• Elizabeth and Isabella Abegg, founders of Spell & The Gypsy. (Supplied)
A market stall can be a stepping stone for many small businesses. Fashion label Spell & the Gypsy had its start at the Byron Bay markets and has now grown to become a global success story.
SBS Small Business Secrets
7 Jun 2018 - 3:26 PM  UPDATED 11 Jun 2018 - 4:04 PM

Spell & The Gypsy is a multi-million dollar bohemian fashion label based in Byron Bay, NSW.

Founded by two sisters Elizabeth and Isabella Abegg, the business now employs more than 50 people at its headquarters in the Byron Bay industrial estate.

Growing popularity in their flowy and feminine designs have seen the label expand rapidly.

“Today we ship all around the world. Our online store is probably the biggest part of our business. It accounts for about 80 per cent of our revenue,” Elizabeth explains.

Online sales topped $1 million last year and famous names like Miley Cyrus and Sienna Miller are among their global fans.

The business has come a long way in ten years.

“The business started in 2008 after my sister was making jewellery for a while, and started a market stall in the Byron Bay markets,” Elizabeth says.

“We also went to Bali a few times and then started making some clothes. Everything we brought back just sold out at this tiny market."

“We just wanted to have enough money to buy six rolls of toilet paper at a time, and maybe pay rent,” she says laughing.

The sisters later realised the power of ecommerce, and started their own blog.

“I was like why are we doing these markets when we could go and just sit in our office and take photos of each other in clothes, post the pictures and get sales overnight while we are sleeping. And we were like, 'this online thing is going to be big!'” she explains.

A huge conversion in sales soon followed.

“And we had our first million-dollar month that year,” she says.

“At the time, we didn’t really have the resources to deal with that growth. It was really challenging and stressful.”

The sisters worried that failing to meet rising client demand would affect their business plan.

“And I remember meeting one day with a couple of business mentors. We decided to spend the next twelve months with this one mantra - which was ‘better, not bigger’,” Elizabeth says.

By investing in infrastructure they were able to strengthen the business and move to the next level. 

They also began to realise the importance of using sustainable materials.

“When we started, I would not have called ourselves an ethical brand at all. It was just something that was part of what we did. Whereas now, we’re putting effort into telling that side of the story and give the customers the transparency,” Elizabeth explains.

Spell & The Gypsy now works with ethically accredited suppliers, and the brand is working towards environmental certification as well.

“All of which means that the fossil fuels and the water, in the footprint is not just minimised but traced,” says Elizabeth.

“It definitely costs more money to be ethical and to be sustainable. But it is something that we’re all so passionate about, and the return on investment is more than just people buying your clothes."

“The feeling within my team here is great, everyone’s so proud of what we’re doing."

Watch this story at the top of the page, or catch the full episode on SBS On Demand.