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When founder of Monkeysee Denise Straty left the corporate world, she was left with wondering what she was going to do with her time. She had spent 17 years working in some of the biggest banks in Australia but she knew it was time for something different and she wanted to create something innovative.
Many business owners leave the corporate world to break out on their own. Of course, this isn’t always easy to do. However, Denise is a problem solver and when she began noticing how vulnerable cyclists were on the roads it sparked an idea.
She wanted to make things safer for cyclists. She says, “As a cyclist myself, we are invisible. I wanted a way of bringing something for people to wear that’s safe yet fashionable”.
Denise has always had an entrepreneurial mindset. So she began researching existing products in the cycling market and thinking about the cycling industry as a whole. She adds, “The cycling world is growing. We have to encourage alternative modes of transport. And that’s where cycling comes into it.”
Along with the help of a designer friend, Denise started putting some ideas together. She says, “The idea was to come up with something smart, light and playful”. One of the first products Denise developed was the harness – an adjustable and lightweight accessory in various colours. She adds, “I wanted to create something to wear with what the everyday rider is already wearing. I wanted to look out for them. They are the demographic that I wanted to target.”
While Denise was working on developing products geared towards cyclists, she began receiving inquiries for wholesale promotional products. In 2010, Denise sponsored Ride 2 School for primary schools and she provided products for the event. Following that, she started getting inquiries. Unexpectedly, a new branch of the business emerged. She found herself working alongside councils and organisations to source fun and effective promotional products for them to use as giveaways.
Monkeysee eventually developed into both the online store and the wholesale arm which supplies promotional products to councils and other community organisations. The unique thing about Monkeysee is Denise’s enthusiasm for products and ideas that fit with her clients’ target audience. Rather than supplying a catalogue, Denise works closely with her clients whether big or small to research ideas and source the very best products for the most effective outcome.
After travelling the world, exploring the ways in which people would embrace hi-vis, Denise realised that she was a little ahead of her time. She says, “Interestingly enough, the demand for hi-vis was low. People weren’t looking for it. You have to educate people about your product. But nowadays, times are changing. People are starting to embrace hi-vis. People don’t necessarily know that there is good looking hi-vis. They just assume it is a daggy workman’s vest. It’s all about getting the product into more and more hands.”
Denise, like many small business owners, has faced her share of obstacles along the way. She says, “I never look at what I have achieved, I always focus on what I haven’t. This is something I still need to work on. But it’s very difficult when you are alone. It’s hard to pat yourself on the back. It’s not easy having to make every single business decision all by yourself”.
Denise also finds it challenging working from home and finds the isolation difficult. She adds, “I developed depression for a while. There were things that I needed to do, but then would be put off by the fact that it required a lot of effort. It’s hard when you are self-employed. It really does knock your confidence. I told myself I can’t hide behind my business anymore. I needed to emotionally step up and move. It was a big leap for me”.
Since the birth of Monkeysee in 2010, Denise has been juggling both the wholesale and retail. It has since developed into a full time business, she has rebranded and also developed a new set of products. She says, “I really needed to put more energy into the business. I didn’t feel like I had enough for people to choose from.”
Next on her list is to develop Monkeysee runners, walkers and maybe even hi-vis for dogs. She is also considering hiring a part time employee to help her to promote her brand. This would allow her to delegate her marketing tasks in order to focus on the retail side of the business. She adds, “I need to get my products out there, and let people know about these great products.”