As a small, family-owned business, we love supporting the other small business in the Australian climbing scene. As part of this effort, we are rolling out a series of Q & As with some of the amazing local producers that we work with and running a little promo. In this installment, we chat with Marcia from Early Bird Handmade, the brains behind those awesome chalk bags you see at the gyms and the crags.
How did you start climbing?
I started climbing when I moved to a classic West End share house with three climbers about 5 years ago. Since then my life turned around and I made many friends including my fiancé.
What motivates you to keep climbing?
I feel in my bones the health benefits of climbing. It’s a moving meditation when I forget the busy days, the problems and anxieties and I can only think about the present while I improve my overall physical and mental health. Other than that, climbing is part of my social life, I get to share quality time with my friends and my partner, enjoy camping or day trips around beautiful places and feel the nature under my feet (and hands).
What do you do when you’re not working on Early Bird Handmade?
I spend reasonable time sewing new outfits, gifts, new cushions for the house, browsing for new fabric designs and inspiration. I spend (not at the moment) every other evening climbing and dreaming of climbing trips and planning incredibly intricate camping trips packing. During usual working hours I am Administration Coordinator at Brisbane Festival. Arts is another of my biggest passions.
Tell us about Early Bird Handmade and what sets it apart from similar brands?
Ops! I didn’t spend much time looking at other similar brands now I’m thinking if this is good or bad. Haha. I know that I hope there is out there more people like me making quality products that are fun, functional and made to bring extra sparkle of joy to every climb there will be always space for everyone to shine.
Early Bird Handmade constantly searches for opportunities to positively impact in the community, and other fellow smalls business whistle keeping in mind its environment footprint.
The chalk bag design for example was defined due to its minimum waste of material, the labels are 100% cotton and supplied by someone like me with a home workshop based in Brisbane, the brand was designed by an exceptionally talented, Mexican, West End based illustrator Paola Castro, I reuse bits of wasted material to attached the tags and many other details. Moving forward there are many more ideas waiting for the right weather to take sail.
What gave you the idea to start Early Bird Handmade?
There is something extra special about handmade gifs, that has always been my preferred choice to my family and friends. Having so many climber friends combined with my love for sewing making chalk bags was a question of time. Not a long after I gifted chalk bags to some friends, I started having requests for sale, so I decided to start selling online. When the team at Pinnacle Sports started stocking Early Bird Handmade bags, it was a bit of a steppingstone. Things jumped to a new level and I steered the business to a more structured path including investing in bettering the workspace and machinery.
What was the development process like for Early Bird Handmade?
Early Bird Handmade just turned 1 year so the development process is still ongoing, and I suspect it will always be. One thing at the time, I first focussed on defining the best product possible. Finding the right size, the ideal design to reduce fabric waste, the softest lining, the ideal webbing and so on. There were many trials, asking around for professional’s opinions and taking onboard many kind feedbacks. The next step was to search for suppliers, locally where possible making choices with the environmental footprint in mind and that do not considerably impact the feasibility of the business and the shelf price keeping it at an accessible cost. Next was the development of name and brand which involves lots of research and thinking around the identity and reasoning of starting this journey. And finally point of sale, creating social medias, online stores and searching for physical point of sales opportunities.
Aside from COVID-19, what do you think is the biggest challenge facing local producers of climbing products?
For me it has been to open new venues of sale. I see the Early Bird chalk bags available in many other rock climbing gear stores, however, I don’t always encounter open arms like I did with Pinnacle. But that is okay too, I will continue the good battle and make those cute bags available as much as possible to our beloved climbing community.
What would you like to see happen with Early Bird Handmade in the future?
As Early Bird Handmade grows, the goal of expanding work opportunity for woman in underprivileged backgrounds looks to be a real possibility. I hope to be able to share new skills, improve work opportunity, and provide a new focus which all together benefits one’s self-steam and mental health. This is something that I have started to investigate further and approach in real life now as I had to adapt the business focus to survive the crises and continue to produce handmade products to other industries. I foresee this as an exciting part of Early Bird Handmade’s future.
We hope you enjoyed getting to know this local legend! Don't forget to check out our promo and support all our awesome local producers.