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!
Julia has lived and worked in London, Amsterdam, and New York, and is obsessed with food. She's either cooking or thinking about what to eat next. Follow Julia on Twitter.