‘We’ve never had to interact with banks’
Inside Track: Rebekah Johanson of Lines and Current
Jon and Rebekah Johanson founded Lines and Current in Belfast in 2014.
Rebekah Johanson and her husband Jon had already dabbled in the world of ecommerce through selling on Amazon when they founded Lines and Current in Belfast in 2014. They describe the brand as being focused on modern accessories that are designed for everyday wear. The pieces are sold through their website and 10 per cent of the profit is currently donated to SOS Children’s Villages.
What distinguishes your business from your competitors?
Our story and our meaning set us apart, and the connection we’ve developed on our digital platforms. We’ve steered away from having a bricks-and-mortar store – we do have a studio – because we want to be an online brand but we do hold pop-ups. We’re hoping to develop our brand this way into the South of Ireland in Dublin, Cork and Galway this spring.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve had to face?
We have three kids – a 12 year old, a nine year old and a two year old – and then we also have another business baby that came in the middle of that. It’s a constraint being a parent and an entrepreneur but it’s also the best because of the flexibility and the opportunity for integration between work and family.
My daughters, who are older, have got to see the business flourish from birth and they’re so proud of it. Working with my husband is also a challenge. It’s great but it has its moments and you need to make sure there are boundaries in business and your relationship.
What has your major success to date?
I was on Business First’s 40 under 40 and that was a big success. I would say our biggest success is how Jon and I were able to take the kids on a six-week road trip around the Pacific Coast Highway. That was so momentous for us because we were able to step out of the business for that long and it still grew. We don’t want to do that all the time but being able to step away from the minutiae of the business was amazing.
What more could the government do to help SMEs?
We haven’t had any help with our business so far so that’s not something we’ve really pursued. We’re planning on being able to work with Invest NI at some stage in the near future.
Do you think that the banks are open for business?
All of our investment in our business has come from us personally through reinvesting and growing gradually. We’ve never been in a position where we’ve had to interact with banks.
What is the biggest mistake you’ve made in business?
We have a philosophy where you throw spaghetti up against a wall and it sticks, great: and if it doesn’t, try again. Even at the start of our business, I wasn’t sure we’d go down the accessories route, but there are so many benefits to having a lean business approach.
There are fewer returns with accessories and we can post out to our customers cheaply. There have been designs I’ve come up with that just haven’t worked. We try to evolve and modify as we go.
Whom do you admire in business and why?
I’m mostly inspired by thought leaders and I listen to a lot of podcasts. One of my favourites would be the Rich Roll podcast. He’s an American guy who speaks to a lot of thought leaders, which really inspires me. It’s more because our brand is such a lifestyle brand and I’m such a huge part of the creative side. I find I really have to look after myself and my mental health – whenever I’m lacking or too weak it affects my creative output.
What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received?
Don’t be afraid to try new things. In our business there’s a lot of trial and error. We don’t view things within the parameters of mistakes and failure. It’s important to evolve and modify as you go.
How do you see the short-term future of your business?
Being stocked in the South would be a short-term goal this year and we’re planning meetings to make that happen at the moment. We also want to continue to grow our online sales.
What’s your business worth, and would you sell it?
I don’t foresee that happening. We don’t have a clear idea of what the business is worth at the moment and right now, I don’t see us selling it.