The turning point came when Ena Pelly secured some significant orders with major outlets like David Jones and The Iconic. The cashflow from which gave the business higher volumes and enabled the next step of its development.
The couple knew they’d have to “choose a path” between their day jobs and their side hustle. And so, two days before they were to be married, Dani resigned from her job and their side project became full time.
In 2017 they established an office and warehouse and the business grew significantly as they introduced new categories and shifted focus to sustainability and fabric choices.
This included the launch of a range of faux-fur jackets made from 100 per cent recycled PET plastic bottles. Each jacket is made from about 60 plastic bottles that are collected, chipped, melted and spun into yarn which is used to make the faux fur that the pair are calling “Future Fur”.
It took some time and several trials to ensure the material had the right texture, weight and thickness.
“Traditionally leather and fur go hand in hand but obviously we didn't want to use real fur. So we found a faux fur supplier and using recycled plastic was a natural progression,” Tim says.
“It took about 12 months to develop the material to the point we were happy with it. Then we launched it the year after and it's just gone really well,” he adds.
In March 2021 Ena Pelly had recycled more than one million plastic bottles to make the faux fur for the 12 month period.
Shift to online
The COVID-19 pandemic has made the last two years “challenging and tricky to navigate” as Dani and Tim found new ways to adapt.
The company faced shipping and logistical issues including delays at congested ports. They responded by adjusting their production calendar to allow more time for shipping as a safeguard.
“In the beginning, I think everyone felt the world was about to close in and we were all going to go bankrupt,” Dani says.
February and March of 2020 were the most stressful for Dani and Tim. “I think by the middle of March we had realised it was going to be okay. Not everyone was cancelling their orders and sales were moving online,” Dani says.
“It has actually been positive for our business because it's made our online store grow quite significantly and it has allowed us to explore new categories. Thankfully, we have good relationships with all of our suppliers, so our supply chain already existed.”
The company has grown to 12 employees from three at the start of the pandemic and the make up of its sales has changed significantly.
Before the pandemic, about 30 to 40 per cent of sales were online and the remaining percentage came from stores like David Jones, The Iconic and other independent retailers. Now that ratio has flipped and more than 60 per cent of sales are online with the remaining going to retailers.
“That's a win for us,” Dani says. “Our key objective is to keep our online store running at 60 per cent of sales. In the future we may open our own retail stores in Melbourne and Sydney. We also want to grow our market share in the US where we are already stocked with Revolve and Anthropology.”
Ena Pelly opened a flagship retail store in Geelong in February 2020, just as COVID-19 hit Australia.
As the business shifted to online sales, they converted the store into offices and warehouse space.