Georgia Hobart is the face behind Hobes, an Australian footwear brand that is perfectly timeless and all hand-crafted. They've quickly become one of our favorites and their shoes are not only sweet, but they're comfortable (we're talking comfortable enough to sleep in!).
Georgia, we absolutely love the shoes and appreciate your mission to bringing audiences such classic footwear. It’s beautiful. Starting out, did you have any challenges to making Hobes a reality?
Thank you! That’s so lovely of you. Classic, simply styled footwear is exactly what I set out to produce and staying true to my initial idea for Hobes has been so important along the way. Fashion basics has always been an area of interest for me, simple styles that are timeless and will withstand the test of time and trends is something that I have always looked for. Yes, I think there are always challenges in staring a new business. Plenty in fact. I had my fair share and continue to still. The Hobes brand is still quite young and I’m definitely still learning all the time. There are many challenges that I face everyday, but in starting out, the biggest challenge really was in getting the product right. If you don’t have a strong product to start with, it doesn’t really matter what else you do with communications and marketing, you’ll never get the business off the ground. And of course on the flip side, if you have a great product, but you are not able to communicate it, then it’s also a tough spot to start from too. So there definitely is a real balance in starting a new business and ensuring that your product fits a gap, your communication is appropriate, and the timing is right. It’s an ongoing balancing act!
So, you spent your time between Hong Kong and South Melbourne. Why Hong Kong? Is it where you source your materials?
Yes, for the first few years of the business I split my time between Hong Kong and my base in Melbourne. I also spent a lot of time in Italy when I started the business too, my first supplier was Italian, and being amongst the footwear industry over there when I started in the industry was great. This year, I’ve been splitting my time between Melbourne and New York, which has been great for the business, and also a lot of fun. I am lucky to be able to work from pretty much anywhere, I have a great team which enables me to move around as I like. Also running the business completely online means this is possible.
You definitely have an expansive and well-educated background in business; that certainly is helpful for all entrepreneurs. What are some of the best things you’ve learned with your formal education? Would you suggest that all business owners study the same courses you’ve taken?
You know it’s funny, when I left school I really didn’t know what I wanted to do. I had a clear division in my areas of interest. I have always been creative, and was very keen to move in the direction of art and design, but I also had an interest in business, so deciding what course was right for me at university was tough. I think I probably chose the right route in hindsight, although at the time I didn’t really enjoy studying business. It was really dry and I wasn’t interested, I just wanted to get it done! Having said this, a business degree has definitely been so helpful. I think a grounding in business is useful in any career path, particularly when you are running a small business and starting out, you need to be a master of all trades
Where did the inspiration for Hobes' design come from? Aside from wanting to make it a classic piece.
I had a pair of really soft, light weight shoes from Italy that I had found about 10 years earlier that i had loved. I’d never found anything like it again and I had always been asked about them. I wore them to death and had always wanted to find a replacement, which I couldn’t. So when i decided to look into the development of a footwear basics range, these pair of shoes were certainly in the back of my mind. And they were a strong influence in the initial samples we produced. A shoe that was lightweight, soft and good for traveling (both packing and wearing) was just as important for me as the qualities of classic, timeless design in designing the first style and ongoing range development. I travel a lot and having shoes that pack flat, weigh next to nothing, are versatile and great for miles of walking is key!
We love the current collection. Are you currently planning any new styles? If so, can we get a gist of what that would be?
Yes I am always playing with new products. Whilst the concept for Hobes is to work with a core classic range which is updated with colour and fabric seasonally, new styles are always in the mix. In addition to new footwear styles, I am also looking to introduce a new product category for the brand, in the travel accessories area. In considering the addition of a new category, any product we add under the Hobes umbrella must have the same product qualities that Hobes footwear does. Must be light, soft, versatile, classic in design and timeless - we are working on this new category for release next year. More on this soon!
Essentially, what is your goal for each customer when they purchase a pair of Hobes? (i.e. a pair of shoes for the individual that would last nearly forever).
I guess the main thing I want people to feel/think about their Hobes is that they are the footwear basic they’ve been waiting for. A pair of classic and super soft shoes that just work with everything. So I guess versatility is really important when people buy Hobes. Knowing they can have one pair of great shoes that cover so many basis. Hobes are trans-seasonal, work with so many styles. I want Hobes to be the footwear equivalent of a great white tee for their owners (which I am still looking for - I have at least 50+ white tee's in my current collection and still on the hunt for the perfect one! Maybe this is next for me...?)
And as a business owner, where do you see Hobes in the next few years? What are your goals?
Obviously growth and sales comes into this, but really for me the aim of the game has always been around the brand. I launched Hobes partly because I wanted the challenge of launching, growing and developing a brand of my own. So whilst sales growth objectives clearly have to be part of the goal in order to drive the business forward, seeing the brand develop and grow whilst retaining true to the core values is really important to me. I’d forgo profit in order to retain the brands integrity any day of the week. And i guess that’s why I am so adamant to keep the brand online only too. Ensuring we retain control of how the brand is communicated and presented is just essential for me. And perhaps I am delusional, but I do think I can grow this business purely online. I constantly have people suggesting i am mad, and that a mix of online and physical store retail is the only way forward, but I am sticking to my initial idea of an online only footwear basics range, and I guess only time will tell whether or not I am in fact mad!
Could you share with us a piece of advice for those struggling to keep up with their own companies? Or building one?
I guess it sounds easy to say this, but the advice I feel I am equipped to provide is to always, always stay true to your brand and its values. Keeping the Hobes brand values top of mind in every business decision I have made along the way has really helped keep me, and the business, on track. It can be very easy for young businesses to sometimes grown too quickly, and then lose sight of what their brand is all about, and then also fade very quickly too. Sometimes making a decision based on what’s best for the brand, and not the bottom line, is a tough one, but ultimately it will work towards longevity for the business and ensure your brand lives beyond start up phase.