Bec and Andy from Anchor & Bliss are reasonably new kids on the block, but with a clear vision, great planning, positive marketing and a heap of self-awareness, everything they touch is turning to gold. Their mix of dynamism, enthusiasm and constant growth is exactly what Handmade loves about them. And their product is pretty good too!
Bec and Andy Losik dreamed up Anchor & Bliss as a result of their love of tattoos and their search for natural, ethical skincare. They were looking for something to take care of their ever increasing tattoo collections, but that would also work as a really good all-over skincare product. When they couldn’t find a high quality product that not only cared for their skin and ink, but also met their criteria of being natural, cruelty free and non-exploitative, they thought: Why not make it ourselves?
It took about 12 months from having their idea to actually launching the product. They spent the time working and re-working the formula to make sure it did a great job moisturising but also absorbed quickly without feeling oily. They also wanted to make sure the products smelled amazing so spent a long time working with essential oils to get the right original scents. Then there was also research into environmentally friendly packaging, working out social media, planning the artwork and of course, the endless bookwork and admin!
Drawing inspiration from great artists and new styles of tattoos, their aim was to build the business with a really interesting and unique aesthetic that people don’t normally see in skincare. They use the skills of talented friends for shirt designs and product labels and it’s exciting for them to be able to give people another platform to share their work.
Anchor & Bliss made their Handmade debut last year and have great feedback:
“Without putting too fine a point on it – we love Handmade! Even before we started Anchor & Bliss we were frequent visitors to Shop Handmade – not only is it a beautiful place to while away a lunch break, it’s full of unique and lovely gifts. Every time a family birthday rolls around (and between the two of us, this is fairly frequent!) our first stop is Handmade. Aside from the quality of the products, we like the idea of shopping local and supporting artists who are working hard to make beautiful things.
We also can’t speak highly enough of the Handmade Team, a formidable force of amazing women who we’ve been so lucky to get to know. It takes courage and hard work to build up something like Handmade, and these women have both in spades. Handmade has also been an incredible support to us as we’ve launched Anchor & Bliss, and their faith in us has certainly been an excellent motivator when it all feels too stressful.”
Thanks guys – we definitely return the sentiment!
Believe it or not, neither Bec nor Andy would consider themselves natural salespeople, so the markets are an opportunity to get out of their comfort zones a little bit. The key is that they believe deeply in their products, and love seeing peoples’ faces when they try them. “It’s hard to beat that feeling you get when someone tries one of our scented oils and when they take a deep breath their faces light up because they love the smell so much. It’s incredibly rewarding to see that look of happiness and surprise and that’s not something you get selling online!” They love to talk to people about why they do what they do, how they got their start, and how they believe a business can be run, and to see them nodding their heads in agreement because they feel the same way.
“We’ve also met the greatest people – our fellow stall holders work so hard, and put so much passion into what they do. It’s impossible not to feel a sense of community. Everyone there knows what it is like to give up their nights and weekends to work on their passion, to struggle through bookkeeping, to get up early on your only day off to haul all your gear out to the market in the hope that other people will see the value in what you do. We’ve learned so much from watching and talking to other stallholders.”
Doing the Circuit
While we’d love to claim exclusivity, Handmade is not the only market that Anchor & Bliss attends. Their main other market is the ‘Rock n Roll and Alternative Market’ which happens every few months at Manning House in Sydney. “It’s always full of amazing hair and sweet tattoos, there are bands, beer, tasty food, vintage and reproduction clothing and awesome jewellery. It’s a cool crowd and worth the epic day trip up and back. We’ve also done the Westside Village Markets in New Action, it’s hard to go past the views of the lake! The ‘Eco Elves Night Market’ at Christmas was amazing – it was held outside, at the Canberra Environment Centre near the National Museum, so we saw the sunset through the trees and enjoyed some vegan cupcakes. It was great to meet other stallholders and be part of a market that shares our vision of businesses that are run ethically and in an eco-friendly way.”
Andy and Bec have created a unique look and feel to their products, packaging and branding and we asked them how this came about:
“Andy is a web designer, so he did a lot of research into different e-commerce platforms and then designed and built the site once we’d decided. Bec is a writer/editor by trade so she writes a lot of our content and fixes the typos and grammatical errors when Andy writes blogs.
We’ve also been blessed to have quite a few graphic designers and illustrators amongst our friends (but not so many plumbers or electricians unfortunately). One thing we always thought with Anchor & Bliss was that we were developing all these little canvases (bottle labels, shirts etc) so we figured that wherever we can we should use these as opportunities to share the work of some of the talented people we know. Our aim with Anchor & Bliss was to be an “Alternative” brand in an Eco space, so we’ve always had a very clear idea about how we wanted our products to look. So in the beginning while we were busy working on product formulas we had some cool people (Cohen Gum, Alex McAlpine, and Torsten Pfiel aka Dirge) helping us out with realising our creative vision.
More recently Andy actually went back to school part time and got his diploma in Graphic Design. This was something that he’d always wanted to do and means that with new product launches (like our “Salty Sea Dog” line) we were able to do the artwork ourselves and more rapidly prototype a new product. It’s certainly not the solution for everyone, but I think more generally our advice is to have a clear creative vision and work with people whose strengths account for your weaknesses or lack of experience (and learn everything from them that you can, you might surprise yourself)!”
Never a pair to stand still, there are constant changes to the Anchor & Bliss range.
“We love to develop new products! Just before Christmas we launched our ‘Salty Sea Dog’ bath enhancer and it went off! People loved it. And we’re working on a new product that we hope to launch at the Handmade Markets in March this year – tentatively titled ‘Sweet Lady Luck’, it’s a handmade face and body sugar scrub. It smells a little sweet (of course!) and, like our products, it’s natural, vegan and not tested on animals (other than people)! We wanted to come up with an alternative to products with plastic microbeads which are just literally the devil (seriously, just bad). Other than that we have a couple of potential partnerships with local organisations that we’re working on, so watch this space…”
One of the main reasons that Handmade is so impressed with Anchor & Bliss is the business sense that they so obviously bring. We’re very boring about knowing your audience and doing your research and Anchor & Bliss epitomises what we mean by this. Bec and Andy’s method?
“Make lists and read lots. We would be ruined without our whiteboard, monthly planner and workbook. The monthly planner has all the big events (birthdays, markets, anniversaries etc – gotta have that work-life balance) so that we can see what’s coming up. The workbook tends to be more ideas, long term lists, product variations we’re working on, little sketches etc. Lastly the whiteboard is things to do this week. Stuff gets added and removed pretty quickly but it’s a great little tool.
Other than that we use a lot of online tools to get things done. ‘If This Then That’ re-posts our Instagram photos to twitter and Facebook. Trello lets us create lists or jot down blog ideas, our accounting software is online and we have our Facebook page set up through business.facebook which lets you easily tie in your advertising account, the ad manager and also control user access to your page (in case you need to bring in other admins or helpers).”
When it comes to new products they tend to follow an iterative process, so they’ll have an idea, research it, put together a first batch and try it out. Then they fix whatever problems they identify from that and re-batch. Then they test through friends and family, who are fearless with their feedback, making the end product better. “At that point we’ll usually put together a small batch and try it out at a market. The feedback we get from talking to people and watching them interact with the product is one of the best things about selling in person!”
Bec and Andy are evangelical about living in Canberra, as so many people are:
“It’s easy to diss Canberra as a place where not much is happening, but we actually think that’s a bit of an outdated view now. We love living here because our families are here, because we can be walking our dog right by the lake within 5 minutes of leaving the house, and because we’re close enough to the coast and to Sydney to be at the beach or at a concert within a few hours.
But at the moment the best thing about Canberra is the way people have really embraced living here – there isn’t that same sense that if you want to do something cool you have to leave for Sydney or Melbourne. People seem to be more willing to try to make Canberra the kind of place they want to live, to try new things and attempt to make their mark on the city. It’s a place where people are excited and energised, and doing things that they’re passionate about which we really love.”
Anything else we need to know?
“Hmm, well, our tattoo collections are growing slowly but surely – at last count Andy has nine and Bec has seven. They are a mix of deeply meaningful, commemorative, and just for fun. We’ve definitely got the bug and plan to get a lot more! Our favourite place in the world is Barlings Beach in Tomakin at the South Coast – it’s not crowded, it’s perfect for picnics and you can take your dog. We love dogs. We always try to find the money for tickets when a band we like comes to town. We eat a lot of burritos – maybe too many? Probably not, I’m sure it’s fine. If we had to impart one last piece of wisdom it would be that sweet potato fries > regular potato fries.”
Thanks for your insights guys, and please, keep doing what you’re doing. We’ll see you in March!