Jennie Geisker is a Premium member and the founder and Creative Director of The Shirt Muse, an Australian fashion brand making women’s business shirts chic. We caught up with Jennie to find out how she pivoted from photography to fashion and created her dream job in the process.
What did you want to be growing up?
I wanted to be a photojournalist, but after I did work experience with The Australian while I was studying professional photography, but I soon realised I was chasing a dream that probably wouldn’t happen for a very long time. I think from memory, there were four full-time photographers who had been in the role for 20+ years and there really was no chance they would employ a young student into a role like that.
Where did you work before launching The Shirt Muse?
I was working as a capital works project coordinator for The Star casino. My office was based underground and I hardly ever saw daylight. I was also living in Avalon on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, so commuting to Pyrmont from Avalon every day is enough to drive anyone to start their own business.
Why did you decide to start The Shirt Muse?
I loved wearing french cuff shirts because they made me feel confident, but I struggled to find feminine versions. So I thought here was an opportunity to start a brand dedicated to women. There were only men’s brands offering a small range for women, usually very masculine in both style and colour options. I wanted to flip this on its head and really drive feminine business fashion for women.
“I believe in supporting jobs and industries in Australia, but most importantly I now know with confidence that our garments are made ethically.”
How important is it that everything is made in Australia?
I actually always wanted The Shirt Muse made in Australia but initially, I struggled to find any manufacturers in Australia so I went offshore. However when I moved to Perth four years ago (I’m now back in Syd), I happened to find a brilliant Australian manufacturer and decided then and there to move production to Australia. It was and still is more expensive here, but I have full visibility of where and how our garments are made and it allowed me to join the Australian Made campaign. I believe in supporting jobs and industries in Australia, but most importantly I now know with confidence that our garments are made ethically. This clear visibility is what’s important to me personally, and for the brand that I’m creating.
How did you juggle your side-hustle while working full-time?
Initially, it was easy because I hadn’t launched yet so I was designing product, sourcing fabrics, building the website, so there was no real pressure or deadlines, which was all manageable in the evenings and on weekends. As launch day got closer, I realised if the business was ever to become a success I needed to dedicate full-time hours to it.
What gave you the confidence to take the leap to leave your corporate career?
The more you work on your own business, the more exciting it becomes, and the more your current role becomes less appealing and eventually, you just have to follow your gut and heart and give it a go. It’s a case of ‘you never know what could be’ until you do. I always think of worst-case scenarios when making big decisions and if I can handle the worst-case, then I’m good. In this case, I just thought I can always go back to work if it fails.
How have you leveraged Instagram to drive sales?
Social media and Instagram are great tools for showcasing more about your brand than its products. People want to feel as though they are part of a brand and their journey. I love that you can interact directly with your customers, it truly is priceless. Fashion, in particular, is very visual so Instagram is perfect for launching products or showcasing behind-the-scenes on photoshoots. All of this drives inspiration and eventually leads customers to your website.
Hit us with your best social media tips.
- Have great imagery. I’m constantly working with photographers, models, and influencers to build content. If you are unsure about an image, then it’s not worth posting.
- Research the right hashtags for your brand.
- Be engaging with your customers and followers. Respond to comments and comment on their pages.
- Post at key times. There’s no point in posting a photo at 3 am. AND always credit imagery.
What’s been your biggest learning curve?
I’m not one of those people that say “I have no regrets” because I have a list of business regrets. I think with the beauty of hindsight, I would make different decisions. I’m constantly learning from my mistakes, but that also means I’m constantly growing and this is a good thing.
The biggest learning curve I’ve ever had is that I became a mum for the first time 9 months ago, and the juggle is hard. Managing the business and full-time care of my daughter Elizabeth has been a major learning curve. I have developed new skills and a whole new level of organisation!
What’s your five-year plan?
I have to reign in my business objectives to be in line with the businesses cash flow and my actual current work hours. I think there’s my vision and then there’s reality and somewhere in the middle is where I’ll end up. For TSM I’m launching our own jewellery line and a casual Tee Shirt line. I’m planning on setting up a new head office in the CBD and I have my eyes on a retail store in Barangaroo. With me it’s never a question of if but when. Once I make a decision, I’m pretty ambitious and driven (some would say stubborn) to make things happen, whether that be now or in 5 years. I do plan to make it happen, somehow, some way.
Why did you join Business Chicks?
I went to my first event on my own when I was still working full-time to push myself out of my comfort zone, and then I was addicted after that. It was such a great event, I just remember leaving on a high. Since running my own business it’s been great to get myself out of the office interacting with others and finding inspiration from the speakers. I always leave having learned something or met someone.
What does Business Chicks do for you and your business?
Going to a BC event without a doubt always leaves me energised and empowered. I have met so many women through BC, not just customers or leads but women that help me in some way, I actually can’t imagine my business journey without BC by my side. Now, that’s a quote 🙂
Connect with Jennie here, check out The Shirt Muse here.