From Maternity Leave to #Bossmama: The rise of Danish By Design

In Boss Mama, Features, MD Rated, Stories by Jessica Jane Sammut

This mama saw a BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY, so she POUNCED on it and changed the face of Australian interiors…

Gillian Rose had no idea that taking her first-born daughter, Anna-Sofie, back to her native Denmark for Christmas would lead to an entirely new business.

Having grown up in the Danish countryside, and moving to Australia in 1995, it was important to Gillian that she take her baby ‘home’ when she was six months old to spend her first Christmas with her Danish family.

“Anna-Sofie was given so many lovely gifts. One of them was a portable seat,” Gillian recalls. Upon returning home to Australia, Gillian was surprised at the level of admiration and attention that portable seat received from friends and strangers alike.

“I had no idea about import rules, freight, shipping and no contacts.”

It was Gillian’s hubby Nigel who first sparked the idea. “He said to me, ‘I think we should import them’. But I had no idea about import rules, freight or shipping, and I had no contacts in terms of selling. In fact, I had never done any selling.”

A mum of three, Gillian forged Danish by Design with a baby, a toddler and a primary schooler on the go.

And yet, in 2002, in the back office of their home in Black Rock, Melbourne, Gillian launched Danish by Design. With the aim of distributing beautiful Scandi pieces, Gillian started by selling the seat that started the idea – and it just grew from there.

That’s not to suggest it was easy. The mama-of-three recalls just how tough those first days were. “The initial challenge was to be taken seriously in the baby industry. We were a newcomer with one product. But we did it because the product was exceptional. And that’s still our philosophy – the products have to be exceptional.”

“I remember a time where I knew that any task would take me 3 weeks to get to.”

Kicking off her enterprise as a one-woman-band, the marketing and economics graduate had to learn the ropes of retail on the job. And with two little girls [Maia was born two years after Anna-Sofie, and then son Mattias two years after that], there wasn’t a great deal of time for much else. “I remember giving up on cleaning up because I just couldn’t get the house tidied up. After Mattias arrived, I remember a time where I knew that any task would take me three weeks to get to. My dad came to visit and immediately arranged for an au pair to help us out. What a life saver!”

Now, almost two decades after launch, Danish by Design distributes such beautiful brands as Leander, Troll, Bumbleride, Done by Deer and more.

So what’s next? “We are launching some exciting furniture ranges this year, expanding online and employing more staff.” In a world where retail is undergoing huge change, Gillian is leading the way. 


Instagram: @danish_by_design

Facebook: @danishbydesign

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