Into the woods

Have you ever believed in something so strongly that you’d be willing to do almost anything to achieve it? John Caruso unearths the secrets of one local business to find out what makes them stand out from the rest.

by @JohnCaruso on Friday, 11 Dec, 2015

Tim Scarce was working out of a shed on a 10 acre property in Noosa bushland when he first met Sally. He’d just left a 12 year career with Boeing, where he was an aviation engineer, to handcraft one-off bespoke pieces of furniture for interior designers.

Sally said when she looked in his sketch book she saw a lot of designs that are still key parts of the Green Cathedral range.

“Tim was working on French-styled pieces that were outside of his aesthetic so I asked him why he wasn’t making anything like the designs in his book,” says Sally. “He told me that no one would buy them.

“I said you make them and I will sell them.”

Sally took out a personal loan to ‘buy’ a few weeks of Tim’s time and from there the first Babanees stool was created and a batch sent to a store in Hastings Street.

“We sold 10 in the first week, mostly to Melbourne visitors and then two months later we had two stockists down south asking for more,” Sally explains.

For a start-up, creating the stool first made economic sense. The production and prototyping on an item that small made it easy for Tim and Sally to refine their ideas into a spearhead for their range.

“We didn’t have a business plan at this early stage,” says Sally. “We started with timber that was reclaimed, it had a lot of flaws and we were hand painting each piece.

“We had a lot of development to do with the design. Tim and I would make 10 stools a week back then, now we’re making 100 in half that time.”

Sally had worked for bigger national brands as well as smaller family-run business models before meeting Tim.

“The focus was always to stay true to what you’re trying to achieve,” Sally said. “For Green Cathedral, it was to reflect the Noosa lifestyle - coastal, fresh and modern.

“For us it’s more important to be authentic. So when people look at a piece they know that’s it from us. The same curves and the same shapes are repeated in all of our furniture and designs.

“Occasionally it’s ok to step outside of the boundary with a new radical design however it’s important to stay true to your roots. We like to be iconic and to be remembered.”

The interest in Green Cathedral’s products continues to grow, mostly from Melbourne. As a result, the business is preparing to open a flagship store in the Victorian capital three days a week and by appointment.

The showroom in Noosa will close, however the local factory that employs six full time staff will continue, taking on more apprentices in 2016.

This Melbourne-led demand in product has been great for business however Sally and Tim still wanted to increase the brand profile locally so when Noosa Civic Shopping Centre Manager Brian Turner approached them about making some pieces for the centre, Green Cathedral jumped at the chance.

Brian said a significant part of reducing the environmental footprint for the centre had been sourcing local suppliers who not only represented the Noosa style, but incorporated sustainable practices into their businesses.

“Noosa Civic engaged Green Cathedral because the company achieved those objectives for us,” he said.

“Delivering the finished products to specs was a difficult process because it had to be rated and certified to a level six commercial rating which is an expensive process,” explains Sally. “However, Noosa Civic remained committed to working with us and now we can add commercial furniture to our range.”

Green Cathedral has already sold four pieces to people who want them in their home.

“Our designs are driven by our customer’s request,” says Sally. “Tim is the ingredient to our success. He works hard and passionately on his designs and he never gives up.

“We’ve had so many knocks where we’ve literally been on the bones of our arses selling everything in the house to keep going. At one point we were eating off a plastic Bunnings table because we had sold everything in the house,” recalls Sally.

Green Cathedral’s Melbourne showroom opens in 2016.

Top Tips for Success

  • -Start small
  • -Work within a manageable budget
  • -Stay true to what you’re trying to achieve
  • -It’s ok to step outside of the boundaries
  • -Be authentic
  • -Be open to new opportunities
  • -Work hard and passionately
  • -Be prepared to make sacrifices

Read more articles by @JohnCaruso

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