Q&A: Designing outdoor furniture “without compromise”

This week we talk to Penny Camplisson, founder of online furniture business Osier Belle, which specialises in luxury outdoor furniture. Osier Belle began as an online business selling outdoor furniture from China but Penny saw a gap for luxury outdoor furniture and decided to fill that gap by shifting the brand’s direction into creating their own designs that do not follow trends.

ISB: How did your interest in home furniture come about?

PC: Having moved numerous times in my life (34 in total!), it was really important to me that each home I relocated to was filled with welcoming comfort and humble indulgence. It’s amazing how you can transform a basic space into something enchanting, luxurious and wonderfully relaxing. I believe injecting all senses into your home with beautiful textures, scents, personality, music and little luxuries is so important. It is a real passion of mine that naturally extended into helping others achieve the same. Outdoor spaces are regularly underestimated due to being external and this throws people because of the bad reputation of outdoor furniture has of not lasting. Osier Belle furniture has been specifically designed to withstand the harshest conditions, including the cushions so no need to worry, just enjoy!

ISB: And what was it that spurred you into translating that area of interest into starting your own business in it?

PC: I saw a significant gap in the industry to create luxury outdoor furniture that was specifically designed to endure the Australian climate and didn’t look like the cookie-cutter type traditional outdoor furniture. Other brands are mass produced and designed in China, Europe and USA. Osier Belle has been meticulously created, with no compromise on quality and materials. Furthermore, as we set up our own factory for the brand, we can easily customise all our designs – a service not possible with other brands

ISB: You also ran a personal trainer business alongside this venture; how were you able to strike a balance handling both businesses?

PC: It was tough! I also had a young daughter and was divorced. Thankfully Iz was amazing but, at times things were quite overwhelming. Running two jobs was necessary as I didn’t have savings and the bank wouldn’t provide a business loan as I don’t own any property. I reviewed my situation and saw it as a benefit – personal training was physical and designing was mental; it was actually a great balance. Each gave be a break from the other. You have to look for a positive and keep striving forward. The only thing that will stop you succeeding is yourself.

ISB: Despite the challenges in the market, how have you been able the promise of maintaining the quality of your products without compromise?

PC: This is where the hard work of setting up my own factory has paid off. As soon as COVID hit, I invested in the materials we needed to stock up and we modified the working spaces and facilities in-house. My team are my family – they are amazing! We love and respect each other so I made sure they were protected, had everything they and their families needed so they were as safe as possible. In return, they continue to make and create without worry and with the comfort of knowing they are supported and genuinely cared for throughout this terribly difficult time.

ISB: What is your vision for Osier Belle a couple of years from now?

PC: Osier Belle has grown from a small idea in my back garden to a beautiful brand people get so much enjoyment from. In the 12 years of running, my customers have never brought to replace, only invested in more as they see how well the furniture lasts. We will continue to organically grow with referrals and recommendations. I refuse to put pressure on my factory to massively expand. We are not about quantity, we are all about quality – and I don’t want Osier Belle everywhere; that is why my customers buy it, it’s special and not a pedestrian brand.

ISB: What has been the most important lesson in your business journey with Osier Belle that other entrepreneurs can learn from?

PC: Knowledge is everything! If you don’t know the answer, go and discover it. Be kind to yourself and be your own cheerleader. There is always an answer, you just have to think laterally sometimes. Embrace the challenges and break down the problem; write out the issues and consider the solutions. And don’t be afraid! It’s only life and no one is judging you so stop wasting time criticizing yourself – be bold, be brave and bugger it – if you don’t give it a go you will never know!