Emma Russell continues her series charting the stories of former Whanganui students who have gone on to success in the big, wide world
Six months into owning her own business and already Gabby MacDonald is killing it.
The former Whanganui High School student started an online homeware boutique called Papier HQ, which is currently based in Auckland, and already she has been getting orders from as far afield as Canada and Germany.
The 29-year-old said she spotted a gap in the New Zealand market for homeware design and just went for it.
"There were all the main generic brands but I felt like there wasn't much custom-made stuff out there so I decided to use my textile design background to make wall art that's more inspired by textile design," Gabby said.
But her business venture didn't come out of thin air, it was backed up with years of internships, overseas work and freelancing.
She said at school she was always passionate about design which is where it all started.
"I took all the artsy subjects like graphic design, photography, fashion design which gave me a good kick start I guess."
After finishing secondary school Gabby enrolled in textile design at Massey University in Wellington.
"I think what put me ahead was all the work I did for free when I was at uni because I was able to get a job straight away."
Gabby said she was working part-time for retail store Country Road as well as studying and doing as many unpaid internships as she could.
"It was full on but if you are looking for a career in this industry I would strongly recommend working for free and getting as much experience behind you before you finish your degree. A lot of my friends didn't and struggled to get a job after."
She ended up getting a job with a homeware company in Wellington before moving to Melbourne where she got given the opportunity to work for a similar company but with much bigger brands.
"I dabbled in all sorts of roles within the company from design to accounts management to marketing, it was good because it gave me good knowledge for when I eventually did go on to start my own business."
Eventually, Gabby transferred back to New Zealand working for the same company as well as doing some freelance textile design on the side.
"I started doing designs for cushions and things like that and thought why can't I apply the same concepts for wall art. I knew what people liked and what I liked and it just seemed to take off."
As well as wall art and accessories, Gabby also does a lot of wedding invitations and custom-made prints.
Moving forward Gabby plans to keep expanding her business one step at a time.
"We are hoping this year will be the year to kill it" ... even more.