How To Successfully Navigate Digital Disruption

Corban & Blair’s unique designer stationery products are thoughtfully created to showcase the culture, beauty, flora and fauna of Australia. Business partners for 30 years, Gillian Corban and Amanda Blair are also cousins. They have continued to reinvent their offering as consumer preferences have evolved, into a tapestry of enduring business success. Every piece in their range of customisable leather journals, picture frames, albums and travel accessories is carefully imbued with a story. In 2013 Gillian and Amanda were inducted into the Australian Businesswomen’s Hall of Fame. They have partnered with Qantas, The Australian Museum, and also create bespoke collections for many large Australian brands. Leaders to emulate, this artistic duo remain as passionate today as when they first founded their company.

WE KNOW YOU ARE COUSINS, BUT WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO GO INTO BUSINESS TOGETHER AND HOW DID CORBAN & BLAIR START?

Freedom to create our own culture and have a challenging creative job inspired us to start Corban & Blair.

28 YEARS OF BUSINESS TOGETHER IS AN AMAZING ACHIEVEMENT, REQUIRING MUCH REINVENTION. HOW DID YOU CHOOSE WHICH TRENDS TO FOLLOW?

Through economic ups and downs, big learning curves, global change, new technology and business reinvention, we have with our team been creating products for over 28 years. We have managed this by being realistic (not hopeful) along with open minds, flexibility and the ability to change as the market environment changed.

WHAT HAVE YOU PUT IN PLACE OVER THE LAST 20 YEARS TO SUCCESSFULLY NAVIGATE THE AGE OF DIGITAL DISRUPTION?

We have always embraced technology to create new products and our marketing communications. Corban & Blair’s product offering has changed many times. We honour the past using traditional manufacturing techniques, as we embrace the future using new technologies and all the disruptive opportunities the market place now delivers.Our journey has taken us from stationery designers, to designers and manufacturers of products for the corporate sector. We design bespoke marketing, presentation and gifting solutions to tell stories and add meaning to our customer’s brand strategies. Our current passion is to showcase Australian cultural uniqueness and design, often in collaboration with other Australian designers and makers.We believe in partnerships, mentoring, collaborations, the power of generosity and openness, flexibility, and constant learning as the world changes around us. The global world is a challenge but it is also filled with opportunity.

YOU STEERED THE BUSINESS THROUGH THREE RECESSIONS. HOW DID YOU LEAD THE BUSINESS THROUGH THESE DIFFICULT TIMES?

We love the fact that things have changed dramatically on our business journey. When we first started a fax was a big deal. We saved for our first laser printer that cost $10K. Now there is an uproar if the internet or the website is not working for 10 seconds. Operating a small creative business is a lot of work. Passion, purpose and a smart loyal team are key contributors to our longevity. Key moments include a big order for Myer when we first started and were still learning. At the same time we created bespoke collections for Sportsgirl, Country Road and had a gorgeous spread of our Wirradhuri Collection in the David Jones Christmas catalogue. We designed and made products for the Sydney 2000 Olympics. We continue to make exclusive products for HelloWorld Travel, Qantas, American Express, Olympus and Westpac to name a few.

WHAT’S BEEN YOUR GREATEST CHALLENGE?

It was a challenge to take some of our manufacture off shore. We wanted to remain totally Australian. This does not seem such a big deal today, however at the time it was difficult as we were an Australia made brand. BUT it was the right thing to do!

TELL US ABOUT CORBAN & BLAIR’S COMMUNITY PROJECTS.

We pay the carbon credits on our New Zealand made photo frames. We support the arts, schools, women and homelessness, education and mentor and coach within the business and arts community, including mentoring Euraba Indigenous artists and papermakers in Boggabilla.

WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF?

We think it is an achievement to be still passionate about this business we started 30 years ago.

WHAT’S ONE PIECE OF ADVICE FOR FUTURE FEMALE LEADERS?

Being a leader means creating a vision your team can follow. It is hard to work alone, as operating a business has many facets. Having purpose and passion, combined with intelligence, an open mind and learning from things that don’t work, is critical. If you are not learning everyday you are probably going backwards.

This article was originally published by Femeconomy

ABOUT FEMECONOMY

You are the female economy. Whether you are a female consumer, business owner or a woman in the workforce, you can create gender equality by choosing female led brands.Corban & Blair is a Femeconomy Member. To learn more about Femeconomy, hit the big red button below:

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