Alicia Molik’s guide to a good gift? Personalised blankets from a close-knit business
Dean started his career in the fashion industry at 18 years of age, and now runs a Melbourne knitting studio delivering hand-made blankets, with his partner and young children. With strains on their production line, family and business during COVID-19, discover how the resilience of this tight-knit family has them on the front foot for 2021.
Before he was the co-owner of The Knit Studio, Dean Jones was a stay-at-home dad.
He had been in the fashion industry since he was 18, starting his apprenticeship with an Italian family-run knitting mill, while studying at the Melbourne School of Fashion.
But with the birth of his daughter Sage, he decided to take on the role of full-time parent. It was in those years that the dream of starting his own business started to take root. Knitwear, above all, was his passion.
“I started working from our shed, just making knitted blankets and selling them at local craft markets,” he says with a laugh.
Eleven years on, that small shed has been upgraded to a factory, and the business has grown to include a full staff selling hundreds of knitted blankets a week. Today he runs the business with his wife Nichole, making personalised blankets that can be customised on their website so everyone can design their own. Their main target audience? Newborns to tweens. “They’re beautiful, quality blankets, a thoughtful gift and a real keepsake. They’re a popular gift for newborns,” says Nichole.
“Through COVID, we also had stories of people sending a hug to their grandparents in the form of a blanket because they weren’t able to be close, which was really precious.”
Tennis legend Alicia Molik is another faithful customer who enjoys gifting The Knit Studio’s personalised blankets to friends and families – including one for fellow tennis champ Sam Stosur.
“I love ordering gifts for friends from this place. The hand-made Australian products are just divine and the service is great. They always deliver on time and are prompt and reliable. They tick all the boxes!”
“Alicia’s absolutely amazing,” says Dean, and both he and Nichole are humbled by the support that has kept their small business afloat through 2020.
Nichole knows the hardships of closing a business firsthand, having lost her café in 2020 after it was hit hard by the pandemic. “After a career in advertising, I opened the café 10 years ago in Mount Eliza, but last year we couldn’t negotiate the rent with the landlord so we had to shut down,” she says, growing emotional as she recalls having to let staff go. It’s a painful reminder of the financial toll that saw many beloved businesses close their doors in 2020.
Nichole has since thrown all her expertise into helping grow The Knit Studio with Dean. “They say you’re meant to have three different careers in your life, so this my third. Hopefully this is it!” she says with a laugh.
In her case, third time’s a charm. COVID shook the business to its core, but it has regained ground since. “You’re always building your business and moving forward, and then suddenly COVID-19 hit, and everything changed. You actually didn’t know what the rules were, because there weren’t any,” Deans adds, saying that with information changing daily, the hardest part about running The Knit Studio was the anxiety of the unknown, and being unable to plan for the future. The second wave hit Dean, Nichole and their staff particularly hard, as some younger employees struggled with lockdown measures.
Now the worst of the storm has passed, they can speak to the unexpected positives that came from the experience. “We know as a couple we can get through anything. There is nothing we can’t conquer!” says Nichole. Dean also adds that more Australians now value products made in Australia, such as their knitted blankets. Both Dean and Nichole also made the switch to shopping at local Mornington Peninsula businesses rather than the big chains.
As for the 2021 Australian Open, they’ll be cheering on the Australian players from home, however Rafael Nadal is a family favourite.
Nichole has one more AO tip for Melburnians: “Order a blanket that’s customised to your favourite tennis player and take it to the AO with you!” We recommend armchair fans order one, too.
In 2021, Mastercard is opening the Australian Open by supporting small businesses in Melbourne like The Knit Studio. Support the Knit Studio by ordering a blanket at the Knit Studio website or by checking out their Instagram at @theknitstudio.