Shirley O’Connor and her daughter Kathleen O’Connor-Lee started SoKo Designs over a decade ago. The bespoke baby linen venture has grown from its humble beginnings to have a dedicated regular client base and provide an extra source of income.
Kathleen tells us all about how SoKo Designs started:
“Mum has always been a sewer and I’ve always been quite creative. When I had my daughter, Aimee, I wanted some handmade blankets and other items that were quite special. I found that I couldn’t buy the type of thing that I wanted.
Mum had a sewing machine that had embroidery functions on it, and she offered to make me a few pieces… she made a couple of gorgeous blankets and every mum at my mothers’ group absolutely loved them!
After the kids had grown out of them, I decided to go to a Mums and Bubs Market to sell many of our items… I took a few of Mum’s blankets with me and they sold like hot cakes. That was the beginning of SoKo Designs.”
A decade later
After their initial success, the mother-daughter team started to attend other local markets. They took blankets and towels and continued to gain more customers. Kathleen continues,
“A decade later we are still here… we have developed quite a following! We focus mostly on bespoke work that is customised by name and date of birth, or a special message.
We often joke that it’s a hobby gone viral.
Mum and Dad retired and thought they’d enjoy the quiet life, but Mum always said she didn’t want to stagnate. She wanted to find something that kept her busy and this has brought us all closer together.
In fact, Aimee is starting to be involved, so it’s becoming a third-generation family business. This has developed and allowed us to spend more time together.
It’s become more than mother-daughter… it’s about collaborating… it’s about being partners. We do lots of things together, we make decisions together and that’s very important.
But it hasn’t completely taken over Mum and Dad’s lives. If they want to go out for lunch, or go on a holiday, they have the freedom to be able to do those things first… SoKo Designs never takes precedence over them enjoying their retirement. Actually… the income from SoKo Designs pays for the extra luxuries that they might want.”
When Shirley’s husband, Jim, retired, they sought the services of First Financial and it immediately gave them confidence that their future would be secure. Kathleen explains,
“Dad had always worked for other people… so having their retirement income looked after by a professional team was a huge relief for them and is why they’ve continued with First Financial all these years.
Dad was part of a generation where superannuation wasn’t a huge focus… they had to be careful that what he had at the end of his working life was going to sustain them. First Financial has been able to look after that really well for them.
And it’s made me more comfortable that I don’t have to step in and manage it for them… as a child I don’t want to ever be in a position where I have to take over, unless they want me to… I want them to always feel comfortable.
More than anything, I want Mum and Dad to enjoy their life and do the things they love doing… without having to worry about finances.”