of offending someone. The cards hopefully help to overcome this.
Have either of you suffered from anxiety or mental health issues? How have you dealt with this?
Rosa: We both come from large families and have both had experiences with mental health issues. Who hasn’t these days? Personally, I have had family members who have suffered severely from mental health to the point they have been hospitalised. Mental health is something which when I was growing up, I really didn’t like talking about. As I got older, I realised that mental health is something that we should be addressing when you are well… when you are fine and feeling level-headed, because then you have the ability to normalise it.
The other day I had a friend call me to tell me they were feeling super flat. I said, “it’s OK, I’ve been there before.” A couple of hours later she got back to me and said, “I just felt so much better knowing that feeling flat is a normal thing”. So, despite being so scared of mental health, I’ve realised now that you need to understand it. Make it part of your everyday and do daily check-ins with your partner, with your friends and with your family.
You have developed the product, branding is complete, the website has been developed, socials are up and running… You are 5 minutes out from launching the online shop, what is running through your mind?
Andrew: That is totally the wrong question for us. If you have all your ducks lined up, then you are doing it wrong. There was no ceremonial moment. It wasn’t that sexy. We were so under prepared. It was nowhere near perfect.
Rosa: We knew we wanted to launch by Valentine’s Day. I called Andrew and was like “can we just get the site up?” I really just wanted to see what the customers’ reaction was going to be. We literally only had enough product to fill 8 orders. We really wanted to just throw ourselves out there to see how we would go.
Now that you have launched, what is one key piece of advice you would give to anybody who is preparing the launch of their own business?
Andrew: Test the product first. You don’t want to burn through a hundred, or a thousand, hours on something if it’s not going to sell at all.
Rosa: In these early stages, I guess we always wanted to learn and do everything ourselves because the lessons you get from the early launch period are so insanely valuable.
What is it like owning a business with your partner?
Rosa: It’s great having someone with you who you completely trust. We both have a real D.I.Y thing about us which helps us want to tackle every part of the business together.
Andrew: I find that people work in flows. There can be times when I work with Rosa where I am absolutely smashing it and other times, I need to take a break and chill out. It’s awesome having Rosa there because she will just takeover and smash it. So, there is definitely an advantage to it.
Who is the more creative of you both when it comes to using your own product?
Rosa: This is such a good question because the answer is not as you might assume! I'm more of the artsy one out of the two of us. I like to paint, draw and illustrate in my free time whereas Andrew loves to read the news and search online for new gadgets, haha.
I thought I had it in the bag when we first tried pottery, but Andrew was about 1,000 times better than me! Pottery requires patience and meticulous hand movements, which Andrew is WAY better at.
So, in short, the answer is Andrew dominates at pottery! haha.
What have been some of your favourite finished pieces that your customers have shared with you?
Rosa: We love seeing what people do with their clay. Some people are so damn imaginative. Something that recently caught my attention was a customer who ended up making a large hanging piece of wall art. Kind of like a large dream catcher with all differently shaped clay pieces. It was so beautiful.
How do you ensure that you get time away from the business, especially knowing that you both are working on Crockd a hell of a lot of the time?
Andrew: There are probably two parts to answering this. First, naturally we walk and talk Crockd. We sleep it. Breath it. We see it being healthy talking about the business so it’s not that we actually want to get away from the business at this stage.
Secondly, the people that you have around you are extremely important. We have a fantastic team who have worked with us in the past and who we absolutely love. They are loyal and we trust them. We have faith in them that we can leave them, and the ship will continue to sail.
Rosa: We have, from the start, wanted to make sure that the business can run without us. As much as we love it and we want to be involved in it, we want to build something that isn’t reliant on us.
You guys are living up in the Gold Coast in a suburb called Kirra. What do you love most about your neck of the woods? Favourite local café?
Andrew: Coming from Sydney, we just really love the slower and calmer pace here. We're both naturally hyperactive so it feels good to be encouraged to slow down and smell the roses so to speak.
We love that it always feels like you have the whole beach to yourself. Love the white sand and the fact that it's warm all year round. We love meeting others who have migrated north here and find that most people who choose to live on the Gold Coast are quite entrepreneurial.
One of our favourite cafes is Dust Temple in Currumbin Valley. It's a converted warehouse that is always filled with new art, sculptures and just great vibes.
Who owns more shoes out of you guys?
Rosa: Definitely Andrew. He's a sucker for a sneaker.
If we took a sneak peek at your wardrobes, how do you store your shoes and who is the tidier one?
Rosa: Andrew is definitely tidier and more organised. I've got my shoes spread across three different cupboards. We use the hanging fabric dividers for our shoes, but we definitely need a better solution!
Dreaming of a walk-in wardrobe...
Favourite cherrichella style?
I LOVE the white Corso sandal (pictured above). I am so pumped to be one of the first people in Australia wearing these!