The Entrepreneur’s Journey Of Oh My Giddy Aunt

Nikki Johnston shares her entrepreneur’s journey with Oh My Giddy Aunt, a business she founded that has been creating exquisite keepsakes and pieces designed to tell a story and last a lifetime.

I think I was destined to be a Giddy Aunt. I’ve always been drawn to the significance of trinkets and keepsakes collected to tell the stories of our lives and spent hours as a child poking through my Nana’s jewellery boxes. Keepsakes evoke memories of a person, place or time and I can tell you a story about each of my treasures. I love to hear the stories associated with other people’s mementos too because it is the stories we tell each other that connect us as human beings. Creating something you know will be treasured for many years to come brings great satisfaction and joy. Being a Giddy Aunt is my dream job.

I’ve always been intrigued by the sentimentality of Victorian and Edwardian jewellery. Many of these romantic pieces are still worn today even though the wearer may no longer understand the original meaning. When my nieces and nephews were born I wanted to give them gifts that would also have the same sort of significance and forever remind them of a chapter in their story.

Aside from the material value I understand how precious each keepsake is to the customer and it is equally important to me that a keepsake is loved. There is nothing more rewarding than hearing an Oh My Giddy Aunt keepsake made someone cry… in a good way of course!

From the beginning I wanted my designs made in Australia. I’ve been working with many of the same suppliers and jewellers for over a decade and I know they all have the same commitment to quality. While it hasn’t been possible to keep everything Australian made, all of my original designs are still made here, and most of the ‘ready to send’ pieces are designed by Australian businesses.

I was lucky when I started Oh My Giddy Aunt in 2003 that online shopping was really just starting to take off. Being online that early has had its rewards but it has also had many (many, many) challenges.

The web allowed me to create a niche that wasn’t reliant on my customers being in the same geographical area as me. This meant I could move away from mass-produced items and deal directly with individual customers to create personalised pieces at a reasonable price. It also necessitated finding different ways to communicate and build trust when you weren’t face-to-face. 11 years later we have a strong base of repeat customers and a growing group of ‘friends of friends’ but it still takes a lot of work to let people know where we are and how we can help. Facebook and social media have provided different ways to interact and we often post ideas for new products online to get input before we go into production.

Getting the website right is a never-ending challenge. I expensively went through 5 different websites in the first 6 years until I finally found a team and structure I was happy with but even now it needs to constantly change to keep up with developments such as the current migration to phone shopping.

The time it takes to individually custom-make pieces has presented another hurdle as some people expect ‘next day delivery’ on everything! While we stock an extensive range of ‘ready to send’ keepsakes it is a constant challenge to get individually custom-made pieces out within a timeframe that suits the customer and the hard working elves!

The buzzwordisation of ‘personalised’ over the past few years has seen lots of mass-produced ‘personalised’ jewellery such as bead charms and machine-stamping. You can even get personalised jewellery in vending machines. Fads have mass-appeal for a while before everyone moves on to the next thing and I try to ignore the fads and stick with designs that are timeless, a little different and have more of a niche market appeal.

One of the downsides of being online is that your designs are seen by everyone. There have been copycats over the years but they don’t seem to stay around for long. Usually those who copy are in it for a quick buck, and cheap imitations are just that, but unfortunately it can be difficult to explain the difference online to the unknowing customer.

The biggest hurdle I have had (to date) was a ‘major technical glitch’ a few years ago which resulted in my website virtually dropping off the planet for a few months. Fortunately I had enough repeat customers who kept us going but the enormity of the effort it took to rebuild was probably the closest I have ever come to throwing in the towel.

All businesses have ups and downs and you really just need to learn to ride the waves. The online waves have been quite different to the waves I rode when I was a Fairy Queen and had a bricks and mortar store but there is an amazing freedom to create in these waves that keeps me going!

I love what I do. I have books of ideas that I haven’t even started on yet, and life is a series of special occasions, milestones and never-ending inspiration. The babies I first started designing for are all growing up and opportunities for new special occasion keepsakes keep emerging. My challenge is to keep surfing and stay true to the mission of Giddy Aunts past and present who are the keepers of family stories and the tellers of wonderful tales.



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