Feature Shop: George & Willy

From the very beginning George and Willy were finding ways to make and create together. They went from sneaking into their Uni workshop so they could make all kinds of objects, from toy helicopters to swings and lamps, to now – combining their knowledge and skills to make life tools with purpose, made to make everyday life more enjoyable.

Getting approval from not just mates but ensuring they are making objects that they’re grandparents also approve of. The duo have an inspirational take on life and business, ensuring that their creative process is casual and enjoyable. Whether it be surrounded by friends and having a general chat and throwing ideas around – to drawing and conceptualising those ideas.

Read on to learn more about George and Willy from Tauranga, New Zealand.

What do you make?

We make life tools for everyday use – just little things to help users streamline peoples day and make it more enjoyable – simple little things like toast tongs and list making devices.

Can you tell me a little about how George and Willy first started and how long you have been creating?

We were both in the same design paper at Uni and there was a small little workshop called the ‘Tin Shed’. In the Tin Shed there were heaps of tools but no one ever really used them, apart from us. We would leave the window open after class so we could sneak in at night and make stuff – we made toy kitset helicopters, giant matchsticks, swings and lamps – all just for fun! All the resources were free so we went hard and actually forgot to apply for graduate jobs.

Can you tell me about the first thing you created together? Did you realise from there that you could make a business from that?

We never set out to make a business – we just started making things together for fun – the classic backyard swing was one of our first commercial products. We made them and our friends and family were interested so we made more!

What is your creative process like?

We make things that we need for ourselves to make our lives easier, but struggle to find. We always get so excited about a product simply because we can’t wait to use it ourselves. We collaborate on each product and throw ideas around, we always ask our grandparents for advice as we look up to their non-disposable attitude towards products and how their ‘if something breaks, fix it – don’t just throw it away’ approach. We love to make products that make sense to our grandparents as well as our mates.

Where do you source the natural materials / wood you use to make from?

We love looking around and testing the materials ourselves to see how they go – focusing on materials that wear-in over time rather than wearing-out.

Why is this important to the products you’re creating?

Our designs are very simple so it important that the materials speak for themselves. One of the most exciting things is using a new material and learning about it. When something is made from a beautiful material – I can’t put it down – love holding onto it and feeling it.

What are your favourite things about George & Willy?

We have another part of the business called the lifestyle division – which we love to concentrate on. There are a lot of very successful businesses which lack the lifestyle division – enjoying work and having time for friends and family and exercising. We are all mates here (in Tauranga, New Zealand)  and go for group trips about 5 times a year – from rafting, four wheel driving, surfing and everything. We are building a skate ramp in the workshop next month which we are all excited about!

I also love sitting down with a cup of tea and a group of mates and just throwing ideas around – collaborating to come up with a concept, drawing it, developing it and then watching it turn into reality.

There’s almost nothing that excited me more than seeing a first prototype come to life. Then, when people actually buy the product it’s super satisfying.

What do you wish someone had told you about running a small business before you started?

I have always loved the quote –‘Ready, Fire, Aim’ don’t think about starting just start and correct course along the way. Another great piece of advice I heard from a mate who has done really well is – to increase profit – don’t cut costs – increase revenue.

What has your best selling item been?

Our best selling item is our Studio Roller – the wall mounted bracket for rolls of kraft paper – they are perfect for cafes, offices, communal spaces or in the home – they are an interactive piece of art – I feel people pay more attention to things which are handwritten!

What is your proudest accomplishment to date?

Working with mates every day to make products we love while still having enough time to do the other things we love.

What are some of your goals and dreams for George & Willy’s future

We have got pretty big plans and a great team in place to help us smash them – We are excited to be getting into retail very soon so if you have a cool little store we would love to hear from you and we are excited to supply our life tools to more enthusiastic humans around the world.

Shop the collection of thoughtful and purposeful items created by George and Willy here.

Laura is our Etsy AU PR & Communications Coordinator. With a background in Design & Marketing, Laura enjoys finding the extraordinary in what others may see as ordinary. With a love of film making and literally making things with her hands, she has found a home at Etsy where she can share the stories of other makers from across Australia using all kinds of mediums.

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