Starting-your-own-business

Top Tips For Mumpreneurs Starting a Business

Starting a new business, especially as a mum, can be extremely tough. But it can also very rewarding – just ask Caroline Monet who celebrated 10 years in business this September with her company Caroline’s Skincare.

Caroline’s business came about by desperation. She had developed eczema on her hands so severe that when her daughter was born she couldn’t bathe her without excruciating pain.

“Nothing I used worked so out of necessity I developed my own cream to help ease the symptoms,” says Caroline.

Armed with aromatherapy knowledge, along and extensive research Caroline created a healing moisturiser and after months of trial and error and many experimental batches, she found a workable formula that was filled with soothing, natural ingredients.

“I was ecstatic when in 2003 my first batch of six bottles was taken by a local pharmacy,” says Caroline. She now has two manufacturers and a distributor, has won several prestigious awards, is esteemed as an expert in the industry, has broken sales records and built offices to accommodate her growth.

“I left school at 15 and modelled internationally for 20 years so to begin with I had very few business skills. I was completely computer illiterate – I honestly didn’t even know how to turn a computer on! I had no experience at all in running a business. But once again, out of necessity I learned, especially as the business grew.”

Caroline started with no working capital (she had $5,000 on a credit card and initially offered product on consignment for nearly six months) and it was at least six years before she drew earnings from the business. As demand increased it was necessary to continually pour the income back into it.

In the past 18 months her business has grown by 2000%. New outlets come on board daily, with her range now available in over 3,000 outlets Australia wide, as well as being sent overseas on a regular basis.

Caroline’s motto is “don’t let challenges stand in your way. Use setbacks to find strength, and… always believe in yourself.”

Caroline’s top tips to other mums starting a business:

1. Have a product you believe in, one that has a viable marketplace.

2. Develop good relations with suppliers and individual customers – be proactive and accountable.

3. Listen to the needs of those to whom you supply your product, be they distributors, retailers or customers – value their opinions and take their input into consideration where viable.

4. Don’t try to be too big too soon. Take the steps you can afford without going in over your head. Assess the risks when taking steps to expand your marketplace – be realistic.

5. Ask questions and be prepared to listen and learn. Network and seek out like-minded business people – don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know can you tell me” as most people are only too happy to share their knowledge and advice.

6. Building strong foundations is the key to anything lasting the distance – ‘take your time’ and focus on the micro as well as the macro.

7. Lessons learnt along the way can be difficult at the time, but it is how you respond to a crisis that can make or break you or your business – don’t make spur of the moment decisions and face setbacks strategically.

Caroline’s top marketing tips:

1. Create demand through promotional activity. If you have a story find ways to tell it – a good place to start is local publications like community newspapers that love to run local stories.

2. Be actively involved in PR – hiring a PR Consultant is one of the best things I did for my business.

3. Offer incentives to customers via your website/Facebook page. 4. Always respond to customers who contact you – one nicely written reply could lead to hundreds of new customers. 5. Enter business awards as winning awards can also be used as a powerful tool to market your brand and your business.

Do you own your own business? Tell us about it in the comments!

How to Sell on Etsy (From a Successful Etsy Seller!)

We’ve been huge fans of Etsy from the beginning, whether it be for finding unique gift ideas, or for supporting local, handmade products that you won’t find in the shops.

If you’ve ever thought of becoming an Etsy seller and sharing your crafty items with the world, read on. We chat with one of Australia’s most successful Etsy sellers, Amy Ta of Seventh Tree Soaps, to find out how she started her Etsy store, her tips on how to succeed on Etsy and her other favourite Australian Etsy stores.

When did you start Seventh Tree Soaps, and what were you doing before?
I had been floating in and out of various administration jobs over the last 15 years. Jumping from one to another, I was always unsatisfied, full of confusion and despair about what I wanted for myself and my career. In the Spring of 2012 I had become tired and weary and I hit a crossroad. It was either do nothing and go on a downward spiral or take a leap of faith and follow my dreams of running my own business and be the author of my own fate.

Opening an online soap store was an incredibly risky move. I used every waking moment to develop my idea into something that would hopefully turn into a success. I decided to open my business on New Year’s Day, a small but significant reminder for me of the possibility of chance and new beginnings.

What made you decide to start a vegan beauty business on Etsy?
I had been making vegan soaps for myself and family for a while before I opened the Etsy store. Bathing in a sea of chemicals and animal fat seems abhorrent to me.

Why are vegan products important to you?
Over the years, I have become more conscious about the cascading effects of my day to day actions on the environment. Recycling, reducing waste, consuming less animal products and greening my environment had been incorporated into my daily routine. Making the change to a more vegetable-based lifestyle was a simple and sensible choice.

What are your 3 top tips for someone thinking about selling on Etsy?
1. Think about your products as a brand and not merely individual items. Create a store that is filled with products that you love and bring together as one whole experience.

2. Photography is key. Take the time to know your camera and learn the settings. If you are dealing with smaller items, it helps to use macro settings. Your backdrop and props should also compliment but not overwhelm the hero item. Flash can be harsh and wash out colours, try to use filtered daylight as much as possible. It also helps to think about how your products fit into a prospective buyer’s life and photograph the item with these core elements in mind.

3. One of the things that I love about Etsy is that it connects people from all corners of the world. There are an abundance of people who have loved ones living across the country or world from them. Shopping for gifts online is an easy and less expensive way to send gifts of gratitude. Create an environment in your store to enable people to do this easily. i.e. offer gift wrapping options and gift sets.

Where do you get your inspiration for new products from?
I am inspired by Mother Nature. My soaps reflect the rich colours and shapes of flora and fauna. The serums and balms have been developed with family and friends in mind.  

What are your other favourite Australian Etsy stores?
Ena and Albert – gorgeous, eclectic and colourful clay jewellery.

Whimsy Milieu – whimsical, quirky and unique jewellery, homewares and prints.

Epoch Co – hard to find, unique vintage wares.

Emma Leonard Art – beautiful, feminine, evocative water colour prints and sketches.

What’s coming up next for Seventh Tree Soaps?
I am currently developing a fragrance-free and baby-friendly range of products.

Do you have an Etsy store? Tell us about it in the comments below!

Q&A With Dragon’s Den Success Story Skinny Tan

Two Australian stay-at-home mums have gained international success with the invention of their new beauty product Skinny Tan which tans but also reduces the appearance of cellulite!  

The two mumtrepreneurs, Louise Ferguson and Kate Cotton, re-mortgaged their home and maxed out their credit cards to make it happen, and recently appeared in England on the hit BBC TV show Dragons’ Den – a reality TV show in which budding entrepreneurs get three minutes to pitch their business ideas to five millionaires.

Skinny Tan immediately sparked interest from all five ‘Dragons’, resulting in a total of nine offers – a series record! – to help make the product available in both the UK and Australia.

Skinny Tan is the first self-tanner to combine a 100% natural tanning active with naturally derived body firming actives, free from the chemical DHA and instead includes a natural element derived from the seeds of the Brassica Napus plant.

SheSaid chats to Louise and Kate about their Dragon’s Den experience and their advice for other women wanting to start their own business…

What was the Dragon’s Den experience really like?
Dragon’s Den was probably the most terrifying but amazing experience of our lives. The pitch you see on TV is only 15 minutes however we spent nearly two hours in the Den. A lot of people think that the Dragon investors make their business decisions in a moment, however the reality of it is quite different. Even prior to the show the BBC undertake lengthy due diligence of your entire business and background.

The hours, days and weeks after the show were truly amazing! We were both on such a high after offers from five very wealthy and successful business people who loved our product and recognised what we had already achieved in Australia. The whole experience with gaining two Dragons ensured our recent launch in the UK was a huge success – we have sold £260,000 ($435,000) of product in just six weeks online.

What tips do you have for other women starting their own business?
Just do it! Have no fear and trust in yourself. Ensure your idea has appeal and endeavour to do the best you can with what you have. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice when you need it and take baby steps>  With hard work and a vision – eventually you will succeed.

What, if anything, would you do differently with your business?
At this stage we wouldn’t change anything – even though we probably didn’t do everything right it was all a learning experience which can use going forward.

Describe a typical working day for you?
Some days are much harder than others, especially being mums of 2 young children. We typically work every minute when not looking after the children, cooking dinner or sleeping.  We both live and breathe Skinny Tan.

What’s next for you and the business?
We would love to extend our market internationally and eventually rid the world of orange chemical tans.  Our tanner is the first tanner to combine 100% natural tanning properties with a naturally derived cellulite active for a dual effect, helping reduce the appearance of cellulite. We are incredibly excited about the future of our brand!

How to Leave Your Job and Start Your Own Business

Sharon Zeev Poole, director of Agent99 Public Relations, explains what not to fear when leaving a corporate role to start your own company.

About seven years ago, I was working for a mid-sized public relations firm in Sydney and was ready for a change.  In fact, I wanted my boss’ job…which wasn’t going to happen given that she owned the business!  Although I had brilliant clients who I had a fantastic relationship with, amazing colleagues who are still my friends today, and great work life balance, I knew I had more to give.

I had many years’ of experience under my belt in the PR industry and the choice was either to go to a large firm and manage a team as an Account Director, or start a business where I could really take all I had learned and shape a company according to my values.  Despite serious nerves, I opted for the latter and started Agent99 Public Relations. I haven’t looked back since.

What I did learn on this journey was that the fears were much greater before I embarked on my mission then when I actually took the plunge and opened the doors for business.  So, if you’re in a similar situation, you have a marvellous idea and want to take that leap, here are my top five tips on the fears you shouldn’t have:

1. I’m too scared to give up my secure job and that steady income

Regret the things you don’t do, not the things you do. That was one of the first things that my husband told me when I met him.  I think it would be such a shame to be left wondering in life “where would I be if I had done this”…

At the same time, if you’re the type of person who loses sleep at night if you can’t pay the bills (like me), and you want to enjoy the journey, save up enough cash or work towards seed funding. That way, you will feel secure enough to take the plunge for a set (and realistic) period of time.  Once you have that, go for it!

2. What if I fail?

Most successful multi millionaire entrepreneurs have failed a number of times before ‘making it big’.  You need to think as positively as possible and back yourself 100%.  That conviction will also get you through the toughest times, and believe me, there are plenty of them, so be prepared to feel uncomfortable.  But to me, that’s part of the journey.  If you see yourself as a resourceful and determined person, failure just won’t be an option.

3. If I fail, what will my friends and family think of me?

Just by taking the plunge, you are doing more than what 99% of the population will ever dream of doing.  Your friends and family will think you’re courageous for doing it in the first place.  It will also become apparent very quickly as to whom the most positive of your supporters are.  Get very close to them as they will see you through the challenges, and be there to celebrate the good times with you too.

4. What if I don’t know enough about business?

Learn.  There are tons of inexpensive short business courses that are run by the government.  To that end, there are also lots of grants to tap into.  Do some research and you’ll be amazed at what you find.  While you’re saving for your venture or writing proposals for funding, spend that time investing in your knowledge in the spaces that you feel a little unsure about.  Once you’ve started your business, keep educating yourself.  It’s the most worthwhile investment you’ll make.  Also, get a business coach.  The right one will push you to the next level and are worth their weight in gold.

5. What if I lose a whole heap of money?

That’s what your savings are for.  Set a timeline that you feel comfortable with, so you don’t go into serious debt if this is a real fear for you.  For me, it was to replace my salary within six months, or get out.  Everyone is different, so write a plan for your business and a personal one that aligns to that.  And stick to it.  The worst thing that can happen is that you burn through those savings and the business doesn’t go according to plan.  Pat yourself on the back for having tried, dust yourself off and look to the next thing as Donald Trump would!

Clearly, it’s much easier in hindsight but those principles are still very relevant to me now, even seven years down the line.

Whilst we have an incredible team and a gorgeous office in Surry Hills, and we get to work on some amazing corporate and consumer brands such as Evian, the Hunter Valley Region, and MTV, there are fears to face daily.

The challenging economy and changing landscape in our industry means there are always threats to guard against.  So, we need to check in and see if we’re on track in terms of our goals, and apply the same rules to overcome any fears.

Business is like a Luna Park ride. Some highs can lift you to the sky, and some lows can turn your belly inside out.  But no matter what the outcome, you’re always going to have a smile on your face when you’ve done it!

Are you thinking of starting your own business?

Having worked all over the world on high profile brands such as Warner Bros. Pictures and Starbucks Coffee for over 13 years, Sharon founded Agent99 Public Relations in January 2007.  An agency built on strong strategic and creative credentials, Agent99 is in constant pursuit of the unconventional, routinely implementing bold brand campaigns that capture national attention in unexpected ways. Committed to achieving unbeatable results, Sharon is always innovating to keep the agency one step ahead of the competition. Today, Agent99 represents an enviable list of lifestyle, consumer and business-to-business clients across the food and wine, travel, health, beauty, online and non-for-profit spaces.

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