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Vanessa Bell Mumbition the Podcast

Mumbition

The Podcast By Mums & Co

Episode 90: Turning childhood dreams into successful reality with Emily Riggs

Emily Riggs

Founder of Iris & Wool

April 30, 2024
Emily Riggs is the founder of the Australian fashion brand Iris & Wool, a company that has turned her childhood dream into a successful reality. Her story is one of triumph over tragedy. After experiencing great loss personal challenges, she channelled her love for fashion into creating a brand that promotes Australian merino wool while giving back to important causes like breast and childhood cancers. Emily’s journey from adversity to entrepreneurship exemplifies the resilience and compassion found within the business-owning community, especially among women who seek to make a positive impact.

Links 

Australian Merino Wool Knitwear for Women | Iris & Wool – Iris and Wool
Iris & Wool (@irisandwool)• Instagram photos and videos
https://www.facebook.com/irisandwool
Emily Riggs (@emilyriggs1) •Instagram photos and videos

Credits 

Produced by - Lucy Kippist 
Edited by -
Morgan Brown 
‍Interviewers - Carrie Kwan and Lucy Kippist 
‍Guest – Emily Riggs 

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00:00:05:08 - 00:00:24:21

Emily Riggs

I am a wife, mum, a fashion brand business owner, a thought leader and ambassador. My why to bring fashion back to nature and to build a global merino wool fashion brand that supports the wool industry while also giving back to important causes close to my heart, like breast and childhood cancers.

 

00:00:26:08 - 00:00:43:01

Lucy

Something I've noticed withinour community, Carrie, is the way in which adversity or a person's struggleshave inspired the creation of their business and their drive to create asolution so that that product or service really eases the path forward forother women.

 

00:00:43:01 - 00:00:51:18

Carrie

Absolutely Lucy, and thatcompassionate quality, that wanting to give back, it's really evident when youlook at our business owning community.

Emily Riggs, who is our guest ontoday's episode of Mumbition, she's a terrific example of that. And she turnedto fashion and design after a personal illness and then the loss of her mum,and then her business Iris and Wool grew from there. Based on a sheep farm inSouth Australia. Emily is also true and passionate advocate for rural basedwomen. So, Emily, we love sharing women's stories.

 

Please tell us yours.

 

00:01:22:13 - 00:01:25:06

Emily Riggs

Thank you very much for havingme on the podcast. That's great.

 

00:01:25:06 - 00:01:55:05

Emily Riggs

My childhood, the first few years,half of my childhood was idyllic. Australian, quintessential Australia. I grewup in the country. My parents were by schoolteachers, and my grandparents andcousins had a farm, so all my summer holidays were spent down on the farm withthem, riding horses from dawn to dusk.

Just beautiful. And I remembermy auntie had the best clothes and she'd always let us play with them. And foras long as I can remember, it's been a joy for me to play with clothes. Butlittle did I know that as a nine year old that fashion would become myprotection and help me to survive.

When I was nine years old, I wasdiagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and not many nine year olds would knowwhat this meant. But I did because Mum was in the battle of her life withbreast cancer. I remember one of the first things I said was, God, I don't wantto lose my hair because obviously Mum was bald and so sadly within a year of myor a year into my treatment, sorry, Mum sadly lost her battle. She died. Shewas only 43. It was the hardest time of my life. I lost mum. I was so sick Icould barely get out of bed and I did end up losing my hair and on occasions Iwas mistaken for a boy. And that really shattered my confidence, being a nine/ten year old girl being called a boy. So it was sort of then that I turned tofashion. I was a wife, I loved putting outfits together, getting dressed up,and it was a way for people to look beyond my illness. And I remember what athrill it was when someone would compliment me. It was just so lovely thatsomeone would come at me even though I looked sick and awful.

But so now I definitely ifsomeone compliments me, I make sure I look them in the eye and thank themsincerely. And so then, yeah, fast forward that long winded story. Fast forward20 years on, I fell in love with a hot farmer. And who is Tom? My husband, and heis a fifth generation wool producer.

So I also fell in love withAustralian merino wool and I thought, how could I contribute to the industry?And also do something that I love in fashion? So I then created my fashionbrand, which is called Iris and Wool, and we are in our fifth year business andyeah, so loving it, just going, going really well.

 

00:04:30:12 - 00:04:32:01

Carrie

Wow. What a journey. You know, Ithink that when you said that, that fashion has always been something that youcan come back to and have the magic of fashion in your life, you know, to helpyou go through some really tough times as well, and sorry, I know you have yourtwo young children as well. And they would have been five years old ,

 

00:04:55:09 - 00:05:15:08

Emily Riggs

Yes I had a newborn, my son Sam,I launched when I was breastfeeding him, they were long nights. That was how itall sort of came about. It was just one of those long nights fading Samie and Ithought, how can I contribute to the industry? And that's when Iris and Woolwas born.

 

00:05:15:23 - 00:05:17:16

Carrie

Wow. That's really special, too,isn't it? Incredible. And I think that almost a third of business owning womenin Australia have launched their business whilst they're on maternity leave.I'm not sure, maybe there's lots going on at that time in your life and maybejust that sort of you're questioning how you can actually make an impact or howyou can actually pursue something you're passionate about. And this, thisobviously was one of those times.

 

00:05:47:16 - 00:05:48:14

Emily Riggs

Yeah, definitely.

 

00:05:48:20 - 00:06:13:15

Carrie

I know that there's so much youknow, when I was looking into your website, obviously doing a bit of researchand knowing about your story, that certainly there's been a lot of blendingbetween what your purpose is with your business now as well, because I knowthat you do a lot of work in that space to help those that are experiencingcancer or able to with your beanies, right. Tell us a little bit about that.

 

00:06:16:17 - 00:06:44:11

Emily Riggs

Yeah, we have have recentlystarted donating. We do a little children's collection as well, so I now donatelittle kids beanies to a South Australian charity called Childhood CancerAssociation. And they so they give every newly cancer diagnosed child in SouthAustralia, they give them a hospital bag full of all the essential items thatyou need just to help ease the burden for the families.

And that's just one part of whatthey actually do. But I've also now donated one of our beanies to go into thathospital bag and it's quite gorgeous, I received a photo of a young girl justbrought back my memories and she had obviously had a wig on with thesebeautiful long plaits and then had my beanie over that.

And I just I got sent that fromthe parents and it's just, yeah, very heartwarming. And we also donate a dollarfrom each sale so to that same charity as well. Yeah. Giving back is veryimportant because - I and I understand what they've been going through, whatthey are going through. So it's, it's just a nice touch. What we can do.

 

00:07:27:07 - 00:07:29:08

Carrie

Just beautiful. Now on that,what's the most transferable verbal skill between running a business and beinga mother to two young children?

 

00:07:36:23 - 00:07:46:06

Emily Riggs

I think that we can multitask.We can do 100 things at once. We might be juggling, but we sort of just tend toget it done, don’t we.

When there's a dream or a goalthat you want to achieve, I think, yeah, you just go for it and give you all.

 

00:07:54:11 - 00:08:27:13

Lucy

Emily, you touched on the senseof community and giving back. Before with your beautiful beanies. But we alsoknow that you're based in rural South Australia. Your joining, I think it'saround 30% of all business owning women in Australia are in rural or regionalareas. So I'm just wondering, what do you think your connection to your owncommunity, and I guess rural Australia at large, having, you know, anunderstanding of what it's like to be a business owning woman outside of ametro area, how have those connections helped you to strengthen your business?

 

00:08:30:19 - 00:09:00:12

Emily Riggs

Well, I think the regionalcommunities and people that actually have allowed me to grow the business,they've been there from day one. They've supported me. That was my firstcustomers even regional boutiques they take some of the first people, firstbusinesses that took a gamble on the brand and stocked Iris & Wool. RS Somewell, so I'll be forever grateful to our regional community and also organisationssuch as Buy from the Bush. They really helped grow my brand as well. And so Ithink, yeah, but a lovely community to be to be in. And I hope I can help otherbusinesses starting out, like I was helped when I was starting out.

 

00:09:15:17 - 00:09:22:23

Lucy

Yeah, it's such a beautiful,ongoing relationship. Now you're joining us today, as you said earlier fromyour shop, which is exciting. What are some of your favourite way to connectwith your customers, whether you're in the shop or online.

 

00:09:30:17 - 00:09:44:13

Emily Riggs

Well, I, I get a real thrill ofjust walking down the street, just minding my own business and I look up andthere's someone in Iris and Wool and it’s like, Wow, how does that happen?

Even like in Adelaide, Iremember once I was just driving in the back streets of Adelaide and looked tothe side of a lady walking with her daughter and she was wearing Iris and Wool!I was like, oh my goodness. I just, yeah, I love, love seeing that. And then Iobviously go up and thank them and say they look beautiful, and thank them forthe support.

And then I also, yeah, just onInstagram, I've been able to sort of connect really well with my customers onInstagram. I speak from my heart. I share my vulnerabilities and the behind thescenes, and I think they really connect with that too.

 

00:10:26:10 - 00:10:33:20

Carrie

And just building on that, canyou share some of the ways that you've found has worked well to boost thevisibility of your online business?

 

00:10:34:02 - 00:11:02:08

Emily Riggs

Yeah. So getting seen is hard,especially on the online fashion business thing. It's so saturated. The fashionfashion industry is quite - there's so many brands, but I have really honed inon sharing my personal story, my back story, being as truthful and raw aspossible and hoping people can relate. And hopefully I can help people andinspire people. And I've just really done that through social media and a lotof PR, and then I've also had partnerships and collaborations have been a bigthing for the business, such as I a couple of years ago just on a whim sentsome items to Mia Freedman and she shared them on her social media. And withindays I was sold out of those product lines. She's the definition of influencer.She was just incredible what some woman, what one woman can do. And then I'vealso done a collaboration with Katrina Roundtree, which we designed a five piececapsule collection together. And so that so that was really good. She was shereally aligned well with the brand. She's married to a merino sheep farmer aswell, and have my target audience following her.

So that really helped the brandstoo. And also I, I go out and speak a fair bit too. I used to be, believe it ornot, terrified of public speaking. I still have a real fear of it, but I pushthrough it because I know it does help people when I'm vulnerable. And it'salso a good way of getting the business name out there too.

 

00:12:18:08 - 00:12:26:08

Carrie

And so tell us a little bitabout that. I imagine it would been so much fun developing a capsule collectionwith Katrina. Like the energy.

 

00:12:28:20 - 00:12:54:15

Emily Riggs

So brilliant energy too, just alovely person. And now we're friends. So yeah, it was just the way it happened.She was actually at a local show here, not from far from Barra, and I knew shewas the AWI wool ambassador. I knew she was heavily involved in promoting the fibre.So I me, who doesn't like to hear the word “no” I just ask. If you don't ask,you won't ever know. So I just approached her and yeah, next thing I knew, wewere designing for our piece collection, which sold out. And now one of thedresses ways that's been become quite synonymous for Iris & Wool. We’vedone different versions of it, this spring/summer we’ve done a short version ofit. Short sleeved and shorter length. Whenever she can, she helps me with thebrand now. And we’ve become quite good friends!

 

00:13:40:16 - 00:13:49:04

Carrie

gorgeous. And for thoselistening, Emily's just picked up a beautiful navy blue merino wool dress withruffle neck collar.

You'll just have to go in to thewebsite to have a look.

And one more thing that you'vementioned is that I'm really appreciative that you called out, is that you usedto not like public speaking that much, and now you enjoy it because that isthat is one of the things that a lot of our community find. We find with a lotof our community that they want visibility, but they haven't actually justprocessed that they need to talk about their business and that they can. Andthat's perfectly normal at the start. But once they get a few tips and tricksunder their belt and a little bit of coaching, you end up loving talking aboutyour business.

 

00:14:33:06 - 00:14:48:23

Emily Riggs

Yeah, you do. And it’s just sortof natural too. And you know your story you know your love, your strength. Sothat's just. Yeah, it's the one and it's another wonderful way to connect withcustomers and another network. So you meet people going to different events tospeak at and yeah.

 

00:14:49:13 - 00:15:00:13

Carrie

Absolutely. And we do a lot ofpractice your pitching and pitch coaching at Mums & Co. We’ve got anamazing online course where people can learn how to literally be confident andarticulate with their pitch in under a minute.

 

00:15:03:04 - 00:15:06:13

Emily Riggs

I’m not so good at that.

 

00:15:09:01 - 00:15:23:13

Carrie

Now you started Iris & Woolas a way of expressing your creativity, which is I think, foundational to yoursense of well-being. What else do you do each week to create a sense of groundness?

 

00:15:23:21 - 00:15:52:15

Emily Riggs

I love running. Some peopleprobably wouldn't think that was creating a sense of wellness, but for me itis. It's sort of my way of meditating. I suppose I can zone out and listen topodcasts such as this one, and really yeah, just stay with myself, with me andI do PT once a week, but my PT actually works for me at Iris & Wool too, soshe gets me back in the gym.

 

00:15:57:11 - 00:15:59:13

Carrie

Accountability, right there!

 

00:16:01:01 - 00:16:10:17

Emily Riggs

I think walking through thedoors of my shop, I think that just gives me a sense of joy and what I'veachieved. And it's my happy place, I suppose.

 

00:16:11:17 - 00:16:26:09

Lucy

Emily at Mums and Co, we talkabout the concept of harmony as being a triangle of our ambition and livelihoodand our well-being, all the things we've touched on in this interview today.But we were wondering if you could share or describe the shape of a good lifefor you.

 

00:16:26:09 - 00:16:51:23

Emily Riggs

Yeah. So as my lovely mother inlaw who's had which I passed away about ten days ago of pancreatic cancer,she'd always tell me your health is your wealth and the rest in life is abonus. So I think, yeah, your health is the most important thing. If you're nothealthy, you can't enjoy life's possibilities and the wonderful things thatlife can offer you.

So yeah, I just wanted to saythat as a tribute to my dear mother in law that yeah, we've sadly lost. Notthat long ago.

 

00:16:59:16 - 00:17:01:04

Lucy

So sorry to hear that.

 

00:17:01:04 - 00:17:02:16

Emily Riggs

Thank you.

 

00:17:02:16 - 00:17:23:22

Lucy

Our final question then, is andI know one that will resonate with you because you're obviously a firmsupporter of women everywhere, but in the spirit of women supporting women whoare the Mumbitious and that's the Mums and Co I would for women who areunapologetically blending their motherhood and ambition that you would like tosay hello to today.

 

00:17:23:22 - 00:17:57:14

Emily Riggs

So, firstly, I'd just like tosay a big hello to all the farmers wives out there. Most of them would be inthe midst of harvest or about to harvest, and that is a busy time on the farm,and their husband's missing in action for a good couple of months. So I seeyou. But then also my next farm neighbour, Steph Schmidt, who's she's a farmerand a psychologist, and she shares some great tips for us all on how to getthrough the farming seasons.

And yeah, she's just a wonderfulhuman. So look her up.

 

 

00:18:05:14 - 00:18:19:18

Carrie

Thanks so much for joining us onMumbition the podcast by Mums and Co today. Now if you would like to connectwith Emily and Iris & Wool, you can find her on the Mums and Co memberdirectory on our member platform.

And if you haven't already, jointhe thousands of business owning women just like you. Join us at mumsandco.com.au

We have membership tiers to suitwomen at all stages of business and motherhood.

 

00:18:34:09 - 00:18:38:12

Carrie

And if you enjoyed today'spodcasts, please rate and review us. Lucy and I love reading your reviews andyour feedback. It also means that more women in business can be supported andthey can tap into these Mumbitious stories to inspire and inform them.

 

00:18:52:00 - 00:18:55:03

Child (Co Question)

What is the best thing aboutliving on a sheep farm?

 

00:18:55:03 - 00:19:19:21

Emily Riggs

So the fresh air and freedom,the community and you've just got a natural born, ready made community aroundyou. And as corny as it sounds, it is a beautiful place to bring up kids - thedirt, the fresh air, the motorbikes, the tractors, the horses, all build resiliencein our kids and yeah, and it's specifically for my business it’s a bit of aunique selling point as well as the city people love to see, the real and rawbehind the scenes of farm life.