She’s a mom of three, former child psychologist, and current mompreneur who proves that you can have it all. As long as you define what “all” means to you. Stefanie Schwartz is the founder of Chuchka, a popular Australia-based accessories brand.
Offering a reasonably priced mix of sporty, chic, beach-inspired looks, Chuchka is a brand that is quickly making a name for itself that extends well beyond its early days in Stefani’s home office in Bondi.
Named after the Yiddish word for “trinkets” or “collectibles,” Chuchka started in 2015 with what has since become its signature oversized tote made from neoprene (aka the material used to make wetsuits). The brand soon expanded to include a variety of mini totes, handbags, backpacks, diaper bags, gym bags, clutches, and more.
Available in more than 300 major department stores and boutiques throughout Australia, Chuchka recently partnered with Soul Cycle and Bandier as part of its international expansion in the United States.
But aside from offering women (and men) stylish and versatile bags (most are machine washable), Stefani is all about staying grounded even when it seems like business is flying high.
Here’s what she had to say about starting her own fashion empire from scratch, how she balances motherhood with business, and what it takes to make your dreams come true.
You started Chuchka as a side project while on maternity leave. What made you want to create a line of accessories and how did you know it was the right idea?
To be honest I didn’t know it was the right idea when I started. I wanted to try out something more creative and my focus was always taken to pieces that I would want to have. I started in a very small way with a small amount of inventory and as it happened, other people really liked the same aesthetic as me and wanted the same pieces that I did.
We all want success and we want it quickly. But nothing happens overnight. How long has it taken you to get from that first spark of an idea to where you are now as an international accessories brand?
From the first day of doing anything on this new business idea to now is about four years. Sometimes it feels like a long time and sometimes it feels like a blink of an eye. However, the goal was never “become an international brand.”
There were always small goals along the way and every time I achieved one of them it felt like the most enormous achievement. That’s what keeps you moving forward and planning for the next achievement.
How did becoming a mom change your vision for your own career and life? What was your career prior to becoming a mother?
I just wanted to be more flexible with work and to be able to be with my children when I wanted to and when they needed me to. In hindsight, your own business is probably not the best way to carve out extra time. I spend a lot more hours working on the business than in any 9-5 job.
However, at the end of the day, it is my business. I can prioritize family activities and school excursions and time with my children when I want to and fit in my work around those times.
Previously, I was a child psychologist, which I absolutely loved. But after having my own children, my focus really shifted and I wanted to do something different.
I love that you’re using recycled materials to create some of your bags like the hand-woven Mexican tote beach bags. How important is it for the Chuchka brand to be eco-friendly?
I just think as a whole, we are finally becoming more aware of being eco-friendly in every aspect of our lives, from recycling to reusable coffee cups and to our fashion. It makes sense for us to support fashion industries that can sustain our lives and our world better.
We have so many choices when it comes to handbags and accessories. Why do you think women choose Chuchka over other brands?|
The focus has always been for our products to be fashion-forward and on-trend but to be affordable. No one wants to have one accessory cost so much that you can’t buy any others or need to use the same accessory for the next 10 years to justify the price. So, Chuchka offers on-trend pieces that don’t break the bank.
What skills do you think are necessary for being a successful business owner?
Number one is to be hard-working. You can learn lots of things that you don’t already know. I absolutely have learned a host of new skills while building this business. But if your work ethic isn’t to work hard and to work efficiently, then none of the other skills matter.
All of us have moments when we’re tired, doubting ourselves, or facing adversity. How do you get through those times?
To be honest, I give myself a bit of a break. I used to try and push through any tired, anxious moments and just get through to the other side. But actually, just giving myself a break (emotionally or physically) helps me to take a step back and see any doubts or concerns in a new light.
Doing something I enjoy, taking time out, not checking emails for a while, chatting with a best friend or my hubby really helps me to put things into perspective and not to be so hard on myself.
What’s your advice to other entrepreneurs or mompreneurs who are thinking about starting their own business but aren’t sure how to get started?
Just start with any small step. Read up on how to set up a website, do a free online course about social media marketing, chat with someone you know who owns their own business. Just start by dipping your toe into the pool and you’ll know soon enough if it’s for you.
Who are the women who have inspired you most in your personal and professional life?
So many! My family is full of incredible women who inspire me personally every single day. I have the most gorgeous supportive girlfriends who are always my biggest cheerleaders. I love seeing other business women succeed in Australia and beyond. Mia Freedman, Julie Stevanja, Pip Edwards have all created incredible brands that I admire immensely.
Feel like some retail therapy? Check out the latest Chuchka collection.
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