Sisters, Pippa McConnell & Penny Rout along with their Dad, Warwick Rolfe manufacture Merino clothing for women, men, kids & babies, & find joy in giving people the gift of warmth & comfort in quality garments.
Tell us about Woolerina.
Woolerina is an Australian-owned and operated family business manufacturing Merino clothing for women, men, kids & babies. Woolerina was established in 2005 as a result of our dad, Warwick Rolfe’s long-held desire to take raw Australian Merino wool directly off-farm and follow it through to a completed garment. Our complete collection of timeless Merino basics is manufactured in our workrooms at Forbes in central NSW.
What is unique about Woolerina?
Working with very specific selection criteria to select the raw, un-mulesed Merino wool which is used in our products and then following this wool through all stages of processing, spinning, knitting, dying and garment construction is what makes our brand unique. Warwick’s expertise and his carefully curated selection criteria for the raw, un-mulesed Merino wool ensure the quality of the finished garments. At Woolerina the quality and performance of our fabrics are paramount and our processes in many instances might be considered “old-school,” but by being careful and not rushing the processes, we are able to achieve fabrics that will stand the test of time and plenty of love!
Customer service has always been very important to Dad and so, being a predominantly online business, we’ve worked hard to ensure that those that receive their Woolerina pieces in the mail still get to feel how much we appreciate each and every order and feel the Woolerina love!
What’s it like working alongside your Dad & Sister?
Pippa: It’s an honour to work alongside Dad and Penny, being the youngest I have always looked up to them both. After spending several years overseas it was so nice to be able to come back home and work with them, they created everything that we are today and over the last few years we have just refined things to make Woolerina even better! Of course, all family business have their ups and downs the great thing is if we have a “barney” we can always kiss and make up, forgive each other and move on to the next thing! We all really cherish that we get to work together and know that we are very lucky.
Penny: Like Pip, I feel that it’s a real honour to be able to work alongside Dad and Pip! I joined Dad in the very early years of Woolerina to “fill in a bit of time” and have never left! It makes me really, really proud to have been part of the growth of the business and to have grown our team from just the two of us working in a very (very) small office to there now being eight of us in our beautiful office, store, and work rooms. There are definitely some fairly trying times when you work in the family business. it’s quite hard to just switch off from work when you leave at the end of the day, but the rewards most definitely outweigh the hard times.
What do you love about owning your own business?
Pippa: When you make a difference in people’s lives - it sounds a bit funny as we are not doing anything groundbreaking by making clothes, but being able to give people the gift of warmth and comfort in quality garments is very rewarding. When you hear stories of people no longer feeling cold and can’t believe what a difference adding a Woolerina layer to their Winter dressing makes, it gives me goosebumps and also makes me feel very proud of my Dad for creating such incredible fabrics that are so soft you can wear next to your skin. Of course, business growth is very rewarding along with coming up with an idea and having it come to life!
Penny: I do love the flexibility of being in our own business! And creating a product and brand that is very much loved by so many people is an enormous reward. Having been part of Woolerina since the very early days, it still gives me the biggest thrill when I see a customer name from the early days pop up in the order list, it definitely makes all the hard work feel very worthwhile when you know people still want to come back for your product so many years later.
What’s the best piece of business advice you have received?
Pippa: Follow your gut! And Dad always said, “never do business with a man wearing dirty shoes!”
Penny: Believe in yourself and what you’re doing. If you believe in yourself, so can everyone else!
What advice would you give to the next generation of women in business?
Pippa: Believe in yourself, persistence pays off.
Penny: Be kind to yourself. We have so much pressure put on us as women to be there for work, to be there for our families. Sometimes things have got to give! Do what you want, not what you feel is expected of you.
What’s on the horizon for Woolerina in 2023?
We have recently launched our AW23 collection and we’re loving sharing the bright colours and beautiful new styles which are part of this. They have been designed to perfectly complement our classic styles! We’ve already started planning our collection for next autumn/winter & will look forward to working to bring that to life as well as the year progresses. We also have an exciting project that Dad has been heading the R+D for over the last couple of years. We are hoping this is the year it will launch!
Location: Forbes | NSW
Photography: Monique Lovick