Green Living

Meet the op-shopper who turned her passion into a business

Op-shopper extraordinaire Charlotte Burt is both the brains behind online vintage store The Goods We Found and the designer of an ethical clothing range for kids

It’s hard to believe it was only a year ago that Charlotte Burt started a little Instagram account called The Goods We Found – it feels like we’ve been following her feed of stylish vintage finds for ever. But this creative mum never sits still for long and, in the year since her business took off, she’s already been on sabbatical to Bali and started an ethical kids’ clothing line, The Goods We Made.

Underlying everything Charlotte does is a drive to make the world a better place, whether by helping her followers find beautiful, pre-loved items that don’t break the bank, or partnering with Ibu-Ibu (aka The Bali Street Mums Project) to gift an item of clothing to a Balinese child for each one sold. We caught up with Charlotte, now back in Auckland, to find out what makes her tick.

What inspired you to start The Goods We Found?

I have been obsessed with secondhand and vintage shopping since I was young. I love finding items that potentially no one else has. When I got married and moved into my first home with my husband, it wasn’t long before our house was filling up with my finds. Then it started overflowing and I needed to do something about it. I already had an Instagram shop where I sold vintage clothes, but that market became so over-saturated that I stopped doing it. One day, the idea just came to me to sell homeware instead. It was genius! No one else was doing that in New Zealand and I got to share the cool things I found. I haven’t looked back since.

What is your work background?

I have such a mish-mash of a work history. I studied radio broadcasting but never worked in it; I have worked in events, as a motivational speaker in high schools, in a law firm, and as a nanny. But I believe everything I’ve done has set me up for running my own business now.

What inspired you to start making kids’ wear?

It is so funny – I had no desire to create a kids’ clothing range. But when we moved to Bali, I only had a tiny carry-on suitcase for my son, so we needed clothing ASAP. Surprisingly, I discovered that there are no good kids’ clothes available in Bali. I looked everywhere. My next option was to get some made, and they turned out so great, I was like, “Stuff it. I’m starting a label.” I had the customer base from The Goods We Found and knew they’d love the style of clothes I was making. It just worked that season and took off from there.

How often do you plan to travel back to Bali?

Every year. That place will always have room in my heart. It’s so magical there.

How are you juggling the two sides of your business?

The great thing about TGWF is, as long as what I am doing aligns with my brand and values, I can try different creative things and my followers are into it. I did the kids’ clothes while I was in Bali because that was accessible to me. Now that we’re back in New Zealand, the focus is on the homeware because that’s accessible again. I am all about keeping it easy and stress-free (especially with a 2-year-old!) but I love the idea of being able to try different things and keep evolving.

Have you always loved op-shopping, interiors, design, clothing and photography?

Op-shopping, yes. Interiors, only since I got married and moved into my own home five years ago. Photography and design, only since I started TGWF a year ago. I didn’t even know that I could put stuff together and photograph it so that other people would think it’s beautiful! I am still learning, though, and I’m lucky – my husband is a designer and photographer so I get all the best tips.

What do you love about vintage shopping?

The mystery. You walk into a secondhand shop and have no idea if you are about to stumble upon your dream couch that hasn’t been touched since the 1970s, or beige corduroy bell-bottoms or a rattan bedhead. It’s a gamble and I love it. I also love seeing with my creative eye – I have to picture how pieces would look in a home or how I would style something so that it looks cool, all alongside 200 other weird, ugly, or shabby pieces. It can be hard but I’m getting really good at it. Lastly, I love that everything already has a story. I try to imagine who owned each item in the past and the memories that might go along with it. That makes it all a little bit magical.

How would you describe your style?

My style is becoming more defined as I grow and start to appreciate really good interior design. I would say I am starting to love mid-century modernism mixed with minimalism.

Cane furniture is big on your feed. If you had to pick the next big thing for interior trends, what would it be?

I am loving mid-century furniture and interiors at the moment. In fact, I am starting to become a little obsessed. Cane is slowly making its way out of our house and mid-century is definitely making its way in. I will always love cane, though, and I’m glad that my followers love it too because it’s so dreamy to style and photograph. I don’t think it will ever go out of style completely.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to start a small business?

Find something you are passionate about and naturally good at. When you get that right, people will want to follow you and buy your goods or use your services. Trust yourself and just start – don’t wait until everything is absolutely perfect. Evolve and learn as you go because the best lessons come from your mistakes and being able to look back on what you have done and see how you can improve.

How do you manage a business with a toddler?

This business in particular is perfect! My son loves coming to op-shops with me because of the toys and he usually gets to pick one to take home. (All his toys probably only cost me about $20 in total!) When I style and take photos, he is having a nap or playing. Then I get the admin done at night. It is quite a breeze – but ask me again when I have more than one kid and I’ll probably be ripping my hair out!

What are some of the vintage shops you love?

Online is my favourite way to shop and there are some great New Zealand businesses doing vintage now. Some of my faves are: @fullcirclegoods, @littlelivingproject, @themustardjumper, @goodgoodmonday and @herharvest. But if I could buy from anywhere in the world, it would be Counter Space, Boheme Goods or Generally Worn. •

Words by: Fiona Ralph. Photography by: Harrison Burt.

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