Laying the boot into rivals

Judy Smyth is owner of successful Fremantle business Bindoon Boots. Picture: Martin Kennealey d404428
Judy Smyth is owner of successful Fremantle business Bindoon Boots. Picture: Martin Kennealey d404428

The company has come a long way from when owner Judy Smyth founded the venture with a tiny, homemade crafts outlet on her verandah in Bindoon.

It is now a permanent fixture of the Fremantle retail landscape and a small team of two machinists and one cutter are working flat out in the Queen Victoria Street shop to keep up with demand. Celebrities from Cate Blanchett to Jamie Oliver wear her boots.

Ms Smyth leased her first shop in Fremantle Markets, stocking wool toys and other products, as well as boots she bought from manufacturer West End, a company she later purchased.

‘When I wanted to buy the business I went to the bank to borrow some money, about $8000,’ she said.

‘But they wouldn’t lend it to me because I was a single woman.

‘I carried on, the guy who was selling it supported the debt and I paid it off. You need to be able to take a risk in business.

‘I just thought of it as supporting my kids.’

It is the import market that really affects business these days though, with China flooding the market with cheaper, lower-quality products.

Customers soon learn, returning to locally made goods that last longer.

As president of the Australian Sheep Skin Association, Ms Smyth led the charge to defend the word ‘ugg’ from the US company that bought the brand Ugg Australia.

‘It’s hard to compete with the big Americans,’ she said.

‘But IP Australia ruled that ‘ugg’ is a generic word, so we can use it.’