Over the past five years I have crossed paths with Shelley Mason many times. We first got to know each other when she was launching her kids bedlinen company Kideko, while I was at real living magazine. We resumed contact when Shelley was assisting her parents at their company, Strand Agencies, and consequently helped me to source furniture and homewares for styling shoots. Most recently we have been meeting at Project 82, a design business she has set up with Tom Williams. It's a multi-pronged venture as not only do they have a shop front in Sydney's Surry Hills, but they also offer an interior design service, and are able to source wares from across the country. The actual store is a small rotating sample of the products they have available to them via industry contacts. If that's not enough, Shelley is also involved in Staple & Co, a new range of affordable sofas that are Australian designed and made - and available via Project 82.
Which five words best describe you? Warm, honest, hardworking, down-to-earth, perfectionist.
How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? I guess that having my own business was something that was always going to be a given for me. My family have run a company in the commercial fabrics industry for many years, and I've watched them work very hard along the way, but also enjoy the flexibility that doing your own thing allows. Leaving school, I was convinced I wanted to work in hospitality and own a restaurant, which was my first business back in the early nineties. That was a bit of disaster - my age probably had a lot to do with that. I've always enjoyed design and nice things. My first role after the restaurant was working for DeDeCE, which gave me a great introduction. Then the in-between years have been spent on a variety of things: marketing roles; event management and PR; and project managing building renovations in London, which was a lot of fun and very rewarding. I also set up and ran my own kids bedding label Kideko, which I've now sadly closed down. That type of business is very competitive and designing and manufacturing new and interesting product in this country is very hard to make profitable. More recently, and whilst Luella my daughter was very young, I assisted my parents with their business that wholesales furniture and accessories to the interior design trade, which was another great introduction to what I'm doing now with Project 82.
What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? This latest business is my third, so I'm clearly not shy of having a go. Tenacity is probably something I lacked in the early years but have recently gained with age and experience - this is certainly an essential ingredient to any business success.
What’s your proudest career achievement? This may be crazy but I'm most proud of the fact that I now have a business that my team are all very happy to be a part of. For the first time in my career, I have talented, dedicated staff that really want to come to work - they are always on time with a smile, and really, genuinely want to be here. I think that's pretty cool as it means I've created an inspiring place to be.
What’s been your best decision? Teaming up with my business partner Tom Williams has to be up there. He's a true creative entrepreneur and I feel lucky to have established our collaboration; his input has been invaluable and it's great to have someone to share the responsibility of making the big decisions.
Who inspires you? My parents who have always managed to mix pleasure and business together, showing me that work doesn't need to be a drag. They have fun with what they do and who they work with, so their work/life balance is great - this is important, particularly when you've got family to consider.
What are you passionate about? Good design, lovely things and great food.
What dream do you still want to fulfil? Since moving back to Australia almost seven years ago, the overseas trips and travel have definitely been few and far between. I really miss jumping on a plane and seeing somewhere new and would really love to get my life to a point that I have the opportunity to do this on a more regular basis. It'd be great to take an annual trip to somewhere amazing each year - next year I'm aiming for Milan in April for the Furniture Fair.