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Inside the polished world of Modern Times


Image credit: Broadsheet Media

Broadsheet in partnership with AAMI Business Insurance caught up with Modern Times owner, Amy Malin, to talk about her experience as a small business owner. In this interview, Malin shares her journey of opening up her furniture business, from the first pop-up shop to the bricks and mortar store in the heart of Fitzroy.

What is the most fulfilling thing about being a business owner?

I love the opportunity to create something, along with my partner Joel, in our own vision. Creative ideas that become a reality is such a thrill. I have learnt an incredible amount, that is what I love the most, going from a point of having no idea through a period of learning and then realisation. The personal growth opportunity is incredible. It has also been a privilege to be part of and help build a community – our beautiful team, the artists and makers we work with and the creative community at large that we exist within.

What are the biggest challenges you have faced as a business owner?

Not knowing anything! Needing to seek out the right information at the right time. Lots of googling!

Managing a team is both rewarding and hugely challenging but you kind of need to be a psychologist.

Compliance is a boring topic but it is a big challenge. It’s important to be aware of all the rules and regulations that affect your business and ensure you are meeting the requirements – wage rates, super, payroll tax, GST, working conditions etc.

What were your first steps when it came to promoting your business?

That part came pretty naturally. We decided to launch with a pop-up shop which was a relatively new concept at the time. It was less than 10 years ago before Instagram existed. Twitter was the place to be so I learnt a lot about the platform, reached out to creatives and tweeted about our first event which was the Modern Times Pop-Up Shop. I marketed our business primarily through Twitter and contacting media outlets. We started building a community from the very beginning and that has been an integral part of our success.

Tell us about Modern Times.

Modern Times uniquely pairs European design furniture with contemporary Australian art and design. We started out as a series of pop-up shops in 2011 and in 2012 we set up a permanent showroom in Smith St, Fitzroy.

We import vintage pieces from Europe that we hand-select on buying trips. When these arrive in Australia they are fully restored by our team of expert restorers who restore them to their former glory whilst still retaining a vintage character. In our showroom we pair the vintage furniture with art and objects from over 50 contemporary Australian artists and makers.

We rotate our showroom every two weeks, combing pieces in a series of rooms, we like to encourage a mixing of eras, the old with the new, creating contrasts that are unique and reflect different moods and personalities.

Do you have any tips for aspiring business owners?

Image credit: Broadsheet Media

Don’t underestimate the value of design. Good design and visual identity is priceless.

Defining your brand and brand values can be really helpful to help guide business decisions from product selection to deciding on partnerships and collaborations.

Don’t worry about all the stuff you don’t know! I say I went to ‘Google University’ to get all my business knowledge.

How do you juggle your work life balance?

It’s very hard. But it’s ok because I love what I do. Our team at MT all understand they work within a family business and when I’m on the phone with kids screaming in the background they are all very accommodating.

What has been the biggest high for you with Modern Times?

There has actually been so many. Being featured in the Monocle Guide to Melbourne, speaking on a panel with the NGV curator of design. Our New Heirlooms collaborations last Christmas. Our exhibition Material Thought for Melbourne Design Week.

There has actually been so many. Being featured in the Monocle Guide to Melbourne, speaking on a panel with the NGV curator of design. Our New Heirlooms collaborations last Christmas. Our exhibition Material Thought for Melbourne Design Week.

From humble beginnings to established businesses, AAMI Business Insurance offers flexible cover and has the products available to allow you to scale up your insurance as and when your business grows. We work with a range of industries; whether you’re a plant hire specialist, a chef, a designer or a tradie, we tailor to your unique needs. You can watch the full Spotlight On episode ft Modern Times.

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