If television is anything to go by, Australians love three things: sport, cooking, and sprucing up their homes. As a result, the interior design market is a crowded one, but new Sydney-based ecommerce store Hart: Ldn believes it’s found a gap in the market by focusing solely on Australian designers.
After being made redundant last year following a 15 year career in finance, Tiffany Jade Benn decided that, rather than being dealt a blow, she had actually been granted the opportunity to pursue her real passion of home décor. The idea for Hart: Ldn, named for Benn’s mother’s maiden name and London, came when Benn was completing a renovation of a Victorian terrace in the Sydney suburb of Darlinghurst. Searching for home décor, she found that the only way to find fresh looks was to spend hours trawling through Instagram.
“This was frustrating to me as it took up so much time. I just wanted to be able to go to one online store and browse a big range all in one spot,” Benn said, and that’s when she decided to turn her idea into reality.
Benn is passionate about Australian designers and, as such, the store showcases only Australian designers, who Benn began to get on board by simply searching Instagram and contacting them, sending them her ideas for the branding and layout of the store.
At first glance, it’s fair to say there’s a huge amount of competition in this space; there’s no end of homewares stores both online and off, from the monolithic Ikea to Etsy and Australian player HandKrafted. But Benn’s focus on Australian designers could be a key selling point, as people increasingly look to spend their money locally and support Australian makers.
Benn explained that this is part of the company’s ethos. “The vision for the business is to have a positive impact on others. This is being achieved by the support and help offered to the designers selling with us and by bringing our customers a beautiful and seamless shopping experience in one easy to find spot,” she said.
“Our mission is to be the number one marketplace for Australian designed home décor products.”
Benn is reaching her target audience – which she describes as “the type of person who loves discovering contemporary products, someone who spends their spare time reading interiors magazines, likes to support our homegrown talent and enjoys making their house a home” – mainly through social media, This has opened the door to orders from overseas, which are currently processed through email as Benn builds an international ordering function into the site.
“The way we set ourselves apart from the competition is by offering our customers a fun, exciting and inspiring experience when they come to the site. We let it be known there is plenty to see and do on the site, it’s not just about buying a product and leaving,” Benn said.
The other things to do and see on the site are housed in the ‘Hamlet’, which Benn said started as a blog and has become a collection of mood boards, articles, videos, and even a Spotify playlist to listen to while browsing the site, all in the name of helping people get inspired. The growth of platforms like Houzz, whose Australian community has more than doubled since its launch last year, and Interiors Addict shows that there is immense value in developing this kind of content to foster a community.
However, what Hart: Ldn is doing is perhaps most similar to Perth fashion startup Clique Arcade, which also focuses solely on Australian designers and uses content marketing and other activities to build awareness of the brands it represents, taking a clip-of-the-ticket on sales. Like Clique Arcade, Hart: Ldn doesn’t handle inventory, with designers shipping direct to customers. Free shipping is offered for a number of products in the store, with Benn’s goal to work with designers to create a model where they are able to offer free shipping for each of the store’s 1500 products.
Benn has self funded the development of the store thus far and her goal is to keep bootstrapping in the near term, however with her plans for expansion “getting grander” with each passing week, this may change soon.
She said, “I would love to have the store go international as soon as possible and that’s just a matter of time and administration. I am extremely open minded about the future and am always looking for new opportunities to work with others.”