Independent & loyal, Bec Nicholls saw a need for a women’s lifestyle store in Gundegai, & instead of whinging about it, she took the plunge & opened Fig & Co, a vibrant & colourful boutique with a strong sense of community.
Tell us about Fig & Co.
Fig&Co is a brick-and-mortar boutique store on the main street of Gundagai, NSW. We celebrate small businesses and highlight Australian-made products. Additionally, we proudly feature original artworks by Australian Artists.
What inspired you to open Fig & Co?
I had been talking about “this store” I wanted to open for a while. However, I was terrified that it wouldn’t be successful. Gundagai had very limited retail options and nothing that catered to women in my age bracket. There was a gap in the market! I had attempted to purchase my sister a local gift, one I could post to Melbourne, and came home empty-handed.
I think this was the turning point. I told my husband I could whinge or do something about this. So we decided to start Fig&Co. It was mid-Covid, and looking back, we were incredibly brave to open a store at such an uncertain time. We had lockdowns and restrictions to navigate, and in some ways, maybe it was a blessing because we didn’t know it any other way.
We survived all that came our way, and in less than 12 months, we had outgrown our little rental space. The cafe across the road came up for sale, so we decided to take the leap and purchase our own store. With the help of family and friends, we renovated the cafe, and we were opened for Christmas trade in 2021.
What makes Fig & Co unique?
I love that Fig & Co is more than a place where you can purchase a gift or a new dress, but somewhere you can pop in for a chat. There is never any expectation for you to purchase anything. I like to think of it as a place to bring the community together.
What do you enjoy most about owning your own business?
I enjoy the flexibility. But also, running a small business requires a lot of hard work, and witnessing the outcomes of that effort can be very gratifying. The late nights doing orders, coordinating stock deliveries, and building relationships with brands and artists all start at 8 pm for me.
One of the unexpected elements of our business is the original art we showcase. I knew it was something I wanted to include in the store. However, I didn’t have much experience in that area. Initially, I would purchase artwork from emerging artists with their permission to sell through Fig&Co.
Fast forward two years, and we now have a beautiful group of Australian artists hanging their works on our walls, and I couldn’t be more grateful. The friendships that have come from this art space were so unexpected, and I adore them.
What challenges did you have to overcome at the beginning of your business journey?
Time management and sourcing stock for a store that wasn’t open yet. Some suppliers in the early days were reluctant to supply us as we didn’t yet have a visual brand. I couldn’t provide photos of a space with stock, and I couldn’t stock the space without wholesale accounts.
There was the usual - “How long have you been in business?” Or - “Can you please send a photo of your store so we can see if our brand aligns with your style?” There was a lot of talking (something I’m pretty good at)!
We slowly started getting some wonderful brands on board and got on a roll. Our youngest daughter was five months old when we opened the store, and there were many hours spent on the couch feeding with my phone in one hand, searching for stock.
You have recently gone through A health scare. How has this changed you personally & professionally?
In late 2021, I found out that I carried the BRCA1 gene. Initially, I didn’t completely understand how serious this diagnosis was. BRCA1 increases a woman’s chance of breast and ovarian cancer. About 13% of women in the general population will develop breast cancer sometime in their lives. By contrast, 55% - 72% of women who inherit a harmful BRCA1 variant will develop breast cancer. About 1.2% of women in the general population will develop ovarian cancer sometime during their lives. 39% - 44% of women who carry the BRCA1 variant will develop ovarian cancer. The numbers are just huge! It has taken me over 12 months to get my head around everything and to form a surgery plan. My first consultation with the cancer genetic specialist was in Sydney, and the first thing that came out of his mouth was, “You are overweight, and your surgical outcomes are very low.” I didn’t hear anything else he said after that. I think this single line was part of why it took me over 12 months to start my surgical journey.
In Early January, I had bariatric surgery, and following my weight loss, I will have my ovaries removed. I have six monthly breast monitoring appointments, with breast surgery plans in the future. I definitely look at life as a bit more precious now and want to ensure I am here for our three young children. It has taught me not to sweat the small stuff and be thankful for every day.
Location: GUNDEGAI, NSW
Photography: Rachael Lenehan
Facebook: fig and co