After long corporate careers, friends Sophie Croft and Julie Markovic decided to depart that world and open their gorgeous retail store Feathered Arbour in Melbourne’s Carlton North. An inspiring interiors emporium, the store stocks brands such as Rachel Castle, Zakkia, Pop & Scott, Kip & Co, Kate and Kate and Armadillo&Co. We caught up with the duo recently to find out how it all began.
“I spent 20 years working for Myer with my last job being general manager of merchandise,” says Sophie, while Julie spent her corporate life crunching numbers in the IT business. Like so many before them, both women found motherhood was the impetus for opening their own small business. “I was lucky enough to be involved in one of Australia’s largest corporate sales when Myer was sold by Coles Myer to private equity. This was an amazing experience but at the end of this process I was done and pregnant with my second daughter. So I took a bit of a hiatus to just be a mum. I didn’t feel I could be the mum I wanted to be when my children were young if I had of stayed in the corporate world,” says Sophie, who soon found herself lost in the world of interiors and constantly returning to the idea of opening a retail space. “I wanted a balance in my life that I’m not sure I could have achieved staying in corporate and I secretly wanted to fulfil a childhood dream of owning my own shop.”
Julie came to the decision to depart the corporate world after having two children. “I realised I didn’t have the same passion for working in a large corporation. I packed up my Excel spreadsheet and went on to have two more children and spend some quality time at home watching them grow. Once my eldest started school I again had the desire to get involved in some projects, to keep my mind active, but knew the corporate world wouldn’t allow me to be the mother I wanted to be to my brood. I wanted to see the results of my hard work, rather than it being just fed up the line,” says Julie.
Rather fittingly, the pair met through their local primary school. “Both of us thrive on been busy and founds ourselves running the school fete together. We worked really well together and after doing this for a few years and with four of our combined seven children at school, we were both starting to look for something more,” says Sophie who, desperate to open a retail space and with her eye on an ideal location, shared her plans with Julie. “Within 24 hours, she asked whether I had thought of a business partner – the moon and stars really lined up at this point. We work really well together, we have really different but complementary skills and there is a deep respect for what each of us brings to the table. We speak 100 times a day, laugh lots and we love what we do. We have become amazing friends and so have our families – it just works!” says Sophie.
While the store stocks an enviable line-up of brands, the product they are most passionate about is their collection of Australian art. “The talent that exists in Australia is incredible. Artwork is probably one of our favourite categories, working with people like Emma Cleine of Lumiere, Prudence Caroline, Lisa Lapointe and Armelle Habib, is really inspiring. Bonnie and Neil are a real favourite and popping into their studio on a regular basis is awesome as you can watch the product being created in front of your eyes,” says Sophie.
Photography: Armelle Habib | Styling: Julia Green
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