Girl bossing: Business talk with ToniMay’s Laura Byrne

Most people probably know the name ‘Laura Byrne’ from winning the heart of Matty J [or Matthew David Johnson as he more formally goes by] on Season 5 of the Australian Bachelor, but capturing the love of eligible gentleman isn’t her only talent. She’s also the founder of super successful bohemian luxe accessories label ToniMay.

With jewellery featuring semi precious stones found alongside gypsy-inspired leather pieces, ToniMay is a treasure trove for the wanderlust-inclined [me]. And with Laura recently launching her new ToniMay store on Oxford St in Paddington, Sydney, we decided to head along to check it out for ourselves.

Joined in-store by Matty and dog Buster, I pulled the three aside to chat all things business. From normal days in the office to Matty getting hands-on, here we take a peek at what life’s like behind the feed for Laura Byrne and ToniMay.

[And don’t worry, for those who are keen to find out all the recent goss on their relationship, we do have a Love Stories with Laura and Matty coming up soon… stay tuned…]

What does a normal day in your life look like?
Laura: You know what, I don’t think there’s any one day that’s the same. I’m really lucky to get to come into the store, which is my office space as well. My normal day would be a workout, probably get myself a coffee down at the café, and then I just come into the office for a few hours and do all the online stuff, content, and new designs. I run the online side of the business and take care of the girls downstairs a little bit. Every day is different, but that’s the crux of my working day.

Are you in the office Monday to Friday?
Laura: It changes. I probably don’t do a full ten hours or nine hours in here. I’ll come in and do five hours and I’ll come in on weekends, but then I might not come in on one of the days. I just run on the hours as I’m needed. It also depends on where we’re at with designing new stock and what shipments are coming in and how time-dependent it is in regards to needing me physically here. Sometimes I can be wherever my laptop is, and that’s where I can work from.

Matty, are you quite involved with ToniMay too?
Matty: Probably the most involved I got was when we did the launch.
Laura: Setting up the shop…
Matty: Helping with renovations. We also talk about the marketing side sometimes. We talk about what we should do moving forward – whether it’s more content or work on SEO…
Laura: The strategy side of things.
Matty: From a content perspective, it’s nice to talk about what would work well with the new pieces and with the guy’s range as well. Work on how we can promote our pieces.

Do you guys work well in business together?
Laura: Actually, we’re so good. We both can be stubborn – but we know that of each other, usually one of us will make a joke and it dissipates the whole thing. He’s good at marketing, so that’s his thing – I always love and appreciate all his ideas.
Matty: I haven’t tried to design jewellery yet… I haven’t yet stepped on your toes in that perspective!
Laura: He definitely doesn’t try to take control of things and recognises this is my baby, but having that support has been so valuable just for making me feel comfortable and being encouraged to push the boundaries a little bit.

Do you think that’s why you opened the store or was it always the plan to open one?
Laura: Do you know what, it was always the plan. We had another pop-up store in Westfields, but this was always the plan. I don’t think I had the confidence to commit to a five year lease and take those steps, but it really was due to the support of my sister and Matt that made me go: “You know what, what’s the worst that’s going to happen?” And it’s been the best thing I’ve ever done for the business. Not just because having the retail space gives it a more high-end presence and showcases the range really well, but it’s also the fact that everything is under the one roof.
I have an office space on top of the shop where I can come to and work from – so I really feel like I have my finger on the pulse now. Here, I know exactly what is being received well and I’m getting their feedback. It’s all coming in first-hand, which is super valuable.

Matty: Does that change the designs of what you are doing?
Laura: Yeah, absolutely. It just makes me more aware of what our customer is after. I will always design things I like, but I definitely have to try and think also about what that customer wants and what has viability. That’s important too.

I feel like you both are travelling a lot. Is that hard juggling travel with ToniMay?
Laura: I was really lucky in that ToniMay came from my travels – it was born from my love of travelling. How I got started doing ToniMay was when I was travelling around, I collected gemstones from different places. After coming back, I began creating pieces based around the places I’d travelled to. During the last few years, I’ve slowed that down and focused on the business side of things. Recently though, we’ve got to do some amazing things – go to places that maybe I haven’t really thought of wanting to travel to. Like, we went to South Africa together – that wasn’t on my radar! But then after going there, I’m so glad we did. All my travel in the past has been for ToniMay, so this is the first time I’m doing travel and going to places I really want to go to – that has been a shift for me.

It’s nice that owning your own business does give you the flexibility for more travel…
Laura: There’s such amazing freedom that comes with working for yourself, but people see the fun side of it and don’t think of the hard work that goes into it. But it does mean you get to dictate your own hours around your own life and build a work environment that suits everything else you want to do. I have been really lucky. I have had ToniMay for seven and a half year nows and we’ve done a lot of the really hard yards, all the hustle at the beginning. But that’s not to say that we don’t have to hustle now and we’re not still working really hard, but you do get to a point where you get to take a step back and go, “Okay, the place is not going to burn down if I’m not there every single day”. That’s when you know you’re working on your business, not in your business. That’s really important for the whole business to have progression.

All images by Husskie Press featuring Laura Bryne

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