You can judge a book by its cover

1440 2560 In Good Company | Northern Rivers
You can judge a book by its cover 

When Jess Tunnage’s mother-in-law gave her a sewing machine for Christmas a few years ago, she had no idea how to use it. 

“I tried to fix a bedsheet once and it was just woeful,” she says. 

But things quickly changed as Jess – a microbiologist with two science degrees – began her journey into the bookish business world.

It all started when she posted a photo on Instagram of a book sleeve she’d made for a friend for Christmas. When another book-lover wanted to buy one, Jess agreed to make it for the cost of materials. She had more requests, demand grew, and suddenly Charlie & Fox was born. 

“I had to YouTube how to rethread the sewing machine,” Jess laughs.

“I thought, ‘how hard can it be?’. I started out selling the book sleeves on Etsy and I was able to tap into the overseas market. Things were going really well.”

Then the pandemic hit, and Charlie & Fox lost its new international customers almost overnight because overseas shipping came to a standstill. 

Thankfully, Jess and her partner, Trev (also known as Mr Charlie-Fox), weren’t ready to give up. 

“It sounds like it should be overwhelming, but it’s felt very natural as the business has grown”

“I doubled down on the Australian market. Because I’m such an avid reader, I was already living and breathing the bookish community, so I bounced around some ideas, got people to try my products, and it just grew and grew. Now, with international markets open again, we’re seeing a lot of support from the US, Canada and New Zealand. Charlie & Fox has gone to the next level.”

They’ve just had their biggest sales month to date – August was a record-breaking month, then sales more than doubled again in September.

“Things have definitely changed,” Jess says. “I’ve gone from working 40 hours a week in my day job and 10 hours a week on this hobby, to now doing 25 to 30 hours at my day job at 40 to 50 hours on the business. Trev still works full-time – there really needs to be more hours in the day! It sounds like it should be overwhelming, but it’s felt very natural as the business has grown.”

She now employs a seamstress to help, and plans to expand her team.

The padded book sleeves are still a favourite with customers, but Charlie & Fox also stocks fabric dust jackets in a stunning range of designs, bookmarks, bookends, stationery, accessories, notebooks and more. Jess has spent countless hours developing an interactive reading journal and says this will be a “must have” for book lovers when it launches in the near future. 

Another highly anticipated project is Jess’ officially licensed Sarah J. Maas collection. Maas is the internationally bestselling author of the fantasy books Crescent City, A Court of Thorns and Roses, and the Throne of Glass series. 

Jess is a “massive” fan and credits Maas with fuelling her love for books; designing this collection has been a career highlight and dream come true.

“We got in touch with her team, worked out the finer details, and they then approved our designs based on her books for us to create into reading accessories,” Jess says.

Despite this early success, Charlie & Fox’s story is only just beginning. 

A new studio is under construction on Jess and Trev’s Kyogle property (a vast improvement on their original “workshop” in the corner of their lounge room), and the business recently rebranded (it was previously known as Craft and Stars but is now named after the couple’s cats).

In 2023, Jess hopes to continue to learn and develop her business. She also plans to introduce Charlie & Fox products into selected retail stores across the Northern Rivers (and longer-term, around Australia and even abroad). 

“We are so proud of our beautiful region and the amazing and diverse businesses here,” she says. “Whenever we post an order to a customer, we also include a little packet of Byron Bay Cookies. I believe it’s important to celebrate our connections.”

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