Susan Galvin is the Founder of Galvin Watch Company – the first Australian female-founded microbrand watch company. When she launched on Kickstarter within 6 minutes she had reached her funding goal. The momentum has continued since the launch, receiving over $100,000 from over 200 backers all around the globe.
Here’s our chat with Susan:
What ignited the spark in you to start your business?
In my last year at the Finnish School of Watchmaking, we designed and modified a “skeleton watch”. I gave this watch to my dad and he still wears it. This was the point when I realised I really enjoyed the design process, as it allowed me to use the creativity amongst the skills of watchmaking. I decided that one day I want to start my own watch company and start designing watches.
10 years down the track, I have learned a lot about the industry. I have been working as a watchmaker, mainly repairing mechanical timepieces for the big Swiss manufacturers. I was made redundant at the beginning of the year. After the initial shock, I decided that this is the time to pursue my long-held dream and start my own watch company.
Was there a significant turning point when you decided to become an entrepreneur?
It was a big step for me, as I didn’t have any previous experience of working for myself, never mind starting a business. I was at the point that I really didn’t have anything to lose. I used my redundancy money to pay all the expenses to start with. When I was made redundant my new-born son was only 4 months old, so I was practically still on the maternity leave. The worst timing for the redundancy turned into the best timing of starting my own business.
Looking back is there a piece of advice you wish to pass onto someone starting out their entrepreneurial journey?
Be brave and believe in yourself! I kept saying to myself, if this is not working out, at least I tried!
What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
In Finnish language we have a word called “sisu”, which can’t really be translated to any other languages. However, the best word to describe it is persistency. I think you need a bit of the attitude of “I’m not giving up” to start your own business.
Hard work. My son goes to bed every night at 7 pm and it has been like that almost from the day one. I’ve been so extremely lucky, that the routine is well established for him, which allows me to work from 7pm onwards. It’s hard work, but at the same time so very rewarding.
Everything starts from the good, solid brand. People like an honest story. I was a bit worried and scared of putting myself out there and tell the word about how Galvin Watch Company came about. Majority of the feedback I’ve received has been overwhelmingly positive, which gives me a great amount of encourage.
Who do you look up to in business? Who inspires you?
I remember reading about the Australian jewelry designer called Samantha Wills, how she started her widely famous brand from the kitchen table. That is exactly what I have done, and hearing these stories gives the much-needed boost to everyone doubting themselves. I was in the same position not so long time ago, and I proved my own doubts wrong by just going for it.
What was the best advice that you have been given?
Keep it simple!
What do you think your key to success has been?
I used the crowdfunding platforms to pre-sell the product. I priced the first 50 items very low and advertised widely the offer I have for the first 50 buyers. That worked as a lead magnet. In the crowdfunding site I used you also have a target, which I was advised to keep as low as possible. With this strategy I reached my target in 6 minutes, which brought a great marketing value for the business.
My business goes under a “microbrand watch” which means that I am producing 300 to 3000 watches yearly. I figured that I’m the first woman in Australia starting their own microbrand watch company, which also brought a lot of interest. I think the point of difference is important.
How have you personally measured your success?
From the moment of being made redundant to this, I’m very proud of myself what I have achieved. I have been dreaming about starting my own business for such a long time and now I finally gave it a go. The fact that I was pushed over from my comfort zone of working from 9 to 5, to where I’ve built a business from my kitchen table, has given me a great amount of confidence and strength.
Outsource the skill or learn the skill?
Learn and keep the costs low as possible.
How do you generate new ideas?
Trial and error. Just give it a try, if it doesn’t work, try again.
What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
Freedom of choosing my own working hours and being my own boss.
Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most?
My friend Danny started his business basically from nothing. He initially started with the Kickstarter Campaign and he gave me a lot of information and help for building my project. His first business didn’t survive, and he was left for a big amount of debt. He decided not to give up and kept trying. He started a completely new business and has been extremely successful ever since. He’s attitude and persistence have taught me to never give up and keep going. Danny is a founder of Craftd, Circulr and BrandBuildr, and he also has his own podcast. He’s an actual business guru!
Where do you see yourself and your business in 10 years?
I started the brand thinking; I want to be fully employed by myself. Currently I am still caring 3 days a week my 10-month-old son and 2 days of the week I’m working full days. However, the direction is, that by the beginning of next year I will be working 4 days of the week for myself. I like to take each step as it comes. I would like to see the company growing organically and hopefully down the track the company is transferring from the microbrand to a macrobrand.
Who are the women around you that allow you to thrive?
I have an amazing support network back home in Finland. I’ve been living overseas past 10 years, but I still regularly keep contact with my friends back home. We have a WhatsApp group, where we keep each other updated, but also provide support in daily basis. I introduced the idea of starting my own watch brand first with my friends and they fully supported my project from the day one. If I was hesitating myself in some reason, there was always someone to remind me to keep believing on myself.