Founder & Director / Prene Bags
At only 24 years of age, Tammy Green has a multi-million dollar business, and her product is stocked in over 400 stores globally. Yes, you read that correctly, globally. But, this isn’t a story about her brand Prene Bags. It’s a story about every single step that she took, and every decision she made to get to where she is now.
Be prepared to be get a swift kick of inspiration on your Monday.
Please meet Tammy Greene.
Where you grew up and how your experience shaped the person you are, and the career that you are in today?
I was born in London, UK (my dad is English and my mum is Australian) and moved to Australia when I was 3. I am an only child, and grew up a very shy, quiet and mature kid. We lived in a beachy suburb of Melbourne – the beach will always feel like home to me – however, my fondest memories are spending the holidays with my cousins on their farm in country Victoria. We are all similar ages and they were like siblings to me – we are still close to this day.
Being an only child meant I was always quite independent and spent a lot of time working on creative activities – I was always making, sewing or drawing something, and I absolutely loved playing “shops.” When I was eventually old enough to start working I quickly realized that playing “shops” was very different to working in one. I worked in a few retail stores as well as a nanny, and none of these jobs excited me, but thankfully my creative flair always had me doing something on the side – making t-shirts, altering and up-selling op shop clothing, or renting out outfits.
I have always been quite entrepreneurial and always thought I would have my own business one day – I just had no idea what that would be.
When you were a young girl what did you want to be when you grew up?
What didn’t I want to be! I remember sitting in the backseat of the car when I was very young and having a window washer run over and quickly clean the windscreen with a water bottle for a few dollars. I thought that was the coolest job ever. I wanted to be a florist (I still absolutely adore flowers – the colours and scents make me so happy and I love nothing more than visiting a store), a real estate agent, a receptionist, a teacher, a clothing designer, a plastic surgeon (if I had the skills, intelligence, patience – and wasn’t so squeamish!), a dermal clinician… my aspirations changed with the weather.
Where did you go to High School and how was that experience for you?
I went to Firbank Grammar School here in Melbourne, and I truly loved high school. Not because I was a nerd – I wasn’t – I was a very typical, good student – but the experience itself was very enjoyable for me. It’s an all girls school which often makes you think of J’amie from Summer Heights High (fun fact: Hillford was actually filmed at Firbank) and of course with young, silly teenage girls there will always be gossip and shenanigans. But I was surrounded by a great group of friends – we are all still incredibly close to this day – and school memories are some of my favourite. My funniest experiences always relate back to going on school camp (of which there were many.)
Did your high school play an important role in helping you choose your further education and future career?
To be completely honest, no. School definitely provided all of us with a lot of resources, support and information to aid in choosing a university path – however, for me, I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do, and as year 12 was nearing an end I had put pressure on myself to “just choose a course” as that was the “right thing to do.”
Thankfully a friend of mine suggested a course she had seen, Business Entrepreneurship at RMIT, that she thought would be perfect for me. This is what I went with. Looking back now, it would have been great if as students, we were informed about other options besides university. There is so much pressure to make such a huge decision as a 17 or 18 year old, and the reality is, university is not going to be right for everyone, and in this modern world (and depending on what you want to do) it is not always necessary in order to be successful.
In my career, practical experience has been more valuable than anything I have been taught from a text book.
Love this advice Tammy. So, did you complete any internships or work experience placements in high school? Tell us about that experience.
I did some work experience helping teachers at a primary school – however, really this was just a lot of photocopying and essentially a chance to miss a couple of hours of regular classes back at high school.
Did you go to College, University, Tafe or another equivalent? Take us through the courses that you studied and why you chose them?
As touched on in an earlier answer, I went to university, studying a Bachelor of Business Entrepreneurship. A friend recommended this course to me – my friends also recognized that I was quite entrepreneurial – and I was excited that this course sounded a bit more creative than just numbers and figures. Unfortunately, numbers and figures were still a very large part of the course, and for someone who had always struggled with maths, I just could not pass statistics or accounting. I was essentially failing, and had no idea how I was going to move past these areas, or if this course was even right for me at all. After struggling through my first year, I was ready to give up on my business course and possibly try something in design – or completely on the other end of the spectrum – beauty. I have always had a passion for skincare and an interest in cosmetic procedures, and so I did some online courses and clinic placements, as well as was accepted into a Bachelor of Health Science – but I never ended up going ahead with this. Thankfully, my little side business that I started during my business university days – Prene Bags – was starting to take off and I decided to devote my time to this instead.
Tell us about your career journey so far. Who you have worked for, and explain any highlights?
I started my own business when I was 20, so I do not have a great deal of experience working for others, however, prior to launching Prene Bags, I had a few part time and casual jobs – working in a frozen yoghurt store, shoe store and clothing store. The clothing store was Zachary the Label, run by Effie Kats, who is an incredibly inspiring young businesswoman – I highly recommend listening to her interview on the Shameless podcast if you haven’t already.
I am thankful that I never had to work in a corporate environment – this is just not the person that I am and something I would have really struggled with.
Needless to say, my career highlight was launching Prene Bags at the end of 2015. My biggest highlight to date with Prene would have to be being recognized and asked by the Australian Open to make a custom bag for the tennis tournament last year.
How did you get into the job that you are in now?
Having always created side businesses throughout my childhood and teenage years, it just so happened that one of those side businesses ended up taking off and turning into a career! I thought neoprene (wetsuit) – which all Prene Bags are made from – had a very cool, unique look. It is also incredibly lightweight, machine washable and vegan friendly. I had seen a few different clothing garments made from it – I have always loved Alexander Wang for example – and so I decided to make up a couple of sample bags – really just for personal use. I gave one of the samples I had been working on to my mum, and she carried it out to dinner one night. About 5 people stopped her in the street, asking where her bag was from, and that’s when I thought I could probably try to sell a few. I set up a website and Instagram… and as they say, the rest is history. 4 years later I am still making bags and I am busier, crazier… and more fulfilled than ever. I love that I get to be creative every day and make my own rules, and I love the “community” of customers and supporters that has built up – I have met some of the loveliest people ever through my job – and some who I have never met who take the time to share a nice story or feedback – that is what makes me the happiest.
Love this origin story. Ahhh! love it. So, what is the hardest part of running your own business?
Work-life balance. I think there is a common misconception that working for yourself means working less. Sure – the hours can be more flexible – but the reality is, running your own business means you wear every hat in the business – from designing, to organizing production, logistics, marketing, customer service, managing accounts, wholesaling, inventory management… and anything and everything in between! I find it impossible to switch off and often feel guilty when I do. I do put a lot of pressure on myself and my brand – it’s my baby. Being an entrepreneur and working for yourself can also be quite isolating and lonely at times. It is not a typical working environment where you are surrounded by colleagues and have a manager or boss to report to – if you quite literally run the business on your own, there is no one to talk to when something goes wrong, everything is on you!
What does a day a typical business day look like for you in your current job?
Every day is different and you can truly never predict what is going to happen next, but my days are typically spent problem solving. That’s what business is – continually solving problems.
The first thing I do when I wake up is check social media (bad habit, I know!) and then I like to start each morning with a little bit of exercise – either a walk whilst listening to a podcast, or a pilates class. I find just an hour of “me time” before I start the working day makes a huge difference to how I feel and how productive I can be. If I didn’t do this, I would be sitting at my computer all day.
I then check through the previous night’s orders, check stock, and then it is time to attack emails – across all avenues of the business this is a never ending job – and commence problem solving for the day. I may have a meeting or two, and then I like to start working on future products, promotions or projects.
I always unwind at night with a bit of Netflix or Youtube, and write a to-do list for the next day before I go to bed.
Who has been your hero, or greatest inspiration growing up and why?
My dad has always been my greatest business inspiration. He is a very successful entrepreneur and has so much experience across the board – from making car seat covers, to telecoms, to working with Madonna – it is quite hard to believe. Any time I have a question, he always has a relevant answer or story. I am very lucky to have such an asset so close to me and someone who can help guide me through the process of running a business.
What advice would you give girls who are interested in your career?
Do it! But just make sure you can afford to lose whatever you invest – if you can, then it is a worthwhile risk to take. The internet is a magical place and having a “side hustle” such as an eCommerce business is a fantastic way to generate additional income, as well as find and exercise a passion.
List your most valuable resources that you turn to constantly for inspiration in your profession?
- Favourite Websites: Youtube – I love watching videos on here related to business, fashion and lifestyle. I find it really motivating and intriguing seeing how other businesswomen operate.
- Name an Instagram Account that you can’t go a day without checking: I follow a lot of other fashion brands for inspiration – moods, colour palettes, photoshoot concepts, graphic design – but every day I check the @prenebags account to post images/stories, as well as reply to any comments, messages and read feedback. Consistency is key and posting engaging and interesting content daily is integral to my business.
- Favourite Podcast: I have so many! I love listening to the stories behind brands, businesses and people and I always find myself learning practical advice or gaining inspiration. Some of my favourites are Seize The Yay, How I Built This, The Mentor and Girlboss Radio.
- Favourite Netflix/Stan/ Series: Very Cavallari is a great one for any eCommerce business owners who love reality tv. It follows Kristin Cavallari (if any fans of The Hills are reading!) and her journey running her retail business, Uncommon James.
- Who is your mentor? (This can be a person you follow for advice, or an IRL person). My dad – he really does give me the best business advice – thankfully he doesn’t charge!
- Favourite all time book/s: #GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso. This follows the story of the creator of online clothing store, NastyGal. It is very real, entertaining and lays out the details of how she did it in black and white.
- Favourite App that you use every day: Instagram and Pinterest. Both are great for sourcing inspiration and ideas – Pinterest especially – it is super addictive and I could scroll through images and create boards for hours.