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Design life… with Tamzyn Adding of Miss Lolo

Adding is owner of Miss Lolo, through which she sells vintage arm chairs, chaise lounges and couches, lovingly brought back to life with colourful buttons and vibrant fabrics.

What started as a hobby is now a growing business, and an impressive fan following – 26,000-plus-likes-on-Facebook-impressive, in fact.

“It started it when I was on maternity leave with my youngest daughter Bowie,” she says. “To be honest I was bored and looking for a new challenge.” 

Adding had several personal pieces of furniture re-worked, which turned out to be really popular amongst her friends and family.

She decided to try the market out and put a couple of pieces up for sale on Trade Me. They auctioned well, which proved to Adding that Miss Lolo had legs… and she hasn’t looked back since. 

Tamzyn Adding of Miss Lolo'sLove the name. What’s the inspiration behind it?

I’m named after my grandmother Lois (it’s my middle name) but everyone knew her as Lolo. She was an exceptional artist and enjoyed challenging the social boundaries in her youth.

Around the time we started contemplating this business was the same time my grandmother passed away. We viewed it as the end of one life but the beginning of another.

How has Miss Lolo changed from when it started to today?

Initially it was a little hobby. Now, not even two years later, we’re securing off-shore manufacturers and investigating retailers interested in stocking Miss Lolo furniture in other parts of the world.

What do you like about running Miss Lolo?

I actually get excited by fabrics, and I love the feeling I get when I walk into the showroom and get hit by a sea of colour. It’s impossible to feel sad surrounded by that much vibrancy.

I also love the challenges I’m currently facing as we move into a big growth phase and I particularly love collecting the finished pieces. Seeing exactly how my initial design sketch has turned out.

It all sounds very exciting, but what about the difficulties of owning your own business?

Without a doubt, it’s capital. We’re always limited by how much we can produce and how big we can potentially be. 

Not coming from any sort of a business background has been a huge learning curve, which uprooted many obstacles along the way as my knowledge just wasn’t there. We grew a very large social media following very quickly and have always felt like I’m trying to catch up. 

Another difficulty was receiving negative feedback from people who didn’t share the same design aesthetic. Initially I found that really hard to stomach as it felt like I was being personally attacked. As any artist will attest to your heart is very much in every piece and having it not received positively 100% of the time can be really difficult. 

Over the past year and half I’ve grown a much thicker skin.

What is your background in design prior to starting the company?

I’ve been a fashion stylist for more than 15 years. This gave me huge knowledge in colour and fabrics and how they will work together. Currently it is still very much my day-job as we aim to ramp up production. Company growth doesn’t come cheap.

What are the tools of your trade?

Three things: having a really good eye for colour and knowing how certain colours will work together, being sympathetic to the piece of furniture you’re working with, and keeping on the pulse of what’s happening in fashion. There are huge parallels between what’s happening currently in fashion and how that translates onto furniture. I’m aiming to always keep things fresh and on trend.

What is your advice to prospective small business owners in New Zealand?

The biggest advice is to talk to as many people as possible who have been successful in business.

I’ve approached so many people for advice and have been surprised by who agreed to chat with me. (I’ve just contacted Sir Richard Branson for advice but am still waiting for a reply… ) 

I’ve found being involved with The Icehouse hugely beneficial which led me to NZTE, which in turn has led me to KEA, and so on. Every little link in the chain helps me get one step closer to where I want to be.

Don’t let people talk you out of your goals – let the negativity fuel your fire. The more people tell me something can’t be done, the more determined I am to prove them wrong.  Unfortunately tall poppy syndrome still reigns true in NZ, but have the courage to do it anyway.

What now for Miss Lolo?

Right now we are very much entrenched in the growth stage. Through the assistance of amazing mentors, The Ice House, NZTE and a very supportive husband I’ll be heading overseas in the next few months to secure my manufacturers with the aim to be able to wholesale internationally.

We also have plans for a flagship store in Auckland and to start designing exclusive upholstery grade fabrics. I’m ridiculously ambitious and have big plans for Miss Lolo over the coming five years.

Surf, design, travel – these are the things that gets Leigh out of bed every morning (those, and a piping hot cup of milky tea). She holds qualifications in both fashion design and communications, and has written a bunch of fashion, beauty, food, travel and design stories.

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