Olivia Carr spent 18 months working as a general manager for Pacific Brands where her role was to gain insight into the rapidly growing world of e-commerce. During her research, she soon developed a personal love for online brands particularly ones started from social media. “It had become an obsession; I was sure that one day online retail was going to be much bigger than traditional bricks and mortar retail was today, and I knew someday in the near future I would start my own online global brand,” Carr explained. “I just wasn’t sure what that brand would be.”
An entrepreneur from an early age, a five-year-old Carr would fill up empty juice bottles and fill them with water and rose petals. She would then knock on her neighbourhood doors selling them for $3 marketed as perfume. Homemade stalls were a common occurrence at the bottom of her driveway selling toys and books that she no longer required. At age 12, Carr started selling lollies for Spastic Society three nights a week after school and recalls making 50 cents for every bag she sold. Following this, she worked the usual paper rounds and then boundary umpiring football at 15 alongside two other part-time jobs. “Working hard has always been in my DNA,” she explained.
In May 2015, Carr decided it was time to take a leap and resigned from her job. Soon after, she was off on a family trip to America for five weeks. Carr decided that whatever brand she started had to be two things; simple and elegant. “There is much to be said about simplicity. In a world where things are already so complicated I wanted to create a brand where simplicity also brought passion, love, peace, and happiness to my world,” she said. On her first day in New York, she unpacked her beauty sleep essential, a silk pillowcase. Carr said she was instantly drawn to the homeless in New York. The overwhelming effect it had on Carr and her children made her and her family want to help. “That was it, I knew when I finally launched my online brand – community and giving back would be at the core of what we do. I had to create a bigger goal, a brand so big that we could help even more people across the globe. This started a burning desire within me to make sure whatever I created, it would one day impact the world,” Carr explained. When she returned to the hotel after a long day of exploring, Carr discovered that her silk pillowcase had been removed and sent away to be “laundered” never to be seen again. Carr spent the next five weeks getting used to cotton hotel quality pillowcases and soon discovered all of the reasons why she was obsessed with her silk one. “What a significant difference it made to my skin, hair and ability to sleep peacefully each night. On reflection, losing my pillowcase was the greatest gift I could have received.”
Founded in October 2015, Shhh Silk can be purchased directly through their website www.shhhsilk.com. They are the first silk pillowcase in the world to have a silk marble print pillowcase, where traditional silk pillowcases are plain and neutral colours. Shhh Silk introduced a hidden zip into their pillowcases which ensure they sat nicely on customers’ beds as silk or satin pillowcases commonly slip off the pillow. “Another point of difference to our brand is our rapid range expansion; we have moved out of purely silk pillowcases to now selling silk travel accessories, silk filled pillows and our newest range our luxury silk sleepwear,” she said.
With a team of six staff, Carr works closely with her trusted and highly skilled remote contractors. The only thing Carr regrets is not hiring her graphic designer sooner. Lilly is a valued team member and a great fit for the brand. Previously Shhh Silk used freelance graphic designers.
Shhh Silk’s aesthetic is best described as minimalistic yet modern with a low maintenance luxury. Carr pushes the brand to create trends and push boundaries to get noticed. “We are always looking outside the box and then outside again, nothing about our brand is conventional. We want unique, desired and loved from everything from design to customer service.” The first product by Shhh Silk was black and off-white pillowcases. Opportunities for Shhh Silk to progress are found mostly online as e-commerce continues to grow rapidly. “I think there is still so much opportunity in the personal shopping experience – as now that we live in the digital age the need for personal touches is critical.”
Her biggest challenge so far has been learning how to deal with manufacturing in China. “I will probably write a book on this topic one day to help other start-ups understand the challenges, differences in culture and the way the Chinese factories like to do business,” she added. Other obstacles include remaining around the global economy as they operate in USD and said it was important that the economy remains strong. Carr believes skill shortages will be a future problem as schools are not adapting their curriculum at the same pace as ever-evolving technology. “Technology, innovation and I.T related skills are more important now than ever,” she added.