We interviewed our winners from the 2018 National Retail Awards. Meet Sandradee Makejev, owner of St Frock, our Medium Retailer of the Year. 

  1. Where did your retail journey begin?

My retail journey began 8 years ago at Sydney’s Bondi Markets. I was working full-time in fashion PR & Marketing, and would run a small market stall selling cute and commercial dresses on the weekends. One weekend, a big dust storm hit Sydney and the markets were cancelled, which really made me think about how volatile my stall was. I had started getting a bit of interest in my products outside of the markets, and was curious to see how scalable the concept was. I created a Facebook fan page and posted some dresses to see what would happen.

The next morning, when I woke up to find that most of them had sold, I realised I was onto something. Not long after, I quit my job (and social life!) and invested all of my time into taking what made that little market stall work and re-creating it on a digital, national scale. The rest, as they say, is history!

  1. What was the biggest challenge you have faced so far as a retailer and how did you overcome this challenge.

I faced my biggest challenge in F15, 5 years into the St Frock journey. The business was at a pivotal growth point, and from a warehouse and despatch perspective, we were outgrowing solutions just as quickly as we set them up!

I think I started to second guess myself – after all, I was self-taught and, at times, questioned whether I had implemented industry best-practice, so I decided it was time to outsource our stock management and despatch to a Third Party Logistics solution.

Put very simply, that was the biggest mistake of my business career, and the setbacks St Frock faced as a result are the stuff of any business owner’s nightmares. Customers were not receiving their orders, stock was going missing, the 3PL stopped communicating with us and I suddenly had no control over my own business or customer experience.

But as you already know, we survived it. It took a lot of perseverance, resilience & stamina, but we exited the 3PL after only six months and took back control of our customer experience. From there, the entire St Frock team came together (giving up their weekends) to work through a never-ending sea of clothing, one box at a time. It was a mammoth task that I could not have done without my team, and the commitment they showed to St Frock was truly overwhelming and is a great example of why I place such high importance on company culture and values.

Personally, I was able to take so many learnings out of the experience that helped me overcome the ordeal, most notably, to back yourself and what you know is working. These learnings helped us to come back from the experience with +143% growth, and stronger than ever.

  1. What is the greatest part of being in the retail industry in 2018?

It’s got to be the emerging technologies and software available to retailers. We’re very much in a “blink & you’ll miss it” frenzy right now. Every time I check my email there’s a new tool or AI solution that’s being rolled out. Every time I open Facebook or Instagram, there’s a new feature that wasn’t there last time – we have never had more tools available to us to do our jobs as retailers! This fast-pace and ever-evolving landscape of the 2018 retail industry is what keeps me engaged and inspired.

  1. As a community what do you believe retail can do to grow and overcome the adversities the industry currently face?

We retailers need to keep talking to each other, keep sharing experiences, shortcomings and successes. The flip-side of the technology frenzy we find ourselves in is that there’s a lot of noise. A lot of new tech solutions are emerging, and it can be hard to navigate your way through the hype and invest your money wisely.

Don’t underestimate the cost savings you can make for your business by simply attending one industry breakfast or drinks event. It’s making that one connection that might be able to provide a recommendation or some advice on a business venture you’re looking at that can be a game-changer.

  1. What does the future hold for your business? What does winning your award mean of you?

Winning this award is such an amazing experience for us at St Frock. We come from humble roots and a self-taught background where decisions were made on instinct and common-sense rather than best-practice or experience. This award really helps us solidify our conviction in the work we’re doing, and to have that work noticed and celebrated at a national level is incredible.

What does the future hold for our business? National Retail Awards 2020 Winner – Large Retailer of the Year!