Check Up at the Design Doctor (Part 1)

Read my interview with local small business owner Merita Mannings on starting a business, vintage comebacks and upcoming style trends for homewares.

So, what made you start up this business?

“I’ve always liked interesting things,” answers Merita Mannings, the owner and founder of Design Doctor, a little gem of a shop in Manifold Heights.

I find out that she’s an absolute sucker for interior design, having had the practical experience of restyling houses within a wide gamut of designs.

“Each house that we’ve built – and renovated – has been in a different style.”

With a history of these successes, a love for design and a busy schedule as a mum to four children Merita tells that, when it came time to get back to the workforce she was keen to create her own opportunities.

“I decided that I wanted to be in charge of my own destiny, as it were,” she explains. The next step was enrolling in an interior design qualification at the Gordon Institute, Geelong

Yet, this turned out to be a different kind of stepping stone to which she expected. Turns out she fell in love with one particular aspect of the design process.

“I figured out that being in that industry was not necessarily what I wanted to do but there was a part of that industry which I was really interested in, and that was the forecasting of products.”

Turns out she was amazing at forecasting trends. Through her intricate scouting for stock, zest for design and entrepreneurial streak, so a little shop called Design Doctor was born.

“I’ve sort of pieced together a business and products that I really think make people happy, and bring a bit of enjoyment … a bit of fun,” she grins widely.

Yet, she’s also come to fill a gap in the market – funky things at affordable prices.“It’s about having a bit of fun with design, instead of being so,” she thoughtfully adds, “‘keeping up with the Jones’ and ‘I have to have that because that’s in fashion.”

Her blue eyes twinkle as she says lightly and I gaze around at all the cool things in the shops – vintage robots, tea sets, felt mushrooms – “it’s more about enjoying life.”

It’s also about a happy life, evident from the positive quotes occasionally scattered (and for sale) around her store.

She expounds on this, ”I like inspirational quotes and sayings. I think there’s room for that to grow – I think people need encouragement in this day and age.”

As an expert forecaster, I solicit her tips on what the ‘next thing’ might be for style, to which she sagely muses:

“So a bit more personal, I think. Style’s going to become a bit more personal. People are going to do something not just because it impresses somebody else or its what everyone else does. People will begin to find themselves through design.”

As we finish up, I ask the twenty five thousand dollar (donations accepted!) question – what advice would you give to a creative wanting to start up their own business?

“I would say, do your research and find out what niche market you want to be in and study the trends for your particular area.”

Also, she advises to be open to ”doing a scrapbook or some kind of mood board or something, where you bring all your ideas together.”

Yet, “it’s about being realistic about how much money you’re going to make,” she smiles.

“In order to establish something it takes time and it takes money and it takes effort. So you have to be someone who’s really self motivating, I think, in order to get through good times and bad times.”

She compares opening a business to an artist displaying their wares – “you put yourself out there.”

“It’s like having an exhibition – and everyone’s coming to see your things –  it’s like being in that place all the time.”

QuirkyTeddy bear with handbagSome of the great things to be found at the Design Doctor, Geelong

Check out my video interview with Merita!


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