How QUTopia shaped my business …

You may never think a semester at university can shape your future, but I’m here to tell you – it’s possible!

Rianna with Rebekah Russell-Bennett


I majored in Interior Design, with my second major in Integrated Marketing Communication. I didn’t think the two really coincided with each other, however, my mother, who works in marketing, assured me it would pay off – she was right. I went into QUTopia knowing how successful past students had been and I was nervous to go through the motions of tackling a business plan, creating a product or service, and working with people I didn’t know, on such a large scale.

My group of four was a mix of shy, outgoing, determined, and mediocre achievers. It happens – you won’t always end up with people who have the same aspirations as you. At first, this made me extremely nervous, as I was sure I wanted to make the most of this unit. I then realised, the less involved others were, the more involved I could be! We sat together in class and I remember looking through what was trending on Instagram. Frank Body, a range of body scrubs, popped up time and time again. It was clear it was the “in thing” and I knew we could make a fun product that would be our spin on the popular Australian brand.

Branding, packaging, ingredients… We began finalising all of our ideas. We decided to create a coffee scrub with the brand name “Dirt.” It wasn’t my favourite but I knew we could come up with some clever advertisements using an ironic name like that.

It was decided I would take the lead on the manufacturing side of things. In the process, I managed to burn out two coffee grinders and go through 15kg of donated coffee beans. I mimicked a recipe I had seen online, tested it on my friends, sister and of course myself, until I was finally happy with the product.

From there, we had our two market days. Both days we did extremely well! We collaborated with another team to do scrub packs, which played to our advantage. I thought we had nailed it, until I found out our CFO had handed out way too much money for us to spend at QUTopia, which meant we came in at a loss.

Once I completed the unit, I realised the volume of work that went into the lead up to, as well as the aftermath of QUTopia. I managed to develop a product, marketing plan, advertisements and execute two market days. These were things I never thought I’d do as a design student.

Fast forward two years, I graduated and began working for myself in design, as well as at a local online florist to gain some business knowledge. It was here I noticed a gap in the market for affordable, eco friendly candles. It took all of 10 minutes for me to suddenly decide I would give it a try, come up with a business name on the drive home and a logo design within the next hour. It’s the small things, like using craft paper labels because we used craft paper packaging for QUTopia, that helped shaped the brand I was creating.

I knew it was time to apply the knowledge I learnt from QUTopia in a business sense. I did up a business and marketing plan, began growing my online presence and started pouring candles (which I had never done before).

It wasn’t long until I was attracting local stockists. I then began stocking interstate as well. It wasn’t until I had a stockist contact me asking if I knew of any body scrub companies for them to stock that I had a lightbulb moment. I knew exactly how to make body scrubs, why not offer that too? Once I was happy with my packaging I began putting the word out online and to my stockists about my new products. They were instantly a hit!

Now I am manufacturing scrubs on a larger scale, there are a few more elements in production to consider. The packaging is different to allow for a quick and simple turnover, but the ingredients are very nearly identical! You always must consider the ease of manufacturing when scaling up a business – you won’t be working out of your kitchen forever!

QUTopia is a challenging but extremely fun and rewarding subject. Make the most of it!

Rianna at QUTopia

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