shop owner jessica ibbett

Often I hear stories of people wanting to become interior designers. But Jessica Ibbett wanted to go the other way. She had studied interior architecture at the University of New South Wales. And then worked as an interior designer for six years. But Jess wanted to open her own shop, selling wares that were both stylish and sustainable. The result is shelf/life, a beautiful store in Sydney's Surry Hills. It also has an online store.

Which five words best describe you? Loyal, cheerful, honest, observant, easy-going.
How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? I was passionate about studying art at school but was never sure how I’d translate that passion into a career. After a slight detour of one year studying psychology at Sydney University and one year snowboarding in Canada I ended up at UNSW studying interior architecture. I went on to work as an interior designer for about six years before suddenly deciding to realise my long-held dream of opening a shop and running my own business. I didn’t have much retail experience except the casual work I’d done during uni, so the last 2 years that shelf/life has been open have been a huge learning curve for me.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? I have learnt many, many lessons in setting up this business but the one that I try to keep at the forefront of my brain is “know your limits”; know how much you can handle and know when to ask for help so you can try to maintain a healthy work/life balance – something it seems everyone is looking for these days!

What’s your proudest career achievement? It’s all the little goals I’ve set for myself and achieved that make me proud – seeing my shop featured in my favourite magazines, doing interviews for blogs I’ve been reading for years (yes, Daily Imprint), customers saying nice things. But just getting the shop open in the first place was a pretty big deal!

What’s been your best decision? To start dating my now husband. I would not be doing this without his support and encouragement.

Who inspires you? I usually get my daily inspiration fix reading the blogs of small-scale independent designers/creative-types like Wiksten, Leah Duncan, Saipua, For Me, For You & Door Sixteen (to name a few!). I like that they are just normal hard-working ladies trying to make a living doing the thing they love.

What are you passionate about? My family and new addition, little pup Buddy. Seeing beauty in everyday things. Eating delicious food. Travelling. Snowboarding. Accumulating more mid-century furniture. Learning more about the world we live in and how best to treat it.

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? I have no idea! Maybe Jonathan Adler? He looks like he’d be fun to hang out with.

What dream do you still want to fulfil? So many dreams – I feel like I’ve only just started! I want to live a full and joyous life surrounded by my loved ones. A modest house and a big garden with vegies, a couple of dogs and maybe even a goat. I want the shop to look and feel like it does in my head. I want a studio out the back where we can create pretty things like my own ceramics range.

What are you reading? I just finished The Famished Road by Ben Okri so I am just browsing through a range of stuff – Inside Out magazine, Julius Shulman: Modernism Rediscovered, some books on business and the hundreds of blogs I read every day.

images natalie walton