After relaunching womenswear brand Decjuba in 2008 to resounding success, and growing it from eight stores to more than 90 by 2019, she’s become one of Australia’s richest businesswomen.
Uniview spoke to alumna and mum-of-three Tania Austin (BPsych 1994) about business, philanthropy and the passion she feels for her fast-growing team of employees.
Firstly, what are your memories of UWA?
Every life experience leaves an impression – UWA was an incredible part of my learning journey. With a large team to manage at Decjuba and so many personalities it means thinking outside the box all the time, and looking at problems in a creative way was a skill I honed during my time at UWA.
I often talk of a ‘trained mind’ and I think that education gives you the training, but how you apply it is up to you. I did great groundwork at UWA but getting out there and doing it for real was what drove me.
Style and substance - Tania Austin.
You started with Cotton On before moving on to Decjuba – what were the important lessons you were able to take with you into the new business?
Always be true to yourself – don’t look at what others are doing. Don’t listen to the noise around you – it’s just that. Having your own business isn’t about pleasing everyone else, it’s about staying focused.
Have a clear vision, stay true to that vision and have clarity in how you share it. Being able to communicate your vision is vital. Don’t be afraid to fail fast and fail often – take the learnings and move forward quickly.
How much of your own personal fashion style is invested into Decjuba? Do you get as hands-on as working with the buyers, designers and stylists in influencing the look and feel?
Decjuba is about delivering fashion that women want and need, not just my personal style. But the DNA of the brand is absolutely a reflection of how I dress combined with comfort. It’s easy and it’s about keeping it real.
We have an amazing team who I work closely with on each range. I travel overseas with the product team four to six times a year and we take inspiration from all around the world, but in essence we have a very clear mandate around delivering amazing products and that’s what we do.
I’m a massive believer in bringing the right people on board and then letting them do what they do best, whatever their department.
"I'm a big believer in keeping it real".
You’re a successful businesswoman and also a mum-of-three. How and where do you find balance?
Don’t labour over small stuff. Give yourself permission not to be perfect – no one is. I don’t focus on ‘balance’. I think the idea of balance itself is an interesting concept – I don’t want to compartmentalise my life into work or play. It’s all life.
I think there is a huge amount of pressure for people to have it all and be everything. For me, I work on priorities and stay true to what’s important to me. Know what you want to do and put a plan in place to do it. We all have the same hours in a day and we can all choose what we do with them.
I have three kids and, for me, they are my number one. It’s easy once you know what drives you – sometimes it’s hard figuring that out!
Do you believe in ethical manufacturing and how do Decjuba’s values play out when it comes to garment manufacturing, particularly overseas?
Absolutely! I’ve just come back from an annual trip to visit our suppliers through China – four cities, three days, 12 factories. It’s important for me to see and be in touch with what we are doing on the ground. Our production teams visit our partners in China around every eight weeks, working closely with our teams on ethical compliance.
Our company values are centred on honesty, bravery, integrity, innovation and optimism – these govern all our dealings both internal and external and are super-important to how we operate at every level. Our partners must comply with our own set of non-negotiable principles regarding zero child or forced labour, working conditions, wages, animal rights, sustainability, bribery and corruption.
What’s next for the label? Can you give Uniview readers a heads up as to what we might expect in the future?
One thing for sure – we have no plans to slow down. And incredible product ranges, bringing you things you didn’t even know you needed! We’ll hit 100 stores by the end of the year, bringing our effortless and edgy fashion to more people across Australia and New Zealand (and, through online, to the rest of the world).
There'll also be more exciting collaborations with our charity partners – when we give, everyone wins!
What are your top three tips for young (or old!) grads who might be reading this and thinking about starting their own business/entrepreneurial journey?
1. Say yes to every opportunity – learning along the way is how you get to where you want to go.
2. Ask more questions – never stop asking them.
3. Challenge yourself first and then surround yourself with people who challenge you again.
Keep moving "I have no plans to slow down," says Tania.