Meet Meg McMillan, owner and curator of Tea Pea Home homeware stores and lifestyle brand. Meg brings together the best of international and local design in a tactile colourful and high-quality in edit that is also both unique and inspiring
Somewhere in the midst of her two Wellington bricks-and-mortar stores, the online store, three kids and two fur babies we catch Meg for a few moments to chat. She shares her journey in business and why her customers are at the heart of it all. Naturally, we couldn’t help but fall in love with her style along the way. Read on and enjoy her fabulousness!
What was the founding dream, question or idea running through your minds as you conceptualized Tea Pea?
Twelve years ago, I wanted to decorate my 3 year old, Griffin’s bedroom and couldn’t find anything I liked. So I started buying fabrics from America and designing and making baby and children’s bed linen and interiors that we sold in markets and then online when eCommerce arrived (the evolution of our website is amazing). Once we were online, I wanted to tell more of a story about our brand which meant introducing other brands. We’ve had an incredible following since day one.
How has this evolved? Has 2020 (what a year!) involved much of a pivot, and if so, tell us more?
TPH started organically but we’ve always had a purpose and clear values and have never wavered. Our focus has always been on relationships, first with our customers and suppliers and then as we grew, our team. They are our three pillars.
For the first couple of years, finding brands that excited me and fitted our brand wasn’t easy. There actually wasn’t much out there a decade ago. But slowly, clever little companies have been sprouting, especially in Australia where they are well supported with grants and a big population. TPH has embraced the responsibility of playing their part in the nurturing of these businesses. We currently partner with more than forty brands, big and small.
With business comes challenge, what has been the biggest learning curve to date?
Oh, there’s challenges every day but the biggest was definitely when we opened our first store. I’d had my eye on this particular corner store (we’re still there now). It had been a dress shop for years and I never thought it’d close but it did and I’d signed the lease within a few days. Only then I stopped and realised, although we’d been running Tea Pea Home for five years, I didn’t know anything about staff, inventory or running a store. I also had three young children, including a five month old and at that stage no nanny. We had a tiny fit-out budget so Scott did the fit-out 80% himself, working every night after work from 6pm until midnight. In five weeks we managed to do the fit-out, secure stock, find staff, a nanny and start to get our heads around what on earth we were in for.
What piece of advice would impart to yourself circa 2010?
Have confidence in yourself
What do you love most about the stores?
Our customers and our products are my main focus and my favourite part of TPH. They come together on the shop floor so I could happily spend every day there if I could.
Tell us about your team?
We have the friendliest, happy and dedicated team, we’re really lucky! It’s an 110% environment and they all understand and give that, and more.
And your favourite part about your customers?
Soon after opening our first store, a customer walked in, stopped and said ‘this is like walking into all my favourite Pinterest boards’. I love the enthusiasm and excitement our customers have. They are the loveliest bunch, intelligent and have great independent style. We are so aware that each customer has made an active decision to support us. (Still high fiving each sale and order after all these years.)
Please share your thoughts on the importance of Shopping local, what it means to you.
Knowing who we are supporting has always been important to me. When it’s hard earned money (that’s most of us, right?) I want to spend and send it in directions that benefit our communities and country. We have loads of friends who also have businesses so that’s our first port of call (and the best excuse to buy a dress from Goodness, a sweater from Good As Gold, eat at all our great local restaurants, get my hair looked after at Mane Salon and enjoy a donut at Tomboy).
When buying for the store have you got a process or is it an extension of your own style?
There’s no process with anything I do and definitely not with our buying.
How do you know when something is going to resonate with your customer?
There’s no hesitation here, I know our customers well and luckily for me they trust my style, ideas and choices.
What should we be investing in for our home? Winter?
Goods that lift your spirit and warm your soul. Natural NZ wool blankets, locally made candles, board games, Hawkes Bay reds and sheepskin hot water bottles (we have several options!).
AND for our wardrobe?
What is next on your wish list?
We are hoping to renovate this year so it’s a long list.
What about your Saben style, which is your go-to staple?
And your Saben Splurge?
Co-founded with your husband Scott, it’s undeniable you are a force to be reckoned with when together. Is playing to your strengths an effortless synergy or have you had to find a rhythm? Perks of being in biz with your husband? And what trait do you admire most about each other and how has that shaped the business?
We work incredibly well together. We have different areas we work in within the company and completely trust each other’s decisions. We (used to…) travel frequently for work and that’s always fun to do together. Scott has boundless energy, works long hours and has this amazing ability to plough through huge amounts of work. He actually has a day job, he’s a partner in advertising agency, Once Upon A Time. Scott looks after our whole website and TPH accounts as well as design and head of IT, all early mornings and late at night.
Work and home balance must be hard when you live and breathe all things Tea Pea - Talk us through those boundaries or the lack-there-of?
With two businesses to run, both in challenging industries and three kids at three different schools and in three different stages in life, there’s never a dull moment. And two dogs!
AND please share your to do’s if we had 48 hours in Welly:
Walk around Oriental Bay with a coffee and donut from Tomboy then jump on a crocodile bike.
Champagne at the top bar at QT Museum then on to dinner at Ortega.
Early breakfast at Prefab then Te Papa.
Dumplings from Vicky at the Harbourside Sunday markets and walk with the kids down to Frank Kitts Park.
Drive over the hill to Martinborough for the day and enjoy a Pinot Gris and platter at Poppies Winery.
Photography: Lucy Li Photography
Saben Style: Shop Saben handbags HERE.
Besties and business partners, Nia and Talia are the creative duo behind local womenswear brand Layplan. On the blog we chat about business, what inspires them and intentional design.