Who are you and what business did you start?
I am a graphic designer based in Melbourne, and last year I designed and patent registered a portable kids activity table.
What’s your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
The idea came about from my own needs as a mum of three young boys. Our household has always been a fan of multipurpose items that are space-savvy. I saw a gap on the market for a kids table that met our needs, and since I was on maternity leave at that time, I decided to design my own version of a compact, multi-functional kids table.
Describe the process of launching the business.
It helped greatly that my professional background is in graphics design, so I was very quickly able to finish the 2D conceptual drawings and get those rendered by a CAD artist for realistic lifestyle images. The business idea was also quickly validated when I ran social media ads using the rendered images and received overwhelming response from parents in major countries like the US, UK and Australia.
However, manufacturing the product was a huge challenge for a few reasons:
1) I had no external funding for the production, which was extremely expensive.
2) There were technical aspects of the product design that needed refinement from professionals and many engineers/manufacturers did not have the right expertise to complete the DFM (Drawings For Manufacturing).
3) I launched in Oct 2020 during the second wave of COVID in many countries so the launch itself did not generate enough revenue for the production.
Eventually I had to bootstrap the finances required for manufacturing with a combination of personal savings and loan from family.
The logistics of shipping the product worldwide was also complicated and shipping costs were rising exponentially due to the pandemic this year, so my first round of pre-orders from the launch actually came at a loss for my business.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
I have partnered with reputable nano influencers and bloggers in early years play to raise brand awareness and educate our audience on the versatility and benefits of the product. This has greatly helped build a an enthusiastic and supportive community of customers.
I dedicate a lot of time to creating new content that shows new and exciting ways of using the product, so that future and existing customers are inspired to be creative and see the potential and value in the product.
Lastly and most importantly, I personally attend to every single email inquiry and make it my top priority to be very responsive and genuine in my communications with customers.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
The business turned over A$166K in its first year, there was a period of slow growth earlier this year due to marketing disruptions caused by iOS14 updates, but my multichannel marketing strategy is now working together to bring traffic and sales from various sources and less dependent on paid advertising.
I have recently given exclusive distribution rights to a local distributor in Singapore, and will soon be signing another contract with a distributor in Taiwan.
Next year I have plans to import my product into a local warehouse in Canada, UK and New Zealand. These are smaller markets that are often overlooked by early start ups but they have shown great interest in my product since launch.
In the longer term, I hope to develop new accessories for the product to further extend its use in early years activities and create more possibilities for play.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
It’s not what you’re selling that matters, it’s how you’re selling. Branding, marketing, and customer service – all these form a customer journey that is crucial to building a solid foundation for the business.
Having an experienced business mentor (preferably in the same niche) can make the journey easier. In the early days of starting a business, self doubt and imposter syndrome is very real. It helps to have a firm, supportive voice telling you that they believe in your product and giving you advise on how to deal with unforeseen circumstances like manufacturing problems, customer complaints etc.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
For my website, I’m using a combination of Shopify and WordPress. I use Facebook/Instagram for advertising, and Canva and FB Creator Studio to design and schedule my social media content.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Videos, eBooks and webinars by Molly Pittman, Ezra Firestone, Neil Patel, Davie Fogarty, Foundr etc have taught me a lot about building a business.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Do lots of market research and validate your product idea before investing too much into bringing it to life. Be hungry for knowledge and teach yourself everything about building a business, there are also plenty of free resources to do with branding, paid marketing, and organic marketing.