Today I'm delighted to be interviewing Jane & Meryl the faces behind the online store "Who'd Have Thought" which specialises in unique and upcycled gifts & homewares. Jane & Meryl are the inspiring women who import the clever Sprout Pencils that feature in some of our gift boxes.
Tell us a bit about yourselves
Jane has had a varied career in television publicity, public relations and publishing. Prior to starting Who'd Have Thought she worked as a freelance writer and editor, specialising in architecture and design, and for four years was Managing Editor of specialist design magazine, Innovative Household. She has a love of quirky design and sustainable practice and occasionally dabbles in upcycling DIY projects for her home.
Meryl has worked as a freelance writer since 2007, specialising in collectables for Australian Country magazine, environmentally aware architecture and design for Green Living and natural homes for Wellbeing. She is a thrift shop junkie, forever rescuing and reviving clothing from the racks of the unwanted. Meryl worships creativity and is keen to promote clever products and their makers.
How, when & why did you decide to set up Who'd Have Thought?
Jane started the store initially towards the end of 2012 after identifying a gap in the e-commerce market for products that had been reinvented and upcycled. Meryl came on board two years later and now Who’d Have Thought is also the sole Australasian distributor of the Sprout pencil, the world’s first plantable pencil - https://www.whodhavethought.com/pages/sprout-pencils.
How do you decide which products to stock & designers to work with?
The products have to fit our brief of ‘who’d have thought you could turn this into that’. It’s all about creative reinvention, originality and upcycling. There are so many talented people around the world making incredibly clever stuff that we wanted to bring them together under the one roof and share the stories behind them and their creations.
"Cracked Log Lamp"
We obviously love the Sprout Pencils, please tell us a bit more about them
Sprout Pencils were originally created by three young Boston design graduates classed with coming up with a unique sustainable stationery idea. We discovered them on Kickstarter and now they are available all around the world. Sprout is a sustainably harvested cedar pencil with water-activated seeds at the end of its tip. When it’s too short to use, you can plant it, nurture it and watch it grow into a herb or flower. It’s lead-free, non-toxic and comes in coloured varieties as well. We also offer custom-etching which has proved immensely popular for all sorts of things from baby showers to wedding favours, corporate gifts and marketing and promotional purposes. Earlier in the year we did 10,000 custom etched pencils for the University of Melbourne’s commerce department open day!
What is the one piece of advice you would give someone setting up their own small business?
You must love and believe in what you do otherwise you could easily lose motivation to keep going. You have to be prepared to salary sacrifice and keep on top of the books, and have honest and open communication with both your business partner, if you have one, and your customers or clients - even when you make a mistake!
What are the next steps for you?
We want to keep growing the business and discover new products, plus educate people to source responsibly and support emerging designers.
What do you enjoy doing in your downtime?
Singing (Meryl), writing (Jane), exercising in the great outdoors, eating chocolate and travel. Theatre, live music, themed dress-up parties and catching up with friends for coffee are also high priority.
What are you currently reading?
Meryl: Alexandra Joel’s true story about her great grandmother, 'Rosetta' who runs from her respectable Melbourne life to be with Zeno the Magnificent, a half-Chinese fortune teller – sensationally scandalous.
Jane: Dutch author Herman Koch’s latest book, ‘Dear Mr M’. It’s an intriguing thriller and I’ve no idea how it’s going to end.
What is your favourite meal?
For lunch, at WHT HQ, we make a mean toasted wrap, which must include a selection of fresh salads, beetroot dip and any sort of cheese. We’re big cheese lovers!
Our individual favourite meals are:
Meryl: Goat’s cheese salad with honey and a glass of rose, preferably served in France
Jane: Garlic King prawns with a rocket, walnut and parmesan salad
Thank you so much Jane & Meryl for this insight into you both. We love that you are following your passions and have created a wonderful business in doing just that.