Self-taught plasma cutter and painter, Molly Mackay turned a childhood passion into a business and loves that she can create pieces that people can look at and enjoy every day and pass on to the next generation.
Tell us a little bit about Molly Mackay Metalwork & Molly Deans Art.
I have always loved creating things. As a child, my parents often thought I must love the sticky tape dispenser's sound because it was all they would hear as I tore through another project. While at boarding school in Sydney, I fell in love with landscape painting and being extremely homesick; this helped me feel connected to the farm. I continued to paint through university, and my metalwork was an extension of my love for art. Art isn’t for everyone, and creating signs was a way I could combine my business degree and be creative.
What inspired you to start your own business?
After uni, I was working on my parent’s farm, which I loved, we were deep into the third year of drought, and I was desperate to be creative again. My then-boyfriend (now husband) actually suggested I buy a CNC plasma cutter. He knew of someone selling one and thought it was something I would enjoy doing. We loaded up after harvest and drove to Rockhampton on Christmas eve to collect the first machine, and after much trial and error, the rest is history.
What’s the most rewarding aspect of owning/running your own business?
For me, it is having the opportunity to take someone’s vision and bring it to life. I love making signs for people that they can look at and enjoy every day and pass on to the next generation. It is also important to take five steps back and reflect on how far you’ve come as a business. Looking back to see how far I have come since teaching myself to use a plasma cutter and CAD design programs is extremely rewarding.
I have been able to reinvest in equipment that is more than double the size of my original machine, which I’m proud of.
What have been some of the challenges you have faced in starting your own business?
The fluctuation of commodity prices and raw steel has been a challenge for many businesses in the last couple of years. Although we are not remote, only 25km from Coonamble out access to town, our location was frequently interrupted by flooding last year. I was driving a 7km buggy to meet our car parked on the roadside for months. I could not bring steel into my workshop and had to close down my business for months at a time. The bright side to this challenge was that I could use this time to focus on my art and create a collection of landscapes which was released in December last year.
How do you build a successful customer base?
I relied heavily on social media during the early days of my business. Although the name Molly Mackay Metalwork is not very sexy or original, it has served me well in the sense that my business is easy to find on and offline. Word of mouth is essential in what I do, so I try to worth with my customers to create a piece they will be proud of and want to share with their loved ones.
You are undoubtedly busy. How do you take care of yourself and maintain good mental health?
It is important to unplug and take some time away. It is hard to do this as a small business owner; everything you do can be related to the business. And to give your clients the best service, you must be at the top of your game.
If you’re honest with people, they are generally understanding. People don’t expect 24/hour service from large retail companies, which is vital to remember when dealing with a small business. If you need time to rest or spend with your family, be honest with your clients and take what you need.
What’s on the horizon for Molly Mackay Metalwork and Molly Deans Art in 2023?
I look forward to releasing a small collection of garden sculptures between my custom sign orders this year and a mini-series of landscape paintings inspired by Central western NSW.
2023 is my first year in business as a mother, so it’s a new challenge for me, which I love. Between floods, sleep school (for my baby), and the farm, it has been busy already, but I am sure it will be the most rewarding year yet!