Earlier this year, I shared the Spotted Quoll story with Brand Tasmania as part of their Tasmanian businesses feature. I hope you enjoy. Tamika xx
Making a life-changing decision when you’re several glasses deep into a bottle of Tasmanian Pinot Noir is a risky choice.
Fortunately for Tamika Bannister, director of the Spotted Quoll Studio, that risk has paid off in spades.
Back in 2009, Tamika was working in sales and marketing for a global electronics company. She was good at the job – smashing sales targets in a challenging industry. But it wasn’t bringing her any joy.
“It was soul destroying,” she says. “It was selling boxes, basically. There were some moments I enjoyed, but I thought there had to be more to life than that. I felt like I’d lost myself and I needed to rediscover my natural creativity again. I needed to find my purpose.”
Exhausted, disillusioned, and close to burnout, Tamika took a week off and spent it in a shack at Freycinet – resting, enjoying long winter walks on the beach, and listening to the ocean at night.
“I was with my partner and we had a good bottle of Tassie wine. The full moon was shining through the window in the mezzanine. It was awe inspiring. And I just started writing notes down on a piece of white paper. I came up with this business idea that if I could capture the essence of Tasmania – distilling what we feel into goods and services that were made sustainably on the island – I felt like people would want to be part of that. So, then I went about doing it.”
Initially, the business was just a part-time side hustle, and Tamika chose to focus mainly on smaller homewares. But as the Spotted Quoll Studio grew in popularity, she started working on it full time, and expanded the range to include fashion, jewellery, and beauty products.
Fourteen years on, the Spotted Quoll Studio is now at the forefront of Tasmania’s sustainable living movement, creating and selling beautiful, eco-friendly products that feature nature-inspired designs. As director, Tamika leads a team of almost 20 staff – some based in the studio’s Hobart and Launceston retail outlets, others working from home or at the company’s production facility in Launceston.
“Some of our machinists are set up to work at home because they’re mothers,” says Tamika. “It was really important to me to create meaningful employment in Tasmania, and to create spaces that women with children can work in. I know from experience it can be a real struggle once you’re a mother to do a full-time job with regular hours. You need more flexibility. But women with children are the best workers because they’re not just working for themselves; they’re working for their family and community too.”
In the earliest days of Spotted Quoll, Tamika designed all the products – which included items like cushions and wall spots – herself. With so many other pressures on her time, much of that design work has now been delegated to Spotted Quoll’s production manager, Sally.
“It’s less of the pretty stuff and more of the hard stuff now, in reality,” Tamika says with a wry smile. “The honest part of small business is that it’s bloody hard.”
Tamika remains very hands-on with the company and entirely committed to the core values that she set out with: supporting local employees, showcasing Tasmania’s natural environment, and using eco-friendly fabrics and textiles. Everything you can purchase from Spotted Quoll is fully Tasmanian, from concept to shelf.
“I believe one of the key things Tasmania should explore is what we can sell or make without destroying anything,” she says. “Tasmania is so much more than that. We should be promoting our locations, our experiences, and our produce. Whether it’s wine or spirits or garments doesn’t matter – just tangible things that we can make sustainably with our own hands and that don’t hurt the environment.
“When people come to Tassie, they want to take home something crafted – an essence of the place. Our products have always been about trying to capture that essence – of Tasmania but also of our makers.
Over the last few years, the Spotted Quoll has faced more than its fair share of challenges: the financial pressures that come with manufacturing in Tasmania, where costs are significantly higher than they are in mainland Australia, and the disruption of the COVID-pandemic. In October 2022, major flooding in Northern Tasmania devastated the Spotted Quoll factory and Tamika and her team had to move out – in the lead-up to Christmas, the busiest sales period of the year.
As a small business owner, Tamika has had to draw on all her strength and determination to pull the company through. She admits that she goes to bed some nights feeling an enormous weight from all her responsibilities. But she is deeply grateful for the way that Tasmania’s community has rallied round The Spotted Quoll Studio in tough times. A switch to click-and-collect shopping during lockdowns kept the Hobart shop busier than ever, and the offer of a workspace from TasTAFE allowed production to get back up and running just a few weeks after the devastating floods.
For Tamika, who has come such a long way since her days of electronics sales, it only takes one happy customer to make all the hard work feel worthwhile.
“If I walk down the street and see someone wearing something from the Spotted Quoll, it still fills me with elation,” she says with a grin. “It’s always a pinch-me moment. I was shopping the other week and a lady walked in wearing one of our garments from four or five years ago. I smiled because I was just so excited – it looked amazing on her, and it still looked new. It’s those moments that make me realise why I do what I do. Your heart just misses a beat.”