Inner East Review
Tuesday, 5 December 2023

Richmond entrepreneur goes from farmers' markets to international functional fashion

Updated March 15 2022 - 5:30pm, first published 5:00pm
Danielle Holloway ... followed a dream. PHOTO Morgan Hancock
Danielle Holloway ... followed a dream. PHOTO Morgan Hancock

Richmond local Danielle Holloway is on a mission - she wants to bring stylish gumboots to the world.

The Merry People boot brand which she started selling out of the back of her car now employs 10 people, distributes out of Australia and the United States, and is poised to launch in the UK this month.

A collaboration with a well-known fashion label is about to be announced, and the young entrepreneur has been named one of the top 50 people in Australian eCommerce by a big trade magazine.

But it hasn't been easy.

Eight years ago Holloway left a well-paying job at the ANZ to follow a dream.

While not nursing any particular ambitions in business, she believed she had found a gap in the market.

Growing up on a dairy farm at Leongatha, in Gippsland, Holloway wore gumboots every day and knew how practical they were in winter.

She also had an interest in fashion.

"When I moved to Melbourne to study and work, I was looking for an everyday gumboot," she says.

"I wanted boots that were more appropriate for my city life, but were comfortable, warm and fashionable enough to wear every day."

A journalism and communications degree had led the country girl into the corporate world, and a decade there taught her she was "good at making things happen".

Taking a leap of faith, she drew a prototype, took to YouTube to watch boot-making videos and began to inquire about manufacturing.

Not finding anyone in Australia who could produce the product, she flew to China to meet with potential suppliers, then, with the savings she had stashed away for a house deposit, placed her first order.

When the shipment arrived she stored it in a friend's warehouse and set out on the weekend farmers' market circuit.

"The first couple of years were pretty tough," the 36-year-old says. "Sometimes, if I hadn't made enough sales that week, I needed to look in my wardrobe and see what I could sell to make rent.

"It was absolutely not where I thought I would be in life, and at times it was mentally challenging.

But fuelled by her passion and practical skills, and with the support of the people around her, gradually the business grew.

Now operating out of an office in Collingwood and producing several designs in a range of bright colours, it has a dedicated staff and an enthusiastic fan base around Australia and New Zealand.

"It's been a bit of a journey," Holloway says.

Along the road she met partner Nick Pearce, who shares with her a strong desire to make a difference.

Pearce is a co-founder of Fitzroy-based social enterprise HoMie, which trains and employs young people experiencing homelessness.

The couple, who moved to Richmond two years ago, now have a seven-month-old baby and a wedding date in November.

"Nick's family lives in Cremorne and we have a lot of friends in the area, so it feels like home for us," Holloway says.

"I often bump into people wearing Merry People down at the dog park here, which is such a wonderful feeling. I feel so grateful the business has grown and people like what I have created."

While Holloway is gratified that her colourful boots make people feel good, she is also sustained by the idea the business is "centred on the values of kindness, adventure, happiness, and authenticity".

Its stated values are to be transparent, "do what feels right", treat everyone with respect and try new things.

Last week Merry People donated 700 pairs of boots for people impacted by the floods in NSW.

"I saw there was a big call out for gumboots on social media and I own a gumboot business - of course I wanted to help!" she says.

By gum, it's a boots-and-all business
By gum, it's a boots-and-all business

Sometimes, if I hadn't made enough sales that week, I needed to look in my wardrobe and see what I could sell to make rent

- Danielle Holloway

Jenny Denton


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