La vie est belle

When Belle Valori-Colston was 12 years old, she set herself the goal of running a business by the time she was 21. Now 21 and proprietor of the women’s active-wear brand Blondi Label, the Hastings-based entrepreneur can proudly tick off that childhood objective. “We launched about three months ago, but it has been in the works for nearly two years now.”

Belle credits her parents and family for the encouragement to get started. Her father ran a successful concreting business and her brother, Lance, who holds a share in Blondi Label, runs his own roofing business. “Our mum used to make us do goal boards,” Belle says, “you know, a little scrapbook with all these goals on them.”

But it wasn’t a straightforward beginning. After an initial stalled attempt to get started with the label in 2021, Belle found herself several thousand dollars out of pocket and in possession of boxes and boxes of stock.

“We actually started with some men’s shorts.

I just had the stuff in my dad’s wardrobe. And my brother was raiding them all the time – I think we had maybe 100 sitting there – and he was giving them to all of his workers. He was, like, ‘Belle, everyone really likes them. Even if you don’t want to do the business, why don’t you just try and sell them?’”

The positive feedback pushed her to try again. “I started to sell them and they went really well. That’s definitely what reignited it for me.”

“I was trying to find this one specific sports bra one day and I’m like, ‘I can’t find it anywhere’. And then I was joking around with my dad, and I’m like ‘Oh, I need to create it or something’. And then I just kept rolling with it.”

She decided to concentrate on the female demographic, and utilised her education in Personal Training. “We are an active-wear brand, women’s only at the moment. We have a variety of leggings, shorts, sports bras, long sleeves, and then we did a big winter collection. So we had tracksuit sets, sweaters, quarter zips, cropped hoodies. I just wanted to create a very flattering look.”

Belle highlights the massive learning curve she experienced along the way. She sketched designs, found a manufacturer in China, and taught herself to build her own website using Shopify and countless YouTube instructional videos.

For Belle, every day is different. “I’ll pack my orders, reply to my emails, social media stuff. I’m with a business coach … I’ll usually do zoom calls with them about three to four times a week … I’m designing new collections … and a whole bunch of admin work.”

At this stage Belle runs Blondi Label out of her home office, but plans in the future to expand beyond selling via the website and local markets. She has also been delighted by the sense of community that has built around the products. Most orders she delivers to the local Post Office but some customers come to her home and collect their orders within an hour or two. “I’ll get a message like, ‘Oh my gosh, I forgot a birthday tonight.

Can I come and get this stuff now?’. ‘Yeah, of course!’ And I’ve made so many friends, customers that message me to tell me how much they love something and then we form a friendship.”

“I didn’t realise that I’d actually be meeting so many different people. It’s definitely been a very nice, unexpected surprise because, honestly, some of my friends and I are super close now. But three months ago, I didn’t even know they existed. And I think it’s also a very good thing for our small community because we don’t really have many shops in Hastings.”

Belle also believes Blondi Label’s success lies in its affordability. “No one wants to pay $120 for a pair of leggings.”

This energetic young entrepreneur remains grateful for the closeness of her family, which extends to her recently becoming her dad’s full-time carer even as she has been establishing and running Blondi Label. “He’s been a paraplegic for twelve years now. He had a motorbike accident when I was nine years old.” Belle took on this significant responsibility when the previous professional carer moved interstate. “It can be challenging some days, but I love my dad. He is my favourite human in the whole entire universe. He never complains. He is super easy-going. So it’s actually worked out really well.”

Belle has always lived on the Mornington Peninsula. “I love it.

I love living on the Peninsula. I’m definitely a sun baby. I go to the gym every morning and then I go for a beach walk. I always take my puppies down.”

Belle offers her younger self struggling with the fledgling business a word of advice. “I would just emphasise that you do just need to keep going. There are going to be slow days, there are going to be crazy days. But you just need to be super clear within yourself, your intentions, what you want.”

Photos Yanni

Peninsula Essence – January 2024