They say that some of the most successful startup companies were born from a recession; think Airbnb, Uber and Instagram. But for luxury watchmaker, Susan Galvin, her business success story begins during the 2020 pandemic where she was made redundant during maternity leave in response to the lockdown. A time when hundreds of thousands of people were also losing work, it instead presented the perfect opportunity for the mother to pursue her dream to launch her own company. Galvin pooled her redundancy package into the business and looked to Kickstarter for additional assistance.
With brand awareness beginning in May, Galvin Watches – the first female-founded micro watch company in Australia – was launched on Kickstarter on August 1. The campaign proved to be an overwhelming success and struck its goal in under six minutes, and at the time of publishing, has already raised $70,000 AUD. On a phone call with the business woman, she admitted that while she was aware of the interest surrounding the campaign, she hadn’t expected this kind of response. “When I hit the target in 6 minutes that was absolutely mind-blowing to be honest,” she revealed to ICON.
So what is she selling, that everyone is seemingly buying? A vintage-style automatic timepiece with a Nordic twist, at an affordable price. We speak to Susan Galvin for insight into her business and why we should be buying from small brands during this time of uncertainty.
ICON: Where does your passion for watchmaking come from?
Susan Galvin: “When I was back in Finland, I went to a Finnish art school… I went travelling and I came back to Finland and was in a point that I needed to think about what I’m doing next. My Dad saw an article about the Finnish School of Watchmaking in a newspaper and it was about this watchmaker who graduated from the school but was working overseas. So, I thought, well this might be the right thing for me because I was really thinking about doing the same thing – working overseas.”
Talk to me about the Alku timepiece you plan to bring to market. What are the main features?
SG: “One of the main features is definitely the vintage domed dial that I decided to use. I have a contemporary case design, so the case is quite classic… to showcase the timeless design. I am using Japanese Miyota movement and calibre 9039 which is mechanical automatic movement. If you service your automatic mechanical watches regularly, it is timeless and can last centuries so that was basically the idea. Coming from Finland I wanted to use this minimalist design as well.
Why do you think there is an absence of female watchmakers within the industry, particularly in Australia?
SG: “Traditionally, it is a male dominated industry in Australia and Finland, although we do have a watchmaker school and we have female watchmakers there. But there is more interest from men than women. However, in Switzerland there is more females in the industry. I’ve been to Switzerland a couple of times with my training and you can definitely see there are many more female watchmakers present in the factories. So, I suppose as myself I can be an example and that is extremely rewarding.”
Are you concerned about starting a company during a time of such uncertainty?
SG: “Yeah, I was definitely concerned about the retail sector however I am going to concentrate on e-commerce. I’ve got a landing page at the moment and after the campaign finishes at the end of the month, that landing base is going to be an e-commerce store in the future. So, I want to concentrate on that, and I think people shop much more online than in the high street.”
What does a normal day look like for you during the launch of Galvin Watches?
SG: “It’s definitely increasing and getting busy. I’ve definitely noticed there is much more work to do but I have my son, he’s 8 months old. Usually what I have been doing is I will put my son into bed every single night at 7pm and I work from 7pm onwards. Sometimes until late as well. So now I’m getting a bit busy – it’s time for him to start day-care.
What I do now work wise, I reply to customer questions, engaging in online communities so Facebook groups, Micro Band Watch Groups, Watch Collectors. I’ve been engaging with the groups and engaging on what’s happening with the campaign and then creating marketing plans for future business strategies and I’m actually part of this group, it’s a support group for female entrepreneurs called Behind the Brand and it’s Perth based so that’s been fantastic and super helpful.”
Are you just a team of one at the movement or are you looking to expand?
SG: “In the future, yes. I just need to see how the campaign goes and take one step at a time. I do have my husband who is a full-time teacher, but he’s been very hands on with the business and obviously we have a baby boy so he’s keeping us both very busy. But he’s been doing a lot and has been very interested in the marketing side of the business. So, he’s been very helpful in that sense.”
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Why should customers choose small watch companies over global brands?
SG: “Well, I think the story is a really important thing. It’s more personal and authentic and there’s a story behind the brand usually… Because I’m working in a much smaller scale, I have the opportunity to actually speak with the customers. For example, today, not too long ago I was speaking with a customer and answering their questions. So, customer service is much more personal. As a customer you actually have the possibility of speaking with the founder.
I’m a watchmaker by trade so I can actually do quite a bit when it comes to the quality control, tests before sending out to the customers and I regulate the watch which is making the watch more accurate before it leaves the workshop and if needed, I can do warranty work myself. So, I can cut the cost in that sense so that means the value of the watch is very good.”
Following the launch of your first line of timepieces, what can we expect from Galvin Watches?
SG: “Yes. Absolutely. That’s something that I can’t wait to start is more designs. Some days I am already thinking about what I will do next and then the website which is now the landing page, I have interest from Finland, the UK and Australia so hopefully Galvin Watches will be in a retail space in the future as well. So mainly, building the website and running it then creating the brand awareness in our marketing space.”
For more information on Galvin Watches and to contribute to the Kickstarter campaign, visit the website here.