This year, to celebrate Mother’s Day, we asked mothers that pioneered impactful enterprises and are part of our Ethical Lifestyle Hub Directory, what is driving them to lead a business with purpose. Those we highlight are mothers of strength, compassion, and resilience - working toward betting the world around them as well as being a mother. This blog highlights Jessica McDonald of High Tees.
Beautiful, quality apparel and accessories featuring unique and distinctive artwork, designed and hand-drawn by West Melbourne artist, Jess McDonald. High Tees feature portraits of iconic, heroic Australians and some Kiwis too. From Bob to Kylie, Lee Lin to Cathy. There is a hero for everyone. High Tees has a range of iconic and symbolic Australian flora and fauna – wombats to skinks, quokkas to tassie devils. Jess also loves to collaborate and High Tees is proud to present Ted McKinlay X High Tees, featuring the beautiful artwork of fellow Melbourne artist, Ted McKinlay. Designed and printed in Melbourne.
Hi, my name is Jess and I am the artist and founder of High Tees. I am also the founder of Agents of Innovation and a director of Serval Investments. High Tees is my passion project. I had studied art at VCA straight out of school and had never really put my artistic skills to work. Instead, I had a long career in retail. My retail career had taken me all over the world and I worked in Japan, the UK, Europe, NZ and all across Australia. As much as I love to travel, it meant it was hard to keep hobbies going and focus on the other aspects of my life. After resigning from my last retail job which was in Japan, I started planning my first business @agentsofinnovation. Not long after launching, I became pregnant with our first child, Adelaide. I thought that I was going to be able to easily run a new business and have a newborn. Well… I got a bit of a shock. I took 6 months off to look after Adelaide and reset my business ideas. As it got close to coming back to work, I thought I would test out the tools I had built by creating a faux business - a t-shirt business. I did all the market research, business plan and budgets and thought…this is a great idea. So I started drawing again. Having a small baby, gave me my evenings to sit and draw the designs for High Tees. I decided to launch High Tees and see what would happen. At the bare minimum, I would get fantastic learning for my clients. Starting High Tees from scratch meant I could strive for all the ethical and sustainable practices I wanted. Throughout my retail career, I had worked for large ethical organisations that actively campaigned, so I was well trained in this area. I was also able to develop a business model that would work really well with having a little baby. 3 weeks after launching High Tees, we became pregnant with our second child, Rory.
Motherhood has shaped the way I now do business. Firstly, I wanted to build something that my kids would be proud of. My darling daughter does a little dance every time she hears a sale and Rory proudly wears his own t shirt to kinder. But I also wanted the business to be sustainable and impactful. My husband and I are very conscious of teaching our children about the opportunities they have and helping others less fortunate than ourselves. We believe that our actions are more meaningful than our words, so showing them that business can be impactful and can not only produce an income for our family but change the lives of others. Since launch, High Tees donated over 50% of its profits to various charities, most notably supporting asylum seekers via our partnership with West Welcome Wagon (www.westwelcomewagon.org) I strive to be a role model for my children as a business leader, particularly as a female entrepreneur. I want to show them that you can have an idea and to go for it. I am the queen of starting things without everything in place and improving as things go. I want my kids to try things, launch things, build things, give their ideas a try and see what happens. I hope my kids find their passions and do no feel a pressure of age to be doing their ‘thing' straight out of school. Both my husband and I have lived varied lives and multiple careers before we have found our passions. I want High Tees to be something my kids feel a part of too. They have been able to learn about our local icons, helped my draw, they have packed orders, modelled in photos, delivered stock to stockists and been a part of the story so far. I think it is very important that our children understand and see our work.