Jacqueline Nelson founder of Blanche Rose, has a proud family heritage steeped in the gorgeous luxury bedding and household linens from her childhood.
New Zealand beginnings
Jacqueline grew up in Auckland, New Zealand, living and breathing business and design. Her father was a yacht designer. Jacqueline’s mother, Avis Nelson, was an entrepreneur who had started a company called HouseHold Linens from home. Initially in manufacturing, Avis had moved it to wholesale and then retail, importing products from all around the globe.
Growing up, Jacqueline wanted to be a CEO and just like her Mum. They were, and still are, great mates. Jacqueline realizes she learned so much through that experience.
However, far from joining HouseHold Linens initially, she went from school to train to be a teacher and taught in a kindergarten for two years. Jacqueline quickly decided she wanted more and swopped to share broking which she loved. The dynamics, the stimulating work, and social life, everything about it was much more her style. She then moved to merchant banking, but the merchant bank was soon swallowed into mainstream banking. She progressed to a senior position at Citibank, firstly in New Zealand and then Sydney. She didn’t enjoy the corporate culture there, and it lasted four months.
Meanwhile, a friend had been asking Avis why HouseHold Linens wasn’t in Sydney. Mother and daughter talked it over, and they decided to open a retail store in Mosman, Sydney, to see if it would work. Jacqueline had finished her Marketing Degree during her banking years and took over the launch.
They knew the brand was strong in New Zealand, innovative with few competitors at the high-quality end. They found that the HouseHold Linens brand was sufficiently strong already in Sydney, and the venture took off.
The HouseHold Linens Years
Jacqueline says it was a colossal change for her, going from senior staff meetings and emails all day to standing in the middle of a store, wondering what to do that would be effective. She fell back on her experience at Citibank, where she had amassed considerable compliance experience and started to set up systems and procedures and training manuals, pulling in her teaching experience too.
It would stand them in good stead for expansion, as she went on to set up four HouseHold Linens stores in Australia, running all the aspects of marketing, sales, finances, and HR.
In 2005, Avis had a stroke. At her mother’s request, Jacqueline returned to New Zealand. She took over as CEO and Creative Director of Household Linens both in Australia and New Zealand, running the physical stores, creating products, and developing the online side of the business. Jacqueline didn’t return to Sydney permanently till 2011.
Five years later, Jacqueline had personal changes, and at the same time, they were also staring at an enormous rent increase. Jacqueline decided that there had to be more to life than work. Her mother’s stroke had, of course, made a huge impression, and she didn’t want the same thing to happen to her. Avis, too, chose to liquidate HouseHold Linens in 2017 as it had become too much for her.
For a while, Jacqueline worked as a consultant, doing interior design and de-cluttering, and most importantly, rediscovering her enjoyment of life again.
Blanche Rose and Bumpy Beginnings
Over the following months, former clients from Jacqueline’s days as CEO of HouseHold Linens asked her where to source quality items, and she could find nowhere to send them.
These inquiries would lead to the creation of Blanche Rose, Jaqueline’s collection of household linens and luxury items for sleep, bath, lounge, and home.
She went on a week’s business mastery course and set out to build a brand of her own. She also found a mentor there, who has been with her ever since. The Blanche Rose (white rose) label was born in January 2018. The day after the business course, she re-contacted a mill in Portugal she knew from her Household Linens days, and she began to curate her collection.
Blanche Rose now offers gorgeous luxury lifestyle products include towels, linen, nightwear, and candles, all their signature white. They select the highest quality fabrics, the most talented artisans and bring them together to offer timeless style.
Massive lead times were an early problem, but Jacqueline was starting to make traction when COVID hit. Jacqueline remembers the terrible day in March when every client she rang, was saying “No, sorry, Jacqueline.” She became immensely grateful for the support that came through from the government when it eventually arrived.
Jacqueline discovered that the secret to survival lay in the great long-term relationships with customers and suppliers that she had developed over the years. Jacqueline didn’t have the complete database of her old customers, but she had many contacts, including many high-end lodges in New Zealand, so she started with them.
Jacqueline is fighting back now, building more markets. The growth will gain ground even faster as retailers open back up. It will be the same with the Luxury Lodges in New Zealand and Australia as tourism gets underway again. For the private market, that too will re-start as people gradually start to re-use holiday homes.
Keeping in touch with people is crucial. People thank her for the reminder, and the relationship’s momentum builds from texts and short emails. Once everything fully opens up, so will the sales will flow. Logistics are also slow, and her stocks are low, so that is another issue to address as things re-start.
Avis remains colossal support. While she is not involved financially with the business, when Blanche Rose has a client needing something dropped off or to see samples in Auckland, Avis enjoys going in person. Avis has a busy life of her own now, doing interiors and enjoying the active social life she struggled to find time for in her HouseHold Linens time, so this arrangement is ideal on both sides.
Jacqueline’s Vision for Blanche Rose
Jacqueline has deliberately created the business to be very boutique. If one of her customers wants something dropped off, she will aim to do it in person. That way, she can develop those vital relationships further.
While her mentor encouraged Jacqueline to seek investment, Jacqueline has preferred to bootstrap and keep the personal interaction that she knows you can lose sight of when pushing forward on growth. As she explains, she doesn’t “want to be just a warehouse person.” Jacqueline finds the mentoring invaluable, just as she does the input from Avis. It is a good balance as the mentor says things that sometimes a Mum can’t.
Jacqueline is still very much focused on growth and evolving. She wants the development to be more organic, more laissez-faire, than one vast and continual push. The last thing Jacqueline ever wants is to find herself again in a position where she can’t take the time to talk to people or have a balanced lifestyle. At the moment, she can maintain that balance, even if the hours have to be traded sometimes for the business to come first. She believes that the universe sends things at the right time for the right reasons.
Balance doesn’t detract from clarity when it comes to her financial goals. With her marketing background, Jacqueline knows the value of measuring performance. She knows exactly where the company is, what the dollar value of the business is being done, and where it is coming from. Jacqueline describes it as knowing where you are going but with a holistic approach. She has learned the hard way seeing what happened to Avis over the years at HouseHold Linens that there is more to life than business.
Jacqueline’s Advice to Others:
Not entirely surprisingly, Jacqueline’s first piece of advice was to find a business in something you love doing and put your heart and soul into,
Work the business around your life, rather than vice versa. Never get to the point where you don’t want to get up and go to work.
Look at what you have rather than what you have not. COVID showed us how important that way of thinking is.
Don’t wait; create is another saying she has become fond of as a philosophy. If you believe in yourself, you will achieve.
No one could have foreseen COVID, but anyone who had money in the bank was in a better place.
Jacqueline has found that business can be a lonely place and thinks everyone needs a bit of support behind them; a partner, a friend, a mother, but someone to share things with.
Love what you do, have a bit of money behind you, and support along the way is a summary of Jacqueline’s advice.
If you have enjoyed Jacqueline’s story from HouseHold Linens to Blanche Rose, and you love pretty things for the home, the story of Australian LVLY can also be found here.