Landing a job with MTV (London), especially at the start of one’s career would seem like a dream job for all except the most straight laced of us. This was no exception for Wendy who has a degree in psychology and a masters in marketing and management. Making the most of it, Wendy worked and played hard, but after years of the fast paced life and burning the candle at both ends, a feeling that things were “not sitting right” began to surface.
Wendy’s awakening came late one evening when stood in the luxury “Gleneagles Golf and Spa Hotel” in Scotland (MTV had hired out the whole place for the Christmas party). She watched colleagues and other media industry types ransack the place, showing a complete lack of respect for the surroundings. This over the top hedonistic lifestyle and everything that came part and parcel with it was wearing thin with Wendy. Realising that this “was not her or who she wanted to be”, it was at this very moment she decided to quit MTV. So sure was she, that as the debauchery continued around her, she made a phone call to her boyfriend Simon (now husband) and asked him to quit his job too, so that they could go backpacking around the world together.
Being very career minded, Simon needed a little time to make his decision, but in the meantime the couple continued on with their pre-existing plan to purchasing a house together. Unfortunately at the final step of signing the deeds, the house sellers pulled the property off the market leaving them with the massive disappointment of loosing their dream home. On the same day, Wendy also sadly lost her beloved pet cat of many years.
A day that would have understandably left most people in the doldrums and moping for at least a few days, did nothing to stop this pair from moving on in their lives. Whether Simon took these turn of events as “a sign to live life for today” or an opportunity to make a romantic gesture and to cheer Wendy up, he decided to agree to the backpacking adventure. I should also mention at this point that Wendy and Simon had only been dating a total of 10 weeks when this was all happening, so it’s fairly safe to say that these people are not ones to hang around resting on their laurels but prefer to live life with a “just do it” attitude.
A couple of months spent planning and nothing to tie them down, the two headed off on their adventures. Deliberately choosing routes that would challenge their bodies and minds; in one year they travelled the world to Guatemala, Central America, Panama, South America, Lima, South Africa, Nairobi, Kenya, India, Nepal and Thailand with nothing but the belongings in their back packs and each other. The experience was character building and as a result, Wendy now describes herself as very worldly and a person who gets fazed by very little.
Apart from personal growth, this period of travel was also the source of inspiration for Wendy’s business idea. She was particularly taken aback by the beautiful textiles she saw along the way and it was these that convinced her to start a path down the fashion route. The name of her new business “Firefly” was conceived when in Nepal she witnessed the natural wonder of fireflies for the first time.
Not being the types to let a year of backpacking around the world stall their ambitions or any other future plans, Wendy and Simon set wheels in motion to apply for residency in Australia (somewhere along the way, they decided that the UK was no longer where they needed to be), this meant having fingerprints taken in Deli and interviews in Thailand. They finally got their visas whilst in Thailand so that by the time they reached Australia (which is also where Wendy’s parents lived), they were able to make it their final destination by arriving as permanent residents.
Hitting the ground running with her visa sorted and her treasures waiting for her in her parents garage (she purchased from various different counties along her travels, consolidated everything in Nepal and then sent everything onto Australia where her parents were able to take delivery for her ahead of her arrival), Wendy did not waste anytime in getting herself started on her new venture: landing in Oz on a Wednesday, checking out Sydney’s markets on Saturday and by the following week making her debut trading as Firefly on the Sydney market scene.
She started out by selling items discovered on her travels such as embroidered Indian slippers to which she added her own personal touch and quickly moved onto selling her own clothing designs. Soon she had buyers from shops wanting to snap up her unique pieces. Wendy reminisces how she really had to learn on the fly. She laughs about the rookie mistakes that she made such as when she had no idea about mark ups and tried selling items to a wholesale buyer at retail prices. She tells me how it was hard work on the market with all the early mornings, driving her stock in her little van stuffed to almost busting point, wheeling her stock to the stall and setting up in the wind and rain.
Such as is Wendy’s style, Firefly soon began to exhibit in trade fairs, starting off with a mix of shoes, bags, jewellery and kaftans which used Wendy’s own designs and fabrics. Now; concentrating mainly on clothes which are much more scalable, Firefly has grown from those humble beginnings to being stocked in 300 stores (including many top boutique brands) in Australia alone. But not content in taking Australia, Firefly is also available here in Singapore, at fairs in Hong Kong, online and soon in Dubai. Wendy also owns a couple of sister brand’s called “Phoebe and Rose” and “Lucciello”.
When I asked Wendy for words of wisdom to pass onto anyone who would like to go down the same or similar path as hers and what she sees as the key to her success, her advice is a resolute “Tenacity; really search yourself to see if you have the tenacity to do it.” She recounts one of the many times where this very character trait saw her through.
On receiving the wrong parcel for what was supposed to be her samples for a major trade show that she was exhibiting at the following week, she managed to track her parcel down half way across the world to a hotel in Paris (the paper work had been mixed up on the two parcels). The hotel was keeping it in storage for their guest who was due to arrive one week later, which was too late for Wendy and the exhibition. Wendy’s flights, accommodation and everything else were already booked and paid for in preparation for the exhibition, so with nowhere to go but onwards, she was “not going to take no for an answer”.
After much pleading and reasoning and describing exactly the contents of the parcel she somehow managed to persuade the hotel staff to open and check the parcel against her description and then to agree to a parcel swap. Wendy’s parcel arrived on a Sunday (the day before the exhibition but also when the depot was closed), so Wendy drove the many hours down to the depot and managed to get someone to let her in and hand her the parcel. She was still unpacking and steam ironing all the garments on the morning of the show – anyone with less tenacity may well have given up at the first hurdle.
As fashion continually changes Firefly has also evolved through the years, but as a brand, Firefly knows the importance of also staying true to their brand and signature style of bright colours and a bohemian flair. Their easy-fit styling and the light weight cotton fabric that is used in many of their garments are perfect for those who demand comfort and style, especially for those travelling to or living in warmer climates and it is these elements that help Firefly to continually gain new followers and keep loyal customers coming back for more.
Thank you Wendy for taking the time out from your busy schedule to chat with me about your wonderful life journey and teaching OrdinaryPeople how with small steps one can achieve great things.
Telephone: 02 8004 2067 (from Australia) +65 9238 3747 (worldwide)
Firefly has multiple suppliers around the world with two stores here in Singapore:
Tanglin Mall– 163 Tanglin Rd, 02-24/25 Tanglin Mall, Singapore 247933 t: 6887 3079
I12 Katong Mall– 112 East Coast Rd, 01-26 I12 Katong Mall, Singapore 428802