Under The Hood: Jess and Becca From Mustard Made
Mustard Made
Founded by sisters Becca and Jess Stern, Mustard Made creates colorful lockers for home, work and play. Mustard launched in Australia (where Becca lives) and the UK (where Jess lives) in 2018 and we've been spreading the locker love around the world ever since.
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Gorgias
Gorgias centralizes all your support tickets in one place and enriches them with lots of extra context about a buyer's profile. Through Gorgias, you can connect directly to your eCommerce store and edit orders, modify subscriptions, and refund payments without leaving your helpdesk.
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Under The Hood: Jess and Becca From Mustard Made

Becca, Jess, it’s so great to be speaking with you. Tell us a bit about the story behind Mustard Made and how it started?’

Jess: We had talked about starting a business together for years. It was more a matter of ‘when’ than ‘if’ – we often say that if it hadn’t been lockers, we would have come up with another idea eventually! 

Becca had a little collection of metal lockers which sparked our initial inspiration. She had an old flaky one she found on the side of the road, a few from antique shops, and some new. Neither of us were sure that anyone else would be interested in lockers, but we went with our guts. Within six months we were looking at samples, and eventually launched Mustard Made at a trade show in Sydney. 

We used $25,000 AUD of personal savings to invest in samples, marketing and our stand at the show. The tradeshow was a huge success and we walked away with over $200,000 AUD in orders, smashing our two-year projections in just one weekend! That was our very first lesson in business: dream much, much bigger!

Jess and Becca, Founders of Mustard Made Lockers
Jess & Becca From Mustard Mad

What do you love about running a business as sisters? What are some of the challenges?

Jess: We've lived on opposite sides of the world for over a decade now, and thanks to Mustard Made, we are closer than ever and talk every day! As sisters, there's a deep level of trust and understanding that underpins our business and without each other, Mustard wouldn't exist. We are so thankful we are on this journey together and that we can grow together, alongside our ‘baby’ (and our real babies, too!)

Becca: We're super grateful to be living in a world that makes it easier than ever to work from anywhere. While long-distance relationships do have a bad reputation and there are some challenges we face living on opposite sides of the world from each other, we try to focus on the opportunities rather than the difficulties.  

Sometimes, I think living apart is actually part of what makes our business relationship work. There is a natural pause in our communications due to the time difference, and that means we can sit with a decision and think before responding. I’m sure that’s saved us from butting heads more than once! It also forces you to be a bit more organized. My Monday morning is Jess' Sunday afternoon. No one wants Monday morning energy encroaching on their Sunday, so I schedule emails to arrive during work hours. Those little things make all the difference. I also just figured out that you can add a secondary timezone to your Google calendar. Genius! 

Jess: We’ve also realized that living on opposite sides of the world from each other has allowed us to stay in our own lane. I really believe that the reason we work so well as co-founders is because we each know our strengths and skill sets, and we stick to them. If we both tried to be involved in every aspect of the business it wouldn't work, so we each do what we do and try to take ownership of that.

What has growth been like over the last few years? Were there any breakthroughs or “unlocking” moments for Mustard Made?

Jess: When we first launched Mustard Made, we took everything one day at a time. We found our manufacturer, then figured out how we’d ship our products to Australia, then where we’d store them, and so on - really laying one brick at a time. Over the last couple of years, we’ve shifted our focus to how we’ll grow over the next five years, not just the next five months. At Mustard, our motto is ‘think times ten’, as in, what would we do if we were ten times bigger than we are now, and it has been essential to how we think about the future of the business.

Jess and Becca, Founders of Mustard Made Lockers
Jess & Becca From Mustard Made

Becca, when you first launched, you considered managing the shipping in-house with a shipping container of lockers in your backyard. Can you share why you didn’t go that route? 

Becca: This is the perfect example of the ‘think times ten’ philosophy! I was planning to manage the shipping in-house, literally in my own home (or backyard).  Thank goodness we decided to outsource to an actual warehousing partner because our business could not possibly be where we are today if we hadn’t thought bigger and invested in our own scalability. One of my biggest pieces of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is to build your business to be scalable right from the start! Really think of your business as being ten times bigger than your current projections and then work out whether the infrastructure you’re establishing now will allow you to get there.

Being sold in 35+ countries is unique - what are some of the challenges that come with such wide distribution? 

Jess: It’s been a very steep learning curve, that’s for sure! Obviously there are plenty of individual challenges – from dealing with complex customs issues in the US to having to navigate Brexit when we had been shipping all of our EU stock from our UK warehouse. We have learned what an enormous difference it makes to work with a great local 3PL, they are really experts at what they do and have helped to guide us through so many tricky situations.

We have also invested in our community, whether it be getting to know our stockists deeply, attending trade shows, or engaging with our customers so that we really understand their individual wants and needs. So much of this is just about listening, learning and understanding what drives the people we are serving.

What are some of the key tools (or apps) in the Mustard Made tech stack that you love?

Jess: Being on opposite sides of the world from each other and having half our team in London and half in Australia, communication and collaboration tools are the most essential foundation to our business. 

We use Trello for project and workflow collaboration along with Gorgias for all our customer communications so in the morning in London our team can quickly and easily see the status of an action, project or communication that our Australian team has been working on while they were in bed and vice versa. 

But the one tech app that we built our business on the back of? FaceTime! It’s not the most high-tech or glamorous piece of business technology, but it’s the one that allowed us to start Mustard and the one we still use every single day.

Jess and Becca, Founders of Mustard Made Lockers
Jess & Becca From Mustard Made

If you had to boil your success down to one thing, then what would it be? 

Becca: Naivety, audacity and the power of not always needing to be ‘the expert’ has allowed us to grow in ways we couldn’t have dreamed of when it was just the two of us. I think a lot of founders can relate to feeling like no one can do a job the way you can, but when you have a growing brand, it's inevitable.

When Jess and I realized we needed more help, we brought on more employees one by one, and they took the various parts of our jobs that we used to just spend a few hours on and made it their full-time role. Jess and I believe in the power of not being the expert - any founder will tell you it’s impossible to know everything, that’s why you have a team you can trust and lean on!

Can you share a bit about what you’re working on for 2024? What’s next for Mustard Made?

Jess: In the US, we recently announced West Elm Kids as our newest retailer which is very exciting. Becca and I have been longtime fans of the brand and to partner with them is surreal. We’re also launching new colors and products which we’re super excited about. Follow us @mustardmade on Instagram to keep up with us!