INTERVIEW: The SuperCool



From pop-up shops and makers’ markets to a permanent store at SO:ME Space, Kate Vandermeer gives us the lowdown on how The SuperCool became one of Melbourne’s most beloved lifestyle stores. 

Six years ago, Kate Vandermeer and David ‘Noonie’ Nunez made the life-changing decision to chuck in their jobs and take the leap into small business ownership. Inspired by their world travels, the characters they met along the way and the memories and stories they’d collected over their adventures, the duo started building the humble foundations of what is now a South Melbourne Market institution, The SuperCool.

So you’ve been doing the SuperCool for a few years now, where did the idea come from?

Six years in mid-October! I was consulting to brands about trend forecasting and marketing within the fashion and retail industry and found that retail was undergoing a big change. Customers were becoming less engaged with the traditional shops and department stores model. We wanted to embrace the concept of the vintage peddler that went from town to town or neighbourhood to neighbourhood, to bring their new and exotic wares to the locals. It was an occasion and all about engagement. So we reinterpreted this in a modern context using pop up shops and social media to drive a ‘seek and find’ theory.

Both you and Noonie worked outside of retail prior to opening The SuperCool. What inspired you to take a risk and open a lifestyle store? Were you a little scared at first?!

I had worked in consulting so I knew what I was doing and have worked off and on in retail since I was 15. Both my parents had retail small biz’s so I knew all about the behind the scenes and the hard work! However, I am all about risk taking. I’ve pivoted many times in my career and tried lots of things. I’m forever curious and not scared to try new things as long as it make sense! 

I worked part time consulting still whilst we began TheSuperCool until I took the leap to go full time around 6 months in. Noonie trusted me and felt passionate about this project, and worked part time in TheSuperCool whilst maintaining a full time job for 12 months. He then took the leap shortly after.

There’s countless stories of people who have thrown in their high-paying corporate jobs and opened their dream business, only for it to fail miserably. What advice would you give someone who’s keen to go into small business ownership?

Advice for others is, work out your burn rate – how much money do you need to live off and pay your bills and that’s the minimum you need to earn. Go slow and steady. Build at a pace that supports your learning, growth and health. If you do expand quickly and don’t have operations sorted, you’ll burn out quickly, financially and health wise!

Owning a small business can suck the life out of you, and you make some pretty massive lifestyle changes and sacrifices. That must’ve been difficult early on, but has it changed over the years? Has it become easier?

Haha… gosh great question. It’s so the tortoise and the hare story. I am by nature a bit of an adrenaline junkie/ hare. I get super excited and go hard fast. But I am learning as I grow more in wisdom and age to take on the tortoise characteristics and go a bit slower. Be mindful, meditate and therefore make better decisions. I would say having a baby has definitely changed my state of mind. It’s forced us both to be more routine people which has been good as we were a bit chaotic before. It’s also forced us to be efficient with our time as we just want to spend time with Lola, and not work all the time.

The lifestyle industry’s really boomed over the last few years with huge increases in home renovation, DIY and a surging interest in interior styling and lifestyle products…

Yes, such incredible growth! I would say I left the fashion industry at a pivotal time. It was before many small and large business’ went out of business and sadly folded. I feel like lifestyle is the new fashion. It’s growth is crazy. I would say fashion can be very exclusive and high brow and the home and lifestyle industry is inclusive and not as serious. We also believe from a wider public point of view, shows like The Block and renovating, interior shows have made people take more pride in the appearance of their home.

You started off in 2011, before Instagram and Pinterest really took off. Has social media and the internet age been a blessing or a hindrance for retail and, more specifically, The SuperCool brand?

The influence of social media has been paramount to our personal success and the general interest of the customers as well. We have people literally come in with a picture of a room and say “Can you help me achieve this?”.

What sort of impact has online shopping had on your business and why do you think it’s still important to have a ‘bricks-and-mortar’ store?

Whilst I personally love online shopping, I also will never tire of the retail experience. There is something so tactile, personal and enjoyable about the real thing. The music, smelling candles, flipping through a book, feeling the textures of a throw or cushion. It’s all such a visual feast! 

What makes Melbourne the best place to live?

Family and friends without a doubt. The mix of cultures is also great. Not many other cities would embrace the way we began our business (seeking and finding) but locals love the hunt and being in the know!

What do you love about working in South Melbourne, and particularly the market?

The market has been integral to our success. From the locals embracing us and our offering to the the team at SMM have been so supportive of our growth and allowing us to expand so much within SO:ME Space. We’ve been lucky to win local and international awards for our business and also be asked by SMM to be on of their ambassadors for this year, the 150th year of the South Melbourne Market. It’s such an honour to be part of such a unique community!

What’s your No. 1 styling tip?

Buy what you love. Don’t just buy a trend. Trends will come and go but buying something that means something to you will always “work” in your space as long you are connected to it!

Ceramics and greenery were pretty big on the product radar this year. What’s your prediction for the next big thing?

Bath, Body & Wellness. So much so, we have created a section for searching this in our online store. We are so busy, so consumed by social media, screen time, deadlines and chaos. Stopping, slowing down, mindfulness and wellness is the next booming market. So any products that are like daily rituals that remind us who we are and help us feel calm is where its at AND make great gifts!

The SuperCool

SO:ME Space
South Melbourne Market
Entry via Cecil & York Sts
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