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.
“It’s the place I go to escape the flurry of life. It is my sanctuary when I need to unplug.”
With both of these loves as her inspiration, she decided to create her own line of high-end, long-lasting bedding, blankets, cushions and clothing, and started researching all sorts of different fibres. “I have always worn natural fibres and before I fell in love with sleeping in linen, I was always an Egyptian cotton girl… thick white crisp sheets like Grandma’s!” she says. “But ultimately, linen won me over,” she reveals, adding that she thinks of linen as nature’s wonder fibre. “Linen is a sustainable crop. It uses fewer fertilisers and four times less water than cotton during cultivation.”
And the feel.
“I love the fact it’s soft washed (with pumice stones) which makes it so buttery soft from the first time you wear or sleep in it… it’s not scratchy like grandma’s old tea towels!” laughs Julie. “It’s so soft but still has a weight that drapes around you. It’s whisper quiet, breathes well and keeps you cool in the summer months yet warm in winter. And the garments are so well made – French seam finishes ensure longevity and durability.”
Some people think that a hotel-like bed is only possible in well, hotels. But Julie says she believes in investing (in a good quality mattress, toppers, bed linens and pillows – whatever you need) to make every night you sleep at home as rejuvenating as you can.
“We spend $200 on a garment or pair of shoes but often short-change ourselves when it comes to sleep,” she says. “And we shouldn’t – after all, we spend one-third of our lives in bed! Bed is our haven so our bedroom should be the place we go to unwind. A comfortable bed with your favourite bedding is key to a good night’s sleep.” (Perhaps a good night’s sleep every night is why she has so much energy?)
Starting with only a few key items in her online shop, it wasn’t long before the name Bedtonic was well-known – now Julie’s linen products have appeared in an impressive host of nationwide magazines and newspapers and her thrilled customers regularly give her five star reviews (“Gosh, I wish we had started those reviews three years ago!” she moans) and one of her biggest sellers, her iconic poet’s tunic, has become a staple of effortless capsule wardrobes, with fans from millennials to the more mature.
I think it’s the structure of the garment, its French seams (no raw edges) and durable weight give it an industrial, lived-in, no-fuss look and feel,” says Julie on why she thinks they are so popular.
“The cut of the garment allows it to fit all sizes and it cuts across generations in appeal. They are the epitome of the capsule wardrobe staple. We hear stories all the time of our tunic being spotted in different corners of the globe. Customers wear them straight out of bed to the school gates, beach, bar and back to bed! We have customers who own up to five of them in different lengths and colours. They really do have their own cult following!”
So how does a typical day running her small business go? As much as Julie loves her bed, she will leave it for a hot cup of coffee, which is how she starts every day at work. “I get up for coffee – always!” she says. “I’m actually a tea drinker for the rest of the day but it must start with coffee.
“Then it’s a walk around my neighbourhood with our schnauzer Buddy in the winter, or in summer I try and swim as many mornings as I can. It’s without doubt the best start to my day. By 9.30 I’m in my home office – even though I have an assistant, Cass, there is always my nail it list to work through.
“Orders are packed by my niece who’s studying, so she comes three days a week. By 5pm I’m either ready for a glass of wine before dinner or it’s tea on the run and more work. I’m trying to make myself stop work at nights and lock some Netflix in. No two days are the same though. Next week I will be in Shenzhen visiting our makers again which I do each year.”
2019 has been a huge year for the Bedtonic team behind the scenes as they have been working on a rebrand to tie all their labels, packaging and swing tags in line with each other, they’ve introduced new eco-friendly reusable and recyclable shipping bags, and Julie has been working closely with her seamstress designing new loungewear to add to their collection. “This design process is really important for me so I can hold me hand on my heart and say this has not been copied form another store – true ethically designed products,” she says.
They recently launched three news clothing items – their Field Dress, an oversized linen shirt called the Mollie Shirt (“think big comfy pyjama shirt with large shell buttons!”) and Slouch pants, which Julie is very excited about! “They are THE most comfortable slouch pants you will ever wear with a wide ribbed top to fold over for superb comfort!” she says.
“I had friends over in different shapes and sizes when these pants were being sampled and some would say, ‘Oh no, I won’t be wearing those.’ I said just try them for me and then, ‘Oh you’re right, they are soooo comfortable’.
“I’m super excited about these pieces as they are as comfy as pyjamas but you can wear them out for coffee, lunch, to the bar and home to bed again, just like all of our Poets tunics!”
While Bedtonic keeps her busy, Julie also says one of the wonderful things about Bedtonic is the work-life flexibility it gives the Ramsays. Julie, Donald and Mollie, as well as their schnauzer x poodle Buddy and cat Harry (“they are best mates”) currently live in Daglish, where the human members of the family think big – and exciting – when it comes to the future.
“We sold our workers cottage in West Leederville so we’re in a transition period of renting while we plan out our next digs,” reveals Julie. “The plan is to spend six to twelve months in France before Mollie finishes high school, and then I would love a pod home on land back in the country and a weekender in Perth!” Her own interiors style is an eclectic mix of contemporary and vintage and I love contemporary art. “A lot of my furniture is repurposed, some from kerbsides or bought from travels,” she shares. “I love mixing things up and I’m not afraid of colour. I have moved so much over the years that I now loathe clutter (or maybe it’s an age thing) I really like the notion of ‘less is more’ and I hate waste.”
So what advice would Julie give to other people wanting to take the plunge into their own small business?
“You have to really hone in on what you’re passionate about,” she says. “What makes your heart sing, what works for you around your lifestyle, family, your location, etc and then go for it! If you truly follow your passion then you will not tire of it and on the nights long after everyone else has gone to bed, it really won’t feel like work at all! There is a saying that goes starting a small business is like jumping off a cliff and building a model aeroplane on the way down… true that!” Maya x
WIN A BEDTONIC PURE LINEN BESPOKE BLANKET
The generous Julie is giving the most amazing prize to one lucky bed nerd. You can win a queen size Bedtonic Pure Linen Bespoke Blanket in your choice of their seven amazing colours (Slate (like mine pictured below), Fog, Terracotta, Indigo, Winter White, Emerald Green or Dusky Rose) valued at $348.
I absolutely LOVE ours – they’re so snuggly soft, beautifully made, they add serious warmth for winter but are also perfect for summer, you can just chuck it in the wash and being linen it’s the kind of blanket you’d use and treasure for decades!
You can enter in one of three ways:
3. Sign up for the Bedtonic online newsletter through their site and leave a comment on this blog post (please include your full name and email, which is kept hidden).
Winner will be drawn Nov 10, 2019. There is a complete release of Instagram by each entrant. Promotion in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by or associated with IG.