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Publisher Textiles takes the limelightHusband and wife Rhynie and Mark Cawood took a gamble when they started their niche printed fabric and wallpaper business. But it’s paid off and Publisher Textiles recently took home the prestigious award for NSW Telstra Business of the Year.

Publisher Textiles began in 2002, melding the textile and fashion design and printing talents of owners Rhynie and Mark. The business started small and direct from a rented corner in a friend’s factory. They created original printed fabrics and garments during the week and sold them at Sydney market stalls over the weekend. Commissions from Sydney designers Akira Isagowa and Nicola Finetti followed and the rest, as they say, is history.

Today, clients can select from a range of distinctive designs and textile products or commission customised artwork to be turned into signature fabrics or wall coverings. Publisher’s success and reputation is built on artistic originality, quality and flare, integrity and unmatched technical expertise. Rhynie and Mark employ just two printers and pride themselves on their personal approach. We caught up with Rhynie, 34, to find out their story so far.

DB: Why did you choose this particular business?
RC: No one could understand why we’d get into something so obscure and niche, but it was only out of pure necessity that we started our business. If we wanted to have our designs sustainably produced to a high quality, we would have to do it ourselves. Because of our extensive experience and knowledge of the production, together with a desire to create, it was obvious we would someday start our own textile and wallpaper print studio.

DB: What have the biggest challenges been?
RC: Starting a highly specialised niche business was never going to be easy but we weren’t prepared for the lack of knowledge and resources in Australia, due to the massive decline in textile and wallpaper production. It has been a huge hurdle sourcing high quality materials that are environmentally friendly and this has meant–in conjunction with our suppliers–researching and developing materials that are sustainable and suitable for our processes. This has actually put us in front as industry professionals, and we have helped colleges and universities set up their own operations.

DB: What’s your biggest business achievement?
RC: I think our greatest achievement before winning the Telstra Business Award was the recognition we received for the bespoke wallpapers we created for Ruby Rabbit, and Neil Perry’s Rockpool restaurant, which gave us a reputation and the opportunity to be the only Australians in two UK design books.

Personally, we struggle to conform to the mould that measures success purely financially because we find the value of self-growth and fulfilment to be greater and always strive to be better. However, a strong healthy business is a formidable force that can be used to drive a range of ambitions, dreams and projects. A recent collaboration with the Babbarra Women’s Centre in Darwin has empowered an indigenous community to create their own business. We translated their artwork into textile designs, which they have been selling to better their community. If our business is the catalyst for other groups to build and grow their own ventures, we feel successful.

DB: What’s the best advice you ever received?
RC: To get a bookkeeper. After initially being involved in all aspects of running a small business, we’re now employing professionals to take over certain roles, freeing us to develop the business further.

DB: What’s the one thing you’d change to make your business stronger?
RC: Ideally, we’d love to change a thought pattern and educate the public to produce and buy local. The textile industry has almost been completely wiped out in Australia, with almost all manufacturing going offshore. We want to excite and enthuse the public into investing in a higher quality, ethical and environmental alternative, and to give up the disposable mentality where we buy cheap, only to create waste and perpetuate over-consumption. We’ve already seen a change in consciousness from the time we started our business to today. We’ve created a following, where customers and clients come back again and again, each time bringing friends and family, and so the word spreads.

DB: What type of technology and communications do you use?
RC: Being arts based, we use Apple Macs and all associated design software as well as MYOB accounting software. We deal with customers over the internet and are in the process of setting up an e-commerce site.

DB: Where do you see your business in 20 years’ time?
RC: There’s only really one other company that represents where we aim to be in times to come, and that’s the Swedish textile company Marrimekko. Like them, we hope to increase manufacturing locally, employing local artists, designers and craftsmen, and create a company that can facilitate a strong artistic and cultural Australian identity within the global forum. We believe this is an achievable way of making art and design commercially viable and providing a launch pad for individual artists.

DB: What effect is the GFC having on your business?
RC: Watching numerous textile houses close has been heartbreaking, but being a business at grass roots level has meant that we haven’t been hit as hard as our larger competitors. A tactic we’ve always adopted is diversity, so we’re able to adapt and move into different areas, depending on what the market dictates. Our focus in these times has been on offering a more customised and affordable alternative for interior design companies to upgrade venues and we supply DIY alternatives to the general public.

We are able to provide an extensive range of products and services and although production has slowed slightly, it has only given us time to be creative aesthetically and within our business. We believe that a creative outlook on business is essential to overcome hardship and survive turbulent times. Like ideas and dreams, new seeds grow stronger after the weeding is done.

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Jen Bishop

Jen Bishop

Jen was the publisher at Loyalty Media and editor of Dynamic Business, Australia's largest circulating small business magazine, from 2008 until 2012. She is now a full-time blogger at The Interiors Addict.

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