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Gardening and the great outdoors help designer through tough times

By Kara Cooper

I opened my store Mount Vic and Me eight years ago, and have been busy designing the range, building my brand and distributing products across Australia and internationally ever since.

Like many businesses, we have had our ups and downs, but recent events in the Blue Mountains have been an emotional rollercoaster filled with many obstacles for small businesses in the area.

A series of setbacks for the Blue Mountains

Running a business can present many challenges, but none compare to the challenges that have hit us since 2019. These started with the bushfires that swept NSW and burnt 80% of the Blue Mountains world heritage region. We had to evacuate (again – this happened in the 2013 fires too!) and drop everything, which included business.

During this time I was aware of how freaked out I get by the smell of bushfires, but as an asthmatic I know to just leave as soon as possible. This isn’t always ideal for business but with kids and many pets, it’s my best and only option.

After we recovered from the bushfires, tourism was so low that I began a campaign to return people to the Blue Mountains. The bushfires had wiped out the train line from Sydney to the Blue Mountains, then the floods came and wiped out the other side of the train line back to Sydney – we couldn’t imagine anything could get much worse. But shortly after, COVID-19 hit the globe and we did not get a breather!

Luckily, my store had online business to rely on during this time. Being an Australian made brand also meant we could continue supplying socks and tea towels to our customers and stockists across Australia. We had planned a couple of trade shows but each had been cancelled due to COVID-19.

Getting through the tough times

While things have been stressful, I think it’s important to reflect on the good things. I am lucky that I have a terrific garden and chooks, so when I feel stressed I get out and start digging. Being outdoors, getting my hands dirty, listening to the bees buzzing around me and the chooks quietly scratching around is wonderful. It’s physically motivating too – a great workout.

I also try to take some walks to get away from business for a moment. A bit of activity out in the fresh air and sunshine can do wonders. I have recently lost some weight (still need to get more off). COVID-19 made so many of us gain some kilos so I have been focusing on that, and trying to get healthy. Having a goal to work towards helps keep me motivated.

Three tips for wellbeing as a business owner

I’d like to share three things I do to look out for my wellbeing as a business owner, and as an individual. These have been particularly helpful over the past couple of years, and I will continue doing them in the future.

  1. Have simple small achievable goals when it all gets too much. Something I can tick that I have achieved daily.
  2. Have something to look forward to – even if it’s a little weekend away. We have a vintage caravan so even when we don’t have much to spend, it makes our holidays great fun.
  3. Get out and garden! Even if you don’t have your own garden or don’t have the green thumb, find somewhere to weed! Every pathway, park or community space needs a little love. Volunteer some of your time and get your vitamin D fix as well as getting your brain into gear!

About Kara Cooper

Mount Vic and Me® was established in 2013 by local designer Kara Cooper who resides in the historic village of Mount Victoria high up in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, Australia.

Her quirky and unique range of tea towels, socks, greeting cards, mugs, cushions, wallpaper and fabrics are created in a 100 year old cafe on the highway in Mt Victoria, Blue Mountains. The studio shop is a mash of colour, textures, retro fun and nostalgia.

The bold printed art tea towels, greeting cards and cushions have the tick of approval from the Australian Made campaign. Kara loves to see people laugh at the Aussie political tea towels, and you can also find Kara’s range of Australiana designs across upholstered retro chairs, cushions and linens.

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