Jane Cay from birdsnest: Bush Business Wisdom | #263

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Jane Cay shares how she became the ultimate wardrobe wingbird.

EP 263
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Nathan Bush is a director at eCommerce talent agency, eSuite. He has led eCommerce for businesses with revenue $100m+ and has been recognised as one of Australia’s Top 50 People in eCommerce four years in a row. You can contact Nathan on LinkedIn, Twitter or via email.


Jane Cay is the founder of birdsnest, an online fashion business based in regional NSW that employs over 150 locals in a town of 6,500. Jane has been a board member on Jobs for NSW and prior to this she was a founding board member of the National Online Retailers Association. The best bit is Jane gets to live in the slow lane, and work in the fast lane. Her home, where she lives with her sheep farmer and three children, is a 130km round trip for a litre of milk.

In this episode of Add To Cart, we are joined by Jane Cay, founder and CEO of birdsnest, one of Australia’s biggest fashion success stories.  Leaving a job with IBM to adopt a small clothing business in regional NSW back in 2004, Jane has grown birdsnest to a staff of 150, serving a community of women with styled outfit inspiration, express delivery, above and beyond customer service, no hassle returns…all the things!  In our chat, Jane shares the detail on the unique birdsnest ‘will this suit me?’ feature, the unusual place she finds solace in times of stress and some of the best business wisdom advice you could wish to know, courtesy of her old man.

While numbers are the language, people are at the heart of it.”

Jane Cay

Lucky duck 

“The reality is actually we are the lucky ones.  I really feel like we get to live in a slow lane, live amongst nature and be two minutes from our kids’ schools. And then also, we get to participate in whatever industry we want now and for us in e-commerce, that’s just been just such an exciting space.

We were lucky in Cooma, we’re an hour from Canberra. We can tap into that postal network, which is express across Australia. So that’s been very important because when a girl orders a dress today, she really wanted it yesterday. So there’s some things that have worked for us in setting up this business, in this location.

I think if you’re looking at moving to a location and you’ve got a business in mind, you’d probably want to be checking out the infrastructure that you need to run that because, potentially some of the infrastructure in the country is not quite on the same playing field as our metro areas, but there’s lots of other things where it just kicks it outta the park.”

Pick three things

“So for us it’s about building community and particularly a very inclusive community. And that starts with our team. First we care about each other, then we care about the people we serve and the world that we live in. So that’s our first pillar. 

Our second pillar is around being her wardrobe wing bird. So the women that come to us want that style support, so that’s when we realised, yes, we’re a product business. People ultimately are buying a dress and getting that right product. So much for us is around what differentiates us, how we bring that to market around, okay, that’s a dress, but what shoes do I wear with that?  How do I accessorise that and is this the right one for my shape? And so how do I put it together in an outfit? That service that we put around our product and the way we curate it for her is our second pillar.

And then our third pillar is around delivering rockstar customer service. You’ve got to get the basics of E-com, right? All that stuff just has to be spot on. And then we have a mantra if in doubt, be generous.  So if we don’t have a policy for it and you are not sure, then that’s what you go with.”

A team built on trust

“My core responsibility was to champion a really amazing culture. So I’ve been ultimately nurturing the soil in which this business and all the people in it were going to grow. 

Less than 10% of our team have a tertiary education. Yet, as you say, we’ve won awards not only for our business culture, but also for innovation and customer service and in a pretty hefty playing field, that comes from a high care factor.  I think it’s all about trust.  We’re not gonna get it perfect every time, but we’re gonna lean into it and ultimately we’re gonna put people before task.

And then once you build that community, everyone just looks after each other and that is what happens.  If it’s a safe, nurturing place to come into then that’s just such a solid ground for many people. So why wouldn’t you want a good place to come into work? You create the workplace that you wanna work in, right?”

Questions answered in this episode include
  • How do you keep birdsnest relevant and unique?
  • How does birdsnest use data and customer feedback to improve the shopping experience?
  • What are you doing to make birdsnest a great place to work?

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