Female Leader Conversations Ebook feature,
Corban & Blair Owners, Gillian Corban & Amanda Blair said,
“If you are not learning every day, you are probably going backwards.”
- Gillian Corban and Amanda Blair were inducted into the Australian Businesswomen’s Hall of Fame
- The reason they started Corban & Blair was the freedom to create their own culture with a challenging creative job
- They’ve made exclusive products for HelloWorld Travel, Qantas, American Express, Olympus and Westpac
- The Australian Museum and the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games featured their bespoke products
Corban & Blair’s unique designer stationery products are thoughtfully created to showcase the culture, beauty, flora and fauna of Australia. Business partners for 30 years, Gillian Corban and Amanda Blair are also cousins. They have continued to reinvent their offering as consumer preferences have evolved, into a tapestry of enduring business success.
Designers and manufacturers of marketing, presentation and gift products, they provide product solutions for clients. Their thoughtfully designed products tell stories and have meaning, beyond their purpose as marketing tools or gifts. Leaders to emulate, this artistic duo remain as passionate today as when they first founded their company.
How did you lead the business through these difficult times?
Change is a given in business. When we first started a fax was special. Our first laser printer cost $10K. Now there is an uproar if the internet is not working for 10 seconds. Operating a small creative business is a lot of work. Passion, purpose and a smart loyal team are key contributors to our longevity.
Key moments include a big order for Myer when we first started. At the same time, we created bespoke collections for Sportsgirl, Country Road and a gorgeous Wiradhuri Collection for David Jones. We designed and made products for the Sydney 2000 Olympics.
It was a challenge to take some of our manufacturing off shore. We wanted to remain totally Australian. This is not such a big deal today, but at the time it was difficult as we were an Australian brand. BUT it was the right thing to do!
How have you successfully navigated this?
We have always embraced technology to create new products and our marketing communications. Corban & Blair’s product offering has changed many times. We honour the past using traditional manufacturing techniques, as we embrace the future using new technologies and all the disruptive opportunities the market place now delivers.
Our journey has taken us from stationery designers, to designers and manufacturers of products for the corporate sector. We design bespoke marketing, presentation and gifting solutions to tell stories and add meaning to our customer’s brand strategies. Our current passion is to showcase Australian cultural uniqueness and design, often in collaboration with other Australian designers and makers.
We believe in partnerships, mentoring, collaborations, the power of generosity and openness, flexibility, and constant learning as the world changes around us. The global world is a challenge, but it is also filled with opportunity.
What are you involved with?
We pay the carbon credits on our New Zealand made photo frames. We support the arts, schools, women and homelessness, education and mentor and coach within the business and arts community, including mentoring Euraba Indigenous artists and papermakers in Boggabilla.
What are your leadership tips?
Being a leader means creating a vision your team can follow. It is hard to work alone, as operating a business has many facets. Having purpose and passion, combined with intelligence, an open mind and learning from things that don’t work, is critical.
How have you achieved 30 years in business?
Through economic ups and downs, big learning curves, global change, new technology and business reinventions we have managed to survive by being realistic (not hopeful) along with ability to change with the market environment.
Owning a business is like climbing a mountain, you are always striving and looking ahead.
People think we’re big, but we’re not. Our brand is bigger than we are. This idea that you’ve got to be big and growing all the time, can ruin things. You need to be sustainable. We’re profitable and motivated creatively. We want a business where people enjoy working with us.