For many people, motherhood is a time to take a step back from work and focus on family. But for Christina Fedders, it was the catalyst for a bold new venture: the founding of Designstuff, an online homewares retailer that has become a go-to destination for design-conscious Australians.

Christina’s career began in fashion, where she spent a decade as the general manager of buying and design at a large retailer in Melbourne. But when she became pregnant with her first child, Christina realised that the long hours required in fashion retail wouldn’t be sustainable for her family life. It was then that she saw a gap in the Australian market for high-quality, Scandinavian homewares, and Designstuff was born.

“At the time, there wasn’t much on offer in terms of Danish designer brands in Australia – especially within homewares,” Christina recalls. “I found myself, trip after trip, bringing back small pieces of homeware that could just fit in the little suitcase space I had left from buying trips to Denmark and other parts of Europe.”

With her experience in buying and an eye for good design, Christina felt confident that she could curate a selection of homewares that would resonate with Australian consumers. And she was right: over the past decade, Designstuff has evolved into a thriving online business with a loyal following.

But Christina’s success hasn’t come without its challenges. As a woman in the design and retail industry, she has faced her fair share of obstacles – particularly when negotiating with manufacturers overseas. “I have once had a glass of milk served in front of me, whilst the 5 other men at the table enjoyed their rice wine,” she recalls. “Perhaps a way for them to put me in place after an hour-long negotiation about a manufacturing claim. Perhaps it was just because I was a young 25-year-old buyer far away from home – and nothing to do with me being a woman.”

But Christina has never let these experiences hold her back. She credits her success to her focus on quality time with her family, her leadership style, and her commitment to sourcing unique designs that stand out in a crowded marketplace.

In terms of work-life balance, Christina has found that quality time is more important than quantity. “In our family, we live for quality time,” she said. “Since the kids were born, we always have our meals together. We start the day together around the breakfast bench. Sitting around the dinner table is our special place where we debrief, talk about the day, and debate anything from school recess anecdotes to history, life lessons, and kids’ sport. We all tune in and are present for each other.” Fedders went on to say that her children appreciate the time she puts into her business and the fact that she shares stories with them about her travels and work life. She initially struggled with feelings of guilt about balancing work and family, but has since learned to be present in the moment and prioritise what matters most.

According to Christina, diversity and inclusion have played a natural and significant role in the team’s makeup. With the company based in Melbourne, which is known for being a melting pot of cultures, a diverse group of individuals has come together to form the team. “Except for a lack of males in the team,” she says, “We all bring a diverse set of skills, upbringing and cultural backgrounds.” Fedders credits the team’s unity to their passion for design, care for customers, and respect and compassion for one another, emphasising that they are one team.

As a leader, Christina believes in empowering her team to make decisions and trusting in their abilities. “I choose to always believe the better in people – until proven otherwise of course,” she says. “By empowering the team to make decisions on their own I believe my trust in them instils a certain confidence and with confidence we tend to trust ourselves more in making the right decision, which in turn helps the business.”

Some may argue that finding success as an entrepreneur requires more than just passion and determination. They may argue that it requires a specific set of skills, connections, and even luck. However, Christina believes anyone with a niche market they’re passionate about, and a supportive network, anyone can succeed as an entrepreneur. She emphasises the importance of surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals who possess a diverse skill set to help overcome any challenges. Despite the hard work and potential difficulties, Christina encourages aspiring entrepreneurs to take the leap, trust themselves, and most importantly, enjoy the process along the way.

Looking ahead, Christina sees both challenges and opportunities in the ever-evolving world of ecommerce and design. As online retail becomes more competitive, she is committed to continuing to source unique designs and delivering exceptional service to customers. As for the future of Designstuff, Christina has big plans. “Another decade has now passed since the launch of Designstuff and whilst I at times miss fashion, I have never regretted the decision,” she says. “I am proud of what Designstuff has become today, yet there is so much more I would like to achieve with the brand.”

With her focus on quality, trust in her team, and commitment to delivering exceptional design, it’s clear that Christina Fedders is a leader to watch in the world of design and retail.