Kara Bensley-Austin’s Wyld Shop just keeps on bringing good vibes to our shopping scene. Get to know the woman calling on us all to live free…
Spend a few moments with Kara Bensley-Austin, and you’ll either be offered a cup of tea, start spilling your life story, or find yourself in a fabulous new outfit. Or all of the above. It’s hard to tell where her clients and friends begin and end, and quite likely, she wouldn’t have it any other way.
Kara’s known as the face and the free spirit behind The WYLD Shop, which has been building momentum over nine years: from intimate trunk shows and events (if you’ve been to a Honeycombers Girls’ Night Out you’ll no doubt recognise her; she gives good hair), to an online store flying the flag for Aussie fashion, and an IRL boutique, which launched last year. Spilling onto the pavement on Joo Chiat Road, it’s a jewel box of a store. Artworks in vivid hues, statement furniture in striking colours (Emperor’s Attic has just been added to the mix) and a pattern-on-pattern-on-pattern vibe makes this one gorgeous place to shop. Don’t be shy about taking her up on that cup of tea and making yourself comfortable – there’s a plush velvet lounge for a reason. And never doubt that you can bring in your little ones – there are toys and books to buy you some browsing time (Kara gets it; she’s mum to a three-year-old).
We all know how fickle the retail scene is in Singapore, but the store’s evolution and longevity doesn’t come as a surprise. The secret sauce, we suspect, is the woman herself…
What blows you away about how your business has evolved, and how you’ve evolved with it?
Besides evolving into a physical boutique, the brand has gradually (but finally) become more focused, and during the course of this journey, I’ve discovered what the strengths of the business are. I’m actually blown away at the fact we are still here – it’s certainly been a trip!
But I am blown away by how beautifully we’ve been received in the community these past 12 months. On a personal level, I too have become more focused and more responsible. Almost daily I now remind myself of the ‘why’ – why I have held on and persevered — which is to help others and create positive vibes.
You’ve always called on your customers to “live wyld, live free” – what does that mean to you?
To create the freedom to be who you want to be without any constraints from family, friends, society, and social media. To be free in mind, body and spirit!
You’ve grown well beyond fashion and accessories: what speaks to you about the brands you’ve curated?
I select our brands mainly because of the people driving them. I love their energy and the stories behind their brands. I also curate on the basis of what I love – items I want to use, wear, gift or have in my home in the hope that our #wyldones will enjoy them too.
Tell us about your signature style – we’ve seen you rocking a kimono on multiple occasions!
Honestly, I dress for comfort, I am a busy mum who runs around like a chook with its head cut off like most mums!) and I believe comfort equals confidence. As for those kimonos… I love wearing anything that makes me feel like I am on an island holiday!
Confess: what’s your favourite piece from the store that you’ve snapped up for yourself?
Well, can I say pieces? Because I own every colour, I have to say My Roses and Rhinos hareem pants. They are my go-to because they’re super comfy and I can pair them with lots of different tops – and those kimonos!
Now that you’re eight years in, what advice would you give other solo entrepreneurs setting out?
Get a brand new notebook, call it ” ____ business ideas” or whatever you want, and start documenting all your ideas – so you can always refer back. Make a plan, even just a rough one. I’d tell my past self to really MAKE THAT PLAN and be prepared for negative experiences and have an open mind that your plan may fail. Also watch @GaryVee – he keeps it real, his advice is free and priceless.
If you have a paying day job, stay in that job, continue earning and consider starting your business as a hobby. Try to build some money before you decide to quit and become a full-time entrepreneur. Plan your goals for your business and have a clear idea of your ‘why’. Don’t start a business because others are doing it; do it because it’s something you really want to do.
There is a false perception of what an entrepreneur does – so make an effort to talk to other entrepreneurs in the same field or another field of interest and research people who you admire. Networking is a huge part of being an entrepreneur, so you have to put yourself out there and be seen.
Your boutique is bringing loads of colour and life to Joo Chiat Road– what are your personal faves in the neighbourhood?
- Cat Socrates: Because I love cats. ZuZu is a cutie.
- Homeground Coffee: They’re a great team that always make me feel welcome and loved. Great coffee too! [Ed’s note: check out our review of Homeground!]
- Expat Hair Studio: Their team is made up of an array of truly beautiful women who have become regular #wyldones!
- Embrace Physiotherapy: its founder, Preet, is an amazing neighbour to have!
What fires you up and inspires you?
I am very easily inspired. People are generally my thing. I love human energy. I love hearing people’s stories and building relationships with them. I am passionate about the welfare of animals and humans. But my gorgeous son inspires me every day to be the best human I can be. I’m learning more from having him than he’ll ever learn from me.
What do you love about what you do?
I love that it keeps me busy, on my toes, and learning all the time. My job brings me a lot of joy – it makes me happy. I love that it gives me the freedom to explore entrepreneurship as well as being a Mumma. I love working with an amazing crew. And of course, I adore meeting awesome people and for this to be a place where people can enjoy the shopping experience. I love when our customers are happy and satisfied.
The WYLD Shop, 412 Joo Chiat Road, Singapore 427637