Julie Brand is a woman with a very interesting and diverse career history.
From working as a glass artist in Fitzroy for many years and then as a university lecturer in design, her working life has changed dramatically.
In 2002, Julie was diagnosed with breast cancer. After a mastectomy and an unsuccessful reconstruction which lasted for seven months, she asked her plastic surgeon to remove the breast implant.
'After it came out, I needed a breast form but the only products available at the time were ill-fitting, uncomfortable and poorly designed,' she says.
As an artist who had 'always made stuff', Julie decided to design and make an external breast prosthesis for herself.
'There were none on the market that appealed to me. I intuitively knew that if I wasn't happy with a weighted breast form, other women wouldn't be happy either.
'So my partner Franco, an Italian shipwright and a man who can make anything, decided we'd get into it and Perfect Again was born!
'It was a very fortuitous introduction. Through the Business Victoria network, the AusIndustry contact was made.'
AusIndustry then awarded Perfect Again with two Research & Development grants, key to the business’s consolidation.
Julie also credits a local business mentor for helping Perfect Again with expert, objective operational advice about running the business.
Given the advanced technology that they use to make their breast forms, Julie keeps the procedure as simple and as personal as possible.
After some successful trials, Julie and Franco decided to purchase a robotic machine that uses the same technology as a 3D printer.
Perfect Again now makes 2 kinds of breast form. One is the customised version but it’s the other version that is the game changer. This is the ready-to-wear range of breast forms called Perfect Now. They are the most comfortable breast forms available in Australia today and they are made in regional Victoria at Portarlington.
I think this is the most important work I have ever done in my life.
As far as the business side is concerned, Julie loves being her own boss as all the responsibility comes back to her. Small business, she believes, runs Australia.
'When you look at it, my business story is unique, ' Julie says.
'After undergoing breast cancer surgery, everything is different and overwhelming. I know because it happened to me. The business Franco and I have created as a result of something terrible is one we’re very proud of.'
Julie’s 3 tips for other small business operators:
- Understand where your product sits in the market and the supply chain. It’s no use if you can make a great product but can’t get it out to your customers.
- Test the waters as best you can. Research the market and what’s available, so you’re in a better position to check and review. Keep talking to your clients and you’ll only improve.
- Remain true to your original concept but always stay flexible and open to new opportunities and keep checking everything!