While heavily pregnant with her second daughter Meila, and wrangling toddler Lulu, Peta O’Neill conceived an entirely new baby… Love Mae began nearly a decade ago as a seat-of-her-pants Etsy operation selling vintage-inspired, planet-safe decorative products for the young and young at heart.

Based in the creative heartland of Byron Bay, Peta has used her photographer’s eye and love of beautiful homewares to nurture Love Mae into a globe-trotting little lady with a collection of playful designs and quality lifestyle products sold worldwide.

We thought it was high time to take you into the oh-so-pretty world of Love Mae to meet the founder who describes herself as ‘annoyingly determined when it comes to making a dream a reality.’
 
 
Love Mae is celebrating its 9th Birthday this year! That’s 10 working years… How does it feel to be achieving such a huge milestone?
I have to stop and think about it to really let it sink in! I was pregnant when we started dreaming up
Mae, so the sight of my youngest, Meila, sometimes reminds me just how much time has passed
and how far we’ve come.
 
How did Love Mae look in its infancy? What sorts of products did you start out selling and how did the business grow from there?
Love Mae had such a vintage feel about her in the beginning… she was a very pretty baby! Lots of floral patterns and nostalgic odes to the childhood aesthetics of the ’50s and ’60s.

We used to love doing product photoshoots with bits of furniture we’d painted and quilts we’d brought back from vintage stores in New York. To begin with, we only sold fabric decals – matt-finish fabric decals – so we were the perfect alternative to vinyl.

We would use the money from the sales on Etsy to actually have it produced and post it off. It was very funny – the rush to the printers and the fear that we might get caught out not having anything in stock. Other than our Etsy store, we only sold our designs wholesale for quite a while. Independent Australian stores have always been such a huge support.
 
Did you know much about business or were you muddling through?
Complete muddling! He he. Although I should give myself some credit. I worked in so many different positions and travelled a lot when I was younger, I think I’ve always had to work things out quickly or it would mean missing out on an opportunity. I can be annoyingly determined when it comes to making a dream a reality.
 
Was there a point or an event that made you feel like Love Mae was really starting to blossom or was a ‘success’?
Love Mae got traction really quick, it took us by surprise and the buzz was fantastic. We really ran with it and four months later we took our designs to a tradeshow. It was then that we knew it was real! We came home from Melbourne with a bundle of wholesale orders in our hands and smiles on our heads. There was lots of panic… but we had to just run with it.
 
What personal passions of yours are at the heart of Love Mae?
Travel, always. Sourcing and inspiration is my life-long excuse for being able to pack my bags and go somewhere new and exciting. With each trip, my ideas grow and then so does the business. This definitely wasn’t an accident… in fact, it was meticulously planned as the purpose of Love Mae.
 
What’s the next big thing we can expect from Love Mae?
Ha ha, so cheeky! I wish I could give you all the details. There are definitely new products in the works and they are an ode to the classics. We get the samples back really soon, waiting can be torture. I’ve also been playing around and collaborating with some friends. Byron is filled with so many amazing people and it’s great when we pool our resources and make beautiful things.
 
As the founder of a successful lady startup, what’s the philosophy of culture you aspire to create at Love Mae HQ?
I feel strongly that work is not the most important thing in people’s lives – we all need the chance to take time off without feeling like we are doing the wrong thing. A Love Mae ‘policy’ is family first, and it’s something I’m very passionate about. No matter how important things seem at work, I’d like to think we all have a life that we are prioritising. Sometimes that means switching off on holidays and not thinking about work at all and other times it means a day on the couch with a sick little one, even if it is the worst timing.

The health of the planet is at the heart of Love Mae’s brand values and how you choose to create products. How is this expressed in your everyday life?
We try hard to make good decisions with everything we do at home and at work. Living where we live definitely makes it so much easier for all the everyday things. All hail the bulk food and farmers market revolution and the local three waste bins the Council provide – the wonderful Byron shire is a haven for every day environmental decisions.

It’s the bigger things that I struggle to teach my girls. The effects of watching a documentary can sometimes be a bit quick to wear off so we keep up the conversation… tediously so… asking ourselves if it can’t re-used or biodegrade, do you really need it? This season my eldest girl, Lulu, is trying not to buy any new clothes. She’s doing well so far but that teen generation seems to love cheap fast clothes so much, it’s scary.
 
If there was one habit that you wish everyone in the world would take up for the greater good of the environment, what would it be?
Say no to soft plastic! Actually, any plastic that can’t be recycled.
 
You are a wife(ish), a mum to two gorgeous girls as well as a successful business owner. How do you find balance in all of your leading roles?
To be honest, I’ve fallen from grace recently. I felt like I’d slid to a point that I thought there was no return from, but I’m now in the throes of clawing my way back to a place of supposed balance. I remember what it felt like to be balanced and I’m on a mission to get back there.

For three weeks now I’ve abandoned argument with myself and got up early and started working on me. The only time I can fit it in is while everyone is sleeping. Meditation and exercise is working its wonders so far… Now, to just keep up the routine.
 
You’re a mum and most of your customers are mums. What’s the best piece of advice you could share with…
New mums: Dive into it and trust your instinct. It goes by in a flash and being worried takes away all the other emotions both good and bad. The whole thing is a journey and you need to be as fluid as possible. If this is hard there is so many people to reach out for help, but don’t be shy if you feel uncomfortable people love to help.

Mums of tots: Enjoy the full energy of this phase and get out and physical as much as possible…run in parks, swim in pools and help them grow strong and agile. It’s good for both of you. Oh and get some time out even if it’s hard to organise! It’s good for everyone that mum has the odd dinner, lunch or drinks with some friends.

Mums of pre-teens: I feel your pain! No seriously, I do. My eldest daughter, who is nearly a teenager, recently decided I know nothing and that she knows everything. I’m trying to roll with advice I received years ago: listen and breath. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever tried to do but it definitely works.
 
Your girls are growing up observing their mum as an independent business owner and mentor. What do you hope they will learn from this aspect of their childhood?
That it takes so much strength and determination to achieve dreams, especially if they are ambitious. That the losses are also wins. That sounds like such a cliché but it’s true. They’ve seen the wins and the losses and as they get older, they witness this with so much more detail. Most of all I want them to know that it’s a worse feeling not trying at all.
 
What’s the ‘Peta O’Neill Life Hack’?
My girls use this phrase all the time… it makes me giggle hearing it. Life hack? Hmmm, my life hack would be ‘phone a friend’. Could that be considered a life hack? It always fixes things for me.
 
You’ve always been an avid traveller, are there any places still on your bucket list?
I could seriously travel full time for the rest of my life and still have places I’d love to visit. Next dream trip is a family one… Paris overland to Amalfi coast, a boat ride to Greece and then on to Turkey, finishing up in Istanbul at the Blue Mosque. I can’t stop thinking about it. I’ve seen a bit of Europe and lived in Portugal for a while, but I never made it to any of these parts. I’m also dreaming Sri Lanka and South America.
 
Sum up mum life in 5 words.
Challenging, enlightening, funny, girly and way too fast.
 
Give us your Fast 15. Right now I’m…
Cooking… a curry. Loving the Church Farm's Thai Green Curry Paste.
Drinking… vodka, lime and soda.
Reading… The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls.
Playing… Uno.
Dreaming… of travelling to Europe.
Loving… eating out. And slow Sundays… When they both combine, it’s the best.
Loathing… a strong southerly that is bringing on winter.
Buying… a lot of food. It’s school holidays and there are lots of little friends hanging out.
Watching… Wild Wild Country (probably the last person ever to watch it).
Cringing… at phrases my girls get from movies.
Sorting… baking ingredients… constantly. The ever evolving shelf of glass jars in my very small pantry.
Coveting… lounges and chairs. How good is the Pop & Scott lounge?
Reflecting… on the last nine years of Mae.
Snacking… on a muesli bar that my girls made from a Donna Hay cookbook.
Listening… bingeing on podcasts…. I just caught up with Heavyweight.
 
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