Bondi Letters founder, Vanessa Opazo, wasn’t sure what to expect from her first gift fair, however, she is very happy with the outcome.
“I just had a three-month break, so I wasn’t overly prepared for the Sydney Gift Fair, but it was a beautiful experience and I met lots of different people,” she enthuses.
“Buyers who were interested in my products and wanted to sell them, but also people that just wanted to buy my products as a gift for someone else. They loved my products and had seen them on Instagram.”
Opazo, who is an architect by trade, came to Australia seven years ago from Spain on a working holiday visa, but it didn’t take long for her to find a steady job.
Dedicated to construction in her architectural role, she felt like she was losing her creative side—she studied both architecture and fine arts at university—and after browsing the internet she started practicing calligraphy and brush lettering.
“Every day after work, I was using it as a tool to ground myself and have some ‘me time’. I got really good at it and thought, I could teach this.
“So I started running workshops about three years ago (I love teaching and used to tutor back in Spain). As a hobby at first, it was more about having the experience than about the money. In fact, I started donating the money I made. For example, I did one workshop for the bushfires two years ago.”
When Covid hit and amidst the many lockdowns and people losing their jobs, Opazo realised that it was a good idea to have something of her own and she decided to cut her full-time job to three days and spend the rest of the week on building her business.
“I did a workshop with crystals and gave everyone a crystal with a word on it, that had a specific meaning to them. They loved it and the requests where they could buy them started coming in. At one point I had a waiting list of 100 people and I didn’t even have an online shop,” she explains.
“I started doing more workshops and it snowballed from there, so it was time to do the business full-time.”
But while the business is growing, Bondi Letters is part of a bigger plan, adds Opazo. “My vision is to have my own space where I can run workshops, but also be a space for other women, to share ideas, where we can help each other with the skills we have, so we don’t need to do everything on our own.
“Being an entrepreneur and trying to get your business going is scary, I have no idea what I’m doing at times, it’s overwhelming and there are so many things to learn. Having a circle of other women in the same position, collaborating and empowering each other, creating that sisterhood, having each other’s back, that’s what I envision. A space to transition from our full-time jobs to our dream jobs.”
Opazo has already collaborated with Tara from Wildfire Design Co on cards with zodiac prints. “When we launched the zodiac creative, I met Tara on Instagram and we decided to collaborate on cards with zodiac signs, got into prints and crystal prints. Our products are now available in 30 stores around Australia.
“I also got on really well with my neighbour (in the Artisan Lane zone) at the Sydney Gift Fair who is a jewellery designer and now we are collaborating on a new collection.”