Creative to her core and entrepreneurial in spirit, Tara Solberg is the founder and owner of both Few and Far and Indigo Love, two halves of one thriving business based on the beautiful South Coast of New South Wales. Here, Tara shares the story of how she built a multi-million dollar business.
It was in the middle of the GFC in 2009 and we had a lot of people telling us it may not be the best time to give up our well-paying jobs to start something we didn’t necessarily know a lot about, especially during a time filled with so much financial uncertainty.
In our minds, we had no choice. We’d both been working in the surf industry as Graphic Designers, in what I thought was my dream job. I mean what more could a young, beach-loving, girl from the South Coast ever want? Well… apparently more.
Now don’t get me wrong. I loved that job, I loved the people I worked with, I had the opportunity to travel the world and I absolutely loved working on the South Coast… but I had more to give.
As the years went by, the novelty slowly wore off and I felt stifled by being told how to be creative or what it was I had to design when I felt so strongly opposed to it. I felt trapped with nowhere to go. I distinctly remember standing in the shower each night knowing I was destined for something, but I just hadn’t quite worked out what that was just yet.
One thing I did know was that I couldn’t keep going on like this. I wasn’t happy and I needed to take control of that.
When I thought about going out in business for myself and following a passion I’d held for such a long time, it gave me an enormous sense of energy, excitement and a feeling of fulfilment. I’d always loved homewares and interiors, but had always thought owning a homewares store could only be a hobby.
Before doing any research, I relied on the fact that I believed I was the typical customer – someone who’d go out for lunch followed by a ‘browse’ around the stores, wishing I could buy everything but leaving without actually purchasing anything. Surely you couldn’t make money from owning a retail store? But wouldn’t it be nice if you could?
I didn’t ponder on that idea for too long and redirected my energy to look into buying the local pizza shop. But after sitting back and thinking about what it was about that opportunity that excited me, I realised I was looking at it for all the wrong reasons. I just wanted to re-decorate it and plan the fit out!
The vision of it excited me and I dreamt about how I could make it look and feel, but the thought of coming in each morning to light a fire, chop up veggies and knead dough just wasn’t floating my boat! Let alone the fact that the long days and late nights weren’t very accommodating when the pitter-patter of tiny feet came calling.
And so, I decided to go with my gut and to follow my passion for interiors… which is when Few and Far was born.
I’ll never forget the feeling we both had on opening night. It was one of the proudest moments of my life. We’d worked hard on transforming a very run down, dilapidated store into a magical space, full of wonder and curiosity, and the expression on each person’s face as they walked in was proof we’d done an amazing job. The store was an instant success.
But it wasn’t all smooth sailing. It wasn’t like a uni project that you do an all-nighter to complete and then sleep for the rest of the week to recover from. We’d had at least a week of almost all-nighters prior to opening, and then it was time to really work—seven days a week.
Danny ended up resigning from his job a month after we’d opened, and joined me in the store each day. As hard as it was, we often reflect on how good it felt to finally have the freedom to work for ourselves. We could pursue and implement our own creative ideas and build our business the way we wanted to, on our own terms. It was such a feeling of accomplishment and relief. We felt like we’d made it!
We didn’t stop there. Before we opened our first store, we put together a business plan that detailed our plan to open a second store within 5 years. That happened the very next year. In 2010, we opened a store named Indigo Love. We certainly learnt a lot during the first 2 years of starting our business, but through a series of small wins, we had gained a lot more confidence to make big decisions and to pursue goals like these.
The years that followed saw us expand even further, opening stores in Berry, Bowral and Leura, as well as starting our own wholesale business. Then, the pitter-patter of tiny feet came calling (twice!), and we welcomed a son and daughter into our lives. Each time we opened a store, the footprint grew larger and housed even more product than the last. The business was growing, and quickly.
But, it didn’t come without growing pains. Danny and I were fortunate to have family involved in the business. My Mum did all of our bookkeeping and my Dad, a retired builder, completed all of our store fit-outs, as well as working in the warehouse.
None of us were afraid of getting our hands dirty. We were all involved in the day to day activities of the business such as working in the stores, packing orders, setting up and renovating stores, moving warehouses, setting up and packing up trade fair stands, delivering furniture and unpacking containers.
I’ll never forget when my son, Jonah, was 3 months old and we were exhibiting at the REED Gift Fair in Melbourne. Children or babies weren’t allowed in the exhibition hall during setup, and I was breastfeeding at the time. Considering I was the only one who knew how the stand was to be set up and merchandised, this became quite the challenge.
So, we brought Danny’s Mum down with us to look after him between feeds. It was freezing cold and raining and she sat in a room off the side of the hall, reading a book while he slept, holding out for as long as possible before calling me to come and feed him. It was torturous for all of us, but we survived!
As the business expanded, roles within the business were created and developed. The physical side of running the business got easier, but the mental load was heavy. The bigger the business grew, the more people we had to hire which in turn meant more personality clashes and more ‘admin’ around sorting out those problems.
At the end of 2019, we were on track for our best year yet. Then came the bushfires of 2020 and later, COVID-19. Our stores and warehouses were fully stocked, ready for our busiest period of the year. We’d invested in extra staff and had also invested heavily in even more stock that was expected to arrive in time for exhibiting at the February trade fairs.
However, what was normally the busiest time of year was now ghostly quiet. It was hard to swallow and there was a constant lump in my throat as we worked out how to navigate these events.
Staying open throughout that period (where possible), enabled us to make the most of any opportunity. The silver lining is that it was the push we needed to ensure our online store was the best it could be and we used any available downtime to put even more procedures in place in order to maintain longevity and continued growth within our business.
While our plan was always to continue to grow and expand, sometimes you need to know when to ‘call it quits’ on something that’s not working in order to move forward. After 3 years in operation, we made the difficult decision to close our Leura store. While it was an extremely popular store, the rent was extremely high, the size of the store was too small and the location just wasn’t our target market.
However, for every negative there is a positive, and it was around this time that we were awarded the title of Global Honouree out of 32 countries at the Global Innovator Awards in Chicago.
To think that what started out as a little store in Huskisson on the South Coast of NSW would now be recognised on a global scale is completely mind-blowing! We pride ourselves on our personal approach to all aspects of our business and our distinctive style that mixes the old and new in a curated and thoughtful manner. To be recognised for what we love to do is just the cherry on top!
We are now at the stage where we have the support of an amazing team—we’re no longer hands-on in all aspects of the business like we have been throughout our business journey. Danny and I work mostly from home so we can schedule our work around school pickups and family time, we’ve just had our biggest and most successful year yet, and we continue to plan and dream for what’s coming next.
Creative to her core and entrepreneurial in spirit, Tara Solberg is the founder and owner of both Few and Far and Indigo Love, two halves of one thriving business based on the beautiful South Coast of New South Wales. Tara has built a multi-layered business comprising retail, wholesale and online offerings of one-off treasures and thoughtful homewares for which the brand is known.
Tara grew up in Jervis Bay before moving to Sydney to attend the University of New South Wales’ College of Fine Arts, where she completed a Bachelor of Design. During her final year of study she landed the covetable position of ‘Ladies Designer’ with one of Australia’s most reputable surf brands, Ocean & Earth, where she met her now-husband and business partner, Danny.
The story of Tara and Danny’s business definitely reads fast. In under ten years, the pair have grown the business (Few and Far & Indigo Love) into one that is trusted and beloved, both locally and across the globe.
Along with her business, Tara is equally passionate about education and equipping fellow entrepreneurial women with the tools they need to thrive in business, which has led to the launch of TRADE WINS, a collection of online courses and an accompanying podcast series