Customer case study: Anon Studios

Find out how Natalie Meldrum runs Pretty Brave and Crywolf. It's a story of Kiwi ingenuity, a get things done mentality and never pausing to wonder why not.


Natalie Meldrum is the CEO of Anon Studios, which houses two world-class brands, Pretty Brave (footwear from new-borns to eight years) and Crywolf (kids sustainable outerwear). Her story is one of Kiwi ingenuity, a get things done mentality and never pausing to wonder why not. 


The journey (literally) started when she moved to Spain in 2010, inspiring her to create a unique footwear brand appealing to trendy designer parents and their little ones, with quality leather and functionality. 'I knew there was a gap in the market', says Natalie, 'for footwear different to the cliché baby prints and designs on offer'. After more travel in Morocco, Denmark, and Asia, she moved back home in 2015 and launched Pretty Brave in Australasia, with a range of leather baby shoes, then Crywolf in 2019. Typically, Natalie designed the first Crywolf range bouncing around on the back of an overland truck through Tanzania. She knew the business was viable when her house filled up with products being shipped and they couldn't see the carpet. Time to scale up.

Challenges to solve

'One of the biggest challenges', says Natalie, 'is operating two separate brands within similar markets, yet offering different products and visions. One admin structure is cost-efficient, but day to day the jump between the brands can be challenging. Fortunately, the brands complement each other and have a shared customer base'. Other challenges Natalie manages include:

  • Juggling seasonal ranges (sometimes six collections across the two brands at once) and planning the impacts of supply chain delays. One way they've solved this is by setting detailed production timelines for the next year and a half. 
  • Being a full-on creative managing a business. Meeting timelines is always tricky when she's striving for perfection! However, adding a Production Coordinator who cracks the whip to ensure deadlines are met has helped.
  • Deciphering if the money spent on getting new customers is working. It's expensive to run social media advertising campaigns (Facebook, Google and Instagram) to get brand awareness, and it's getting harder and harder to grab people's attention. A photo studio for faster and cheaper media, using a marketing agency to help execute their ideas, a greater focus on old-school marketing methods such as printed material, events and a flagship store have all helped. 
  • The need to do more for returning customers. They already have a loyal following, but there is much more they would like to do in partnering with their growing customers, from engaging with new parents around footwear education to loyalty programs and birthday reminders. 
  • Getting priority freight to make sure products turn up. The brands work with 15 factories across Indonesia, Vietnam and China, so freight is a moving target. To help, they build great relationships with their logistics partners and constantly monitor freight rates and efficiencies.
  • There is uncertainty around FX rates and trading in USD, NZD and AUD, so a focus on forecasting has become crucial. Using forward exchange contracts helps to minimise any exposure.
  • Managing the health of their staff, when 25-30% of staff can be away at any one time. Fortunately, Natalie has an amazing team, where everyone rolls up their sleeves to help when needed across different roles.

Finally, the cost impact of COVID has been significant. Increased costs for shipping and raw materials are difficult to absorb within the business. If price increases are unavoidable, then the brands work hard to ensure customers receive an enhanced product for their money, whether it be through the use of superior materials, improved design or sustainability.

Growth strategies

The first step of Natalie's growth plan was to lock in their competitive advantage. Pretty Brave positions to be the only footwear brand children and parents will need, that looks amazing and on-trend while ticking the boxes of functionality, quality construction and premium materials. Crywolf is slightly different, where sustainability and getting children outdoors and fostering a love of their planet are one of the founding values. The brand aims to do the best for the environment from start to finish, through ethical manufacturing, materials and processes that cause minimum impact.

Two other growth strategies include:

  • Focusing on retaining customers has been a key driver of success for both brands, and Natalie is proud to have a loyal following of customers. She says, 'we get people to come back by consistently delivering world-class products, presented by an exciting and honest brand, combined with exceptional customer service'. 
  • Innovative design-led processes where performance and originality are at the heart of their products. Crywolf is launching its first summer collection of recycled swimwear and accessories, and plans are in place to launch a pet range, as well as branching into snow-wear. Pretty Brave is launching a Back-to-School range later this year, and a sustainable canvas shoe at an affordable price point.

Natalie also uses her established customer base to cross-promote. 

Help along the way

Establishing a successful business with two brands has been an incredible journey full of ups and downs, one that Natalie couldn't have managed without the support of others. 'I'm fortunate to have had mentors further down the track of their business journey to learn from' says Natalie, 'especially the network from the Company of Women. I've enjoyed the Power On sessions, which are fortnightly calls to connect with a network of amazing women. Knowing I am not alone has been uplifting and the sessions are a great way to step aside from the day-to-day and focus on the business'.

Other support Natalie has tapped include Anna Ruediger and Andrea Price from NZTE, and informal contacts like Jeremy Scott whom she's known for years and Scott Litherland. She loves being able to pick up the phone and ask a question when she needs to.

It would be remiss of course to forget to mention Natalie's team that helps with the heavy lifting, including Niamh her production coordinator and Sarah, head of design. 'The success wouldn't be possible if I didn't have my team supporting me' says Natalie, 'and besides, they are way better than me in their roles!' 

Natalie's advice for New Zealand small businesses 

'I figured out pretty early that there is no guidebook on setting up in a certain industry' says Natalie, 'and in some ways, I feel it's best to learn yourself so you're relevant and honest to your business'. If you are lucky enough to nab Natalie for a coffee, here are some words of wisdom:

Understand your pricing structure from unit cost through to wholesale and retail. Use a pricing matrix as your golden tool to get this right every time.

Use software and tech to free up your staff and be more efficient. We use Cin7, Xero and Shopify as well as other platforms which integrate and streamline the business.

Plan to be twice as big as you are to ensure you have the capacity of people, resources and infrastructure in advance of growth periods. Think big from the outset, with world-class software and processes, even when you're small. 

Know you can't do everything on your own, so bring in the right people for the job as early as you can.

Get your finances sorted. We've been lucky to have a bank like ASB that understands our business. Their bankers are amazing. I can pick up the phone or text a banker and get a reply almost straight away.

Natalie's journey has been hard work, diligence and sticking to her vision while keeping existing and future customers happy. Part of her success is being confident with her point of difference, understanding her margins and being prepared to work harder than she'd ever imagined. Check out her website. You'll know where to go next time you need epic children's footwear or to get the kids ready for the outdoors.

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