Hey Polly owner Peta Johns stands with hands on hips wearing a pink and yellow unicorn print dress, pink cardy and Hey Polly dangly earrings

Lady startup Q&A:
Hey Polly

Meet Peta Johns from Hey Polly

What’s your elevator pitch for your lady startup?

Bold, fun, quirky, fancy, playful accessories. A brand that celebrates who you are and what you love. A way to express yourself through your unique style. Statement accessories to suit from casual day wear at brunch, right up to a glam night out.

Assortment of Hey Polly earrings in various colours including blue sparkle, gold, rose gold sparkle, silver, purple, multi-colour pattern

What was the inspiration behind it?

I’ve always been creative and loved anything I could make with a combination of my mind and my hands. I love to draw and adore bold fashion so it’s been a dream for a long time. I also have a special needs dog (son on four legs) who I didn’t like leaving alone for too long, so this also gave me the push to go for it!

What was your background?

I worked at a large corporate trade events company as an accounts receivable officer for many years, before switching to the marketing department within the same business. My husband actually managed that area, so I was fortunate to decrease my days of work as Hey Polly grew.

Did you dive right in or was it a side hustle?

It was very much a side hustle at first. A hobby that turned into so much more. I would be up all hours working on Hey Polly after full-time work. Let’s just say there was very little time for sleep and weekends were filled with going to markets. When I look back, I really wonder how I managed to do it… but my full-time job helped me pay my bills and I put every extra penny into starting it.

How do you find juggling a small business and being a dog mum?

This is a funny one. We chose not to have kids and we have dogs instead. Two Chihuahuas that feel like babies going through the terrible twos, but they make us laugh and are a constant joy in our lives. It also has its challenges. There’s a lot of barking and both our dogs are special needs, so I often need eyes in the back of my head. But you manage because you love them… My tips would be getting into a routine for feed times, play times and cuddle times as best as you can, so they give you some peace and can tell when mummy is working. We had Winston on his own for five years and recently got Kitty. Having two can be tricky, but it’s really good because they can entertain each other.

Peta Johns from Hey Polly stands next to husband Hayden while each holds a Chihuahua dog

How do you reset and recharge after feeling burnt-out or overwhelmed?

Burnout is a given when you’re driven and passionate about your business. Even when it’s your hobby, it can sneak up on you. It’s on my list of things to get better at this year. When I burnout I turn to the couch for either a good series binge and cuddle with the dogs, or if I’m really struggling to switch off, I bury my head in a good book. Sometimes this is the only thing that will stop the busy feeling in my head… I’m just about to finish #Girlboss by Sophia Amoruso and highly recommend it!

Proudest achievements so far?

Running Hey Polly for five years! That’s a huge milestone in small business and I never dreamt I’d make it this far. I’m also most proud of the community I’ve got. My customers and Insta followers have got us to where we are today and it has also been an honour to have my earrings worn by some incredible public figures like Melissa Leong, Jane De Graaff, Jan Fran and Erika Owens.

What kind of challenges have you overcome?

I think the change from a corporate office job where you have a boss, someone to give you a simple yes, no or even some encouragement. Working for yourself and being your own boss is probably one of the most challenging things. It sounds rosy, but there are some risks you have to take. Also financially… starting a business not only requires almost all of your time but also a lot of money. Another challenge is time management and juggling family life and social activities with friends and family.

Best piece of customer feedback?

Amazing customers have expressed their love of a recent purchase and how it has made them feel, like giving them more confidence and allowing them to express their style. People who are quite introverted and struggle to start conversations in public situations also said my earrings have been an icebreaker. Overall though it’s often compliments on the quality of my pieces. I’m still brought to tears when I receive beautiful feedback like that (and it usually comes on a day you need it the most).

Pink and blue sea shell shaped earrings from Hey Polly

What advice would you give others thinking of becoming ‘mumpreneurs’?

Our dogs are our children and having two has been helpful because they can occupy each other. If you already have kids (human or animals) you’ll find clever ways of managing it all – you just do! We have to feed our dogs several times a day in increments and deal with Winston’s medication times, so I set a lot of alarms. Little work-arounds help too – like if I’m packing orders, I’ll stop and pick up Kitty and start replying to emails instead.

The most surprising thing you’ve discovered?

That running a small business isn’t like changing jobs from one to another. Being a business owner changes your whole life. You work hours you never expect to, you think about it more than you do anything else and your business becomes an extension of who you are.

Future goals for your lady startup?

After all these lockdowns I’m really excited about getting out of the house later this year for our first exhibition of Hey Polly. I’d like to do more of that and eventually get back out to some markets. On a bigger scale, I’m hoping to add more ways to expand my community and love of fashion, and eventually get some more space as Hey Polly is rapidly taking over our home.

Insta: @heypollyau

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