Borne mosquito free stall at a market

We’ve hit the road!

Since the start of 2021, we’ve been to a good handful markets around Newcastle, and have had the good fortune of engaging in hundreds of great conversations with customers, fans, critics and everyone in between. Strong sales have been a real benefit, but it’s these convos that have kept us coming back for more.

Up to this point, we’ve been eager to chat about our mosquito-repellent clothing to any friend, family-member, colleague or acquaintance we could wrangle. And whilst we’ve had success reaching a broader audience via newspapers and radio, this is the first time that we’ve been able to grab a stranger and tell them how mad our shirts are. More than that, they’ve been able to see our designs in person, feel the organic cotton and try and smell the odourless active ingredient that makes them mosquito-repellent.

We found out that we’d been accepted to sell at Homegrown Markets at Speers Point only 3 days before it started, so we kicked into, ‘shop-build mode’, straight away. With Dan’s keen eye for colours and design, Pat’s welding skills, a couple of calls to mates and a few items of our homes repurposed, we had our stall ready. On the day, we were excited to see those mates that, “hadn’t gotten around to grabbing one yet”, a few work colleagues that didn’t know about our side hustle, and plenty of new faces having a squiz at our stall.

Borne Tshirt hanging on a rack at a market with a hang tag

However, after that first market at Speers Point Park, we thought we needed something more to grab the attention of passers-by. Hence our second market – at The Station in Newcastle – saw us plaster a “Mosquito Repellent Clothing” banner above our stall. We were stoked to see a tonne of nudges and whispers from the crowd, followed by a head nod or a hand point towards our sign. By painting our main point of difference in large letters on our marquee, we were able to more easily engage customers and kick off a conversation.

Often, we could instantly bond over the annoyance of a mozzie on a hot day. We’d ask our customers if they knew any mozzie magnets, and they’d tell us about their mate who loves camping, their boyfriend who loves to fish, or their daughter who’s an ecologist – all of whom hate being eaten alive! Then, the chat would turn to the worldwide issue of mosquito-borne disease. Sometimes the conversation finished there, with market-goers leaving a little more enlightened about a global health issue and one of many solutions that now exists. But often it progressed to a sale, the next step in tackling this problem!

This ability to hear real time customer feedback is invaluable for our fledgling social enterprise. Conversations with our customers are a rarity due to the frictionless nature of buying a T-Shirt online, meaning most customers never speak to a member of our Borne team. In fact, it’s often the case that the only time one of us would speak with an online customer is if something was to go wrong with their order, something we’re keen to change!

Of course, this lack of connection makes it more difficult to be in touch with our customer base and hear what you want. We’ve combatted this by trying to interact with our customers in other ways, often hand delivering T-Shirts when we can and sending out surveys to gauge what you want from us.

Market stall located in Newcastle selling Mozzie-repellent clothing and tshirts

We’ve heard a tonne of suggestions, and to hear them in-person was extremely helpful. They often weren’t just throwaway comments for items we could ‘make insect-repellent’. Instead, the people we chatted with would pitch the idea to us, explaining what circumstances they’d use a certain product in, who we could market it to, and what it may look like. They were demanding products made for those mozzie-filled moments in their lives, and all we had to do was listen!

But not all conversations we’ve had have been product related. Customers have been really keen to chat about our mission and social enterprise structure. Furthermore, we’ve had people that have been so eager to help us on our journey that they’ve thrown their hat in the ring with us! Thanks to those that have offered their marketing skills, their connections in manufacturing and advice on supply chains. We wouldn’t have made these contacts without being there in the flesh.

So what’s next? We’ve loved being at the markets, but there has been a serious roadblock to kitting out customers in our clothes: we’ve sold out of T-Shirts! Even though we haven’t been able to provide products to our customers at the market, they’ve been more than happy to pre-order and wait for the next shipment of products to come.

But fear not! We’ve got a new shipment of T-Shirts that has just arrived! You’re now able to order online or at the markets and have your mozzie-free tees arrive in a flash.


(Originally posted June 1, 2021)

June 29, 2022 — Bal Dhital