I always admire it when people don’t merely just dream or talk about doing things, but they actually go out and give them a red-hot go. It makes sense that I frequently admire small business owners, professionals and creatives, and one of my favourite local businesses is also run by one of the nicest women. Julie Ramsay, the founder of Bedtonic, is not only a wonderfully generous person who has the most infectious energy; she also founded, in a highly competitive market where most small businesses go bust in two years, a successful, sustainable small business selling the most beautiful linens for the home (and body). On top of that, she started Bedtonic in her early 50s, wrapping her head around the complicated worlds of tech, e-commerce and social media at an age when, to be quite frank, I know other 50-somethings who can barely send a text message!
I can personally attest that Julie’s Bedtonic linen is a pleasure to have on our bed… and on my body. (Her iconic Poet’s Tunics are one of my go-to’s, particularly perfect for holidays and days at the beach).
This year we have had the pleasure of experiencing one of the new pure French flax linen bespoke blankets from the Bedtonic range too. I could probably write a blog post just on this blanket and how much I love it. Here it is, below. If you think of linen as being hard and rough, you’d be extremely surprised. Julie’s flax linen blankets are super soft straight off the bat, they come in the most beautiful colours, and they keep you so snug and cosy. It has been absolutely freezing at night this winter, and we honestly have not turned on the split system in our bedroom ONCE all these chilly nights. We pop the blanket over our lightweight doona, and the blanket is enough. It’s perfect. And it’s perfect on warm nights too – you don’t get tooo warm – and we just chuck it in the wash when it needs it. (I next want to buy one for Little Nerd’s bed… lucky boy! I believe all of my childhood sheets were 110% flammable polyester).
Julie grew up in picture-perfect Wanaka, New Zealand (yes, home of the famous Wanaka tree). She later moved to Australia, married her husband Donald, and they had a daughter, Mollie, spending the first year of her life on a cattle farm north-west of Perth where Donald had farmed all his life. The flat and often very dry landscape was completely different to the scenery Julie had been used to growing up amidst the spectacular lakes and soaring alps of Wanaka, but inspired Julie all the same.
When Mollie was still young, Julie saw an opportunity to start a drive-through coffee business in Broome.
“We were building our own house at the time and noticed there was nowhere for all the tradies who were starting work at seven to get a good coffee first thing in the morning! My husband said I would ‘blow my dough’ but that didn’t stop me. I started with a tiny trailer that I trucked over from Brisbane and made twenty coffees on my first day. Four years later I was making four hundred or more coffees each morning.”
Donald’s initial skepticism of Julie’s business concept disintegrated quickly and he joined her in the coffee shop. “My husband swapped cows for coffee and we worked like mad together in the business for four years,” she says. “We had incredible community support and went on to win a small business achiever award for the Kimberley region. I learnt a lot about grit and determination during this time.” In 2013, they sold up and moved to Perth to be nearer to their families.
Bedtonic began after Julie realised she was getting tired of working long rigid hours in hospitality. She knew she wanted a new job that would give her more flexibility with family life. “Mollie was put in daycare from 18 months to five, and I really wanted an online business that would allow me to be present with her more,” she says. “I also felt washed-up in hospitality at 50 when we moved back to Perth. So I took a year off and creatively brainstormed ideas around how I wanted the next chapter of my life to look.”
Julie could see the transition with e-commerce, noticing more and more people were gathering faith in buying things online, and decided to begin an online store. “This suited me with Mollie who was seven at the time,” she says. “I saw the retail environment changing and e-commerce becoming the new way forward. Removing the retail overheads was also a big tick for me. By taking the wholesale out, I could pass the savings onto our customers. Providing personal customer service in a timely manner was and still is also key.”
But what to sell? Julie soon realised her favourite business ideas related to sustainability – and her happy childhood. “Growing up in New Zealand, my mum was a seamstress,” she says. “I remember a constant stream of ladies coming in and out for fittings and alterations, with patterns and pins and Mum’s Singer sewing machine taking pride of place on our dining table. My dad had a rafting business and was involved with the conservation and fisheries department. So from a young age I was very aware of sustainability, and nature and all that it offered.”
Searching for a sustainable business idea, Julie looked back to her roots for inspiration. “I’d always loved natural textures and fibres – oh, and I LOVE my bed,” she laughs.