At Girl and the Sun, we are constantly inspired by the women in our community who are changing the game and chasing their dreams. In this series, get to know some of the amazing women behind our favourite local businesses as they share their stories to success!
This week, we're chatting with Bec Thompson, the amazing creator of Sandbar Co.
We are long time lovers of Sunday Lane, but for anyone who may not already know, who is Sandbar Co and what do you do?
Sandbar Co is a Perth-based brand, who launched in August 2020. We have invented a luxurious, lightweight, and compact beach table that has been designed to store your essentials while you’re at the beach. It has multiple cup and wine glass holders, a mesh surface to allow the sand to fall straight through, and a magnetic compartment to store your valuables from the sand, sun, and potential theft.
I started googling beach tables or anything that I could buy that was elevated and practical that I could bring with me to the beach. However, I couldn’t find anything that suited all of my needs. I went home that day and started putting together a prototype and designing this perfect beach table to solve all of my problems - The Sandbar.
We understand that your amazing Sandbar was in the research and development stages for a whole year - can you share what this process was like?
Stressful, challenging, time-consuming, expensive… but most of all, rewarding.
I had one goal in mind from the very beginning, it was to provide an experience for my customers. When they received the Sandbar, whether that was in the mail or as a gift, that it would be special. It would be beautifully presented, gift-wrapped, and the packaging would be breath-taking. Then the Sandbar itself would be handcrafted, luxurious and above expectations in quality.
I had high expectations of what this Sandbar was going to look like, so I knew it would be a challenge to find the perfect person to not only design the Sandbar but then the right person to manufacture it.
My Gran introduced me to this beautiful man at her retirement village, Don. Don is a retired engineer who has his little workshop at the retirement village. For a Bunning's gift card (that I forced him to accept) he designed me the Sandbar and made me up my first prototype in less than a week - and we still use this design as the base model of the Sandbar now. Although It wasn’t as aesthetically pleasing as I would have liked, it was absolutely perfect for what I needed to show my future manufacturer my vision.
I contacted multiple furniture makers in Perth to see if they would be interested in manufacturing my Sandbars and had zero luck; that was until I met Karl from Saltwood Designs. Karl has a workshop in North Fremantle, and from the very first phone call with him, I knew he was the guy. We had a meeting the following week, and when the words came out of his mouth that he was willing to give this Sandbar beach table a go... it honestly felt like I had won the lotto.
12 months have now passed since I met Karl, and now there are over 120 Sandbars in their new little homes around Australia (and one in the US).
It has been such a huge process, and I don’t think anyone truly understands what goes on behind the scenes of a business unless they’ve done it themselves. I am extremely proud and grateful to get to the position of actually selling my Sandbars, as a lot of people hit a few speed bumps in the early days and put their wonderful ideas in the “too hard basket”, and it’s rare to execute business ideas. I am proud that I never gave up and always found a way to solve the problems that came my way.
What has been one of the biggest lessons you have learned throughout this journey?
To constantly remind myself why I started Sandbar Co. It’s easy to get caught up in the everyday business challenges and to doubt myself or second guess my decisions. However, I have learnt that it’s crucial to be constantly reminding myself of the fun part, the enjoyment it brings me, and my passion and enthusiasm behind the project. And, on the days where I haven’t been able to do this, I know how important it is to surround myself with supportive people who will reassure me that it will be OK and to remind me of how far I have come. I am so grateful for the amazing positive people I have had supporting me on this journey.
I am so proud that our Sandbars are handcrafted here in Perth, WA. From the beginning of this business venture, it never even crossed my mind to get them made overseas. One of the main reasons I chose local was to have the opportunity to build a positive relationship with the manufacturer and to be able to work closely with them during the whole process - adjusting the design and make changes when needed.
I knew that this choice was going to be an expensive decision. Had I chosen to have them made overseas they would have been significantly cheaper; however, I have peace knowing that they’re ethically handcrafted by two very talented craftsmen who enjoy being part of this process and that the Australian dollar stays in our country.
The Trigg Sandbar is named after one of your favourite beaches - why do you think the WA coast is such a big source of inspiration for you?
I was born and raised in Perth and I consider myself extremely lucky to call this city home. I have always loved the ocean and been concerningly obsessed with dolphins; anyone who knows me knows that I love dolphins. Therefore, I have always been drawn to the ocean to look for them (and force anyone who is with me to look for them too haha).
I chose to name the first release of our Sandbars after Trigg beach because there is a view there that is my favourite view in Perth. There is this one hill as you’re travelling north up West Coast Highway that as soon as you reach the peak, you are welcomed with the most stunning views of the ocean. Every-single-time I drive up to it I just get the immediate sense of happiness.
Our second release of Sandbars is called the Leighton, this name was chosen by our amazing Instagram followers in a week full of suggestions and votes in our stories. It was a nail-biting competition between “The Cott” and “The Leighton”. We also had some amazing suggestions for other incredible beaches in Aus: Haven, The Lagoon, The Bondi Bar, Meelup, Ningaloo.
Perhaps our third release will be named after one of them. I can guarantee it will definitely be an Australian beach - I have travelled to many beaches around the world and I strongly believe that we have the best.
Oh my, this is a tough one. Am I allowed more than one? OK, I’m giving three.
- Receiving my very first prototype from Don
Although my first prototype from Don wasn’t perfect, it was one step closer to my dream becoming a reality. I drove home so carefully that night with it on the passenger seat and when I got home, I literally sent photos to everyone I knew - I was so proud! That was when I knew I made the right decision pursuing this venture of mine.
- A lady called Abeni coming up to me at the beach in Augusta.
My partner and I had only just sat down at the beach in Augusta (south of Perth), and of course, the first thing I did was set-up my Sandbar. By the time I had it set-up, I looked up, and this lady was standing right above us.
“Where is this table from? I was just telling my friends all we need is a beach table to complete our beach setup”, she said. I couldn’t believe I had only just sat down and had someone come over and ask about my Sandbar in minutes (and this was the not so “aesthetically pleasing” Sandbar from Don). I began explaining it was my invention - and my boyfriend jumped in with my prototype bag for it and said, “it even comes with a matching carry bag”. She left telling all her friends about Sandbar - and insisted as soon as it became available, I let her know. I ended up giving her a Sandbar from our first release; I was just so overwhelmed with her support and compliments that day.
- Sandbar Co’s first-ever photoshoot with one of my best friends, Sunny.
Sunny, my beautiful model friend, and I spontaneously organised Sandbar’s first photoshoot one weekend with an incredible photographer, Jess (Muse Creative). We had zero pressure on the shoot, and it was more a day of fun, practice and for me to work out what I needed to organise for the “proper” and “professional” shoot. I was one of the models in this one. When we finished the shoot Sunny and I went for a coffee and looked at all of the photos. It was then I could have cried with excitement - the shoot was that much fun, and the photos captured the beauty of the Sandbar and what I had envisioned in my mind 18 months prior. Sunny and I always talk about how fun this shoot was!
What advice would you impart on the next generation of women?
Do not for a second think you need to be like anyone else, compare yourself to another, or be too hard on yourself - as long as you’re doing the absolute best you can do - you’re doing great.
Also, please don’t judge people; everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about, be kind - always.
Are there any words of wisdom you would pass on to anyone who hopes to do more to support small businesses in 2021, especially in the wake of Covid-19?
Can you reveal what’s next on the horizon for Sandbar Co?
I’m not sure where to start; I have SO much that I want to do, but there’s just not enough time in the day… or money in the bank! However, I can let you know that we have these gorgeous “Sandboards” coming out very soon. They’re timber pieces that fit over the mesh providing a full hard-top table; perfect for picnics and snacks. Also, there may or may not be a Sandbar Mini in the pipe-line ;)