How it all began...
Each family holiday since, everyone else tells us to 'hurry up.. stop talking business.. leave it and come have some fun! Put the notebook and laptop down!!' But for us, it just works - friends, sisters-in-law and business partners all rolled into one!
Here are some of our key milestones and learnings (aka. fails!)
- We decided to give it a red hot go.. and became a proprietary limited company!
- Hannah quit her corporate job and Beck began hunting for local seamstresses to help keep up with demand.
- We did our first expo – One Fine Baby! This was an amazing market for us – we had the right product at the right time. We were in fact adding snaps to garments whilst our customers were waiting in a 10 deep queue.. and Hannah was 36 weeks pregnant at the time!
- We started to develop thick skins in order to cope with things often going wrong! I.e garments coming in the wrong colour! (Now.. it’s still just as frustrating.. but it doesn’t take us by surprise anymore.. and we can move much quicker towards solutions!)
- This was the year that we learnt about our differing strengths and weaknesses and personalities:
- that Hannah is not cut out to be a fabric cutter (ha.. see what we did there)! But in all seriousness, fabric cutting, pattern making, sewing.. all skills that Hannah does not possess. MANY outfits ruined by Hannah trying to cut fabric, and cutting it incorrectly!
- that Beck was not an extrovert and exhausted herself trying to be one at the market.. sometimes scaring customers off with her awkward vibe!
- that we had to make up very quickly with each other when we had differing opinions or had offended each other.. as with a team of 2 we had no choice!
- We also realised that we couldn’t keep up with demand: Beck had stretched herself too thin cutting and sewing solo on a stressful made-to-order basis and was dealing with burn-out (which took some years to heal.) We had also lured Beck’s mum into helping us cut outfits..and basically any family member that would dare come close – it was the year we accepted we needed help. One family holiday we had parents, both hubby’s and us all tracing and cutting out patterns, cutting fabric, even sewing and putting on snaps! It was evident it was getting a bit crazy..
- We moved our manufacture to Bali – a small (Australian) family run factory that we had the pleasure of visiting for the first time that year.
- We started working with some social media influencers.. some amazing people who we are still connected with today! @sweetlittlestory, @the.quinn.girls, @notsomumsy, @allherflowers.
- We participated in our first Finders Keepers market.
- We invested in professional photography and did our first ‘campaign shoot’ (thanks Lyss - @lyssphotostories.. we still work together today)!
- We avoided ‘Bali belly’!
- We learnt that moving forward in business means letting go of some of the control and trusting others to do as good a job than you (or better) with their skill sets! Starting a business really is like having a baby..at some point you need to let go.
- Some serious money is needed to set everything up – especially in our industry.
- That it's pretty essential to make sure your passport hasn’t expired before booking an overseas trip (eeek.. this happened and was quite a stressful trip to Sydney to get a new one processed express)!
- For Beck, it meant overcoming her fear of flying which she had experienced since dealing with burn-out and associated anxiety...our flight to Bali was literally being called and Beck was in the bathroom telling Hannah she couldn’t go. “Beck - did the Dr give you anything?” Hannah asked. Beck showed her Valium. “Give me one”, Hannah said and quickly downed it.. and then quickly shoved one in Beck’s mouth too.. before she could argue back again. 😊
- That same trip we were far too honest with the Bali customs team, and in return for our naivety, we were taken out the back and bribed (surrounded by intimidating customs officials)! Key learning here.. be a little more savvy and quick thinking!
- We started wholesaling – we exhibited at the KidsinStyle events.
- We started designing our own prints - working with professional artists to create prints exclusive for us.
- Our turnover hit 6 figures.. and we began paying GST (ouch!)
- We began a conversation with The Iconic about being an approved brand. The conversation happened in hospital whilst Hannah was being induced with Macy! HA…100% commitment. We had been trying to lock in a time to chat for weeks.. when they gave Hannah the time and date to run through, she realised it was on her induction day! Long story short.. we are now an approved brand on The Iconic Kids!
- Wholesaling was a huge financial investment for us, and we counted each wholesale order we received at the Expo hour by hour.. minute by minute.. just hoping to at least break even for the cost of being there! We thought we had been doing amazing.. until we found out businesses next to us were bringing in tens of thousands of dollars more than us! Our learning that trip was that establishing and growing a business takes time - a lot of patience and ambition to stick it out, to turn up year after year, until your brand is noticed and has cemented a place in the industry - and not to compare ourselves to those businesses who had put all that effort in and were now reaping those benefits!
- We realised that running a business with a young family takes time - our families always come first. Easy to say, but hard to put into practice sometimes when you’re ambitious.
- We had a bit of a ‘slow’ season during this year.. and it was a good reminder to ‘stay true to your brand’. We tried some new things that were ‘on trend’ but not ‘on brand’ and it was a bit of a fail. We realised one business cannot offer everything..and to just be us!
- We overinvested financially because we offered too much in our collections – we got emotionally attached to cute designs rather than thinking objectively to make good business decisions.
- We began selling on The Iconic Kids – such a good exercise in brand exposure!
- We dipped our toes in ladies wear and did a very small (like 6 items) run – it sold really well! We had been asked for a couple of years to do matching mumma outfits.. something that we didn’t think people were serious about. Turns out they were!
- We grew our wholesale relationships by 200%. We have become friends with all of our stockists and view the relationships as a partnership. We look after each other, and it's super fun!
- It was a tough year for Hannah, juggling 3 kids under 4 and the business. She was stretched uncomfortably, so learning to outsource skills to others was crucial.
- We found ourselves being so thankful that we are a partnership – when Beck was struggling with living with burn-out and the business, Hannah stepped up, and when Hannah was struggling to keep all her balls in the air, Beck reciprocated.
- We learnt that quality over quantity is key in wholesaling. We love knowing our stockists names, how many kids they have and what their town / market is like. The feedback they get from their customers helps us to create a product that will sell well for them.. and therefore us! It means it is a long term partnership and when viewed that way, it is something that really works long term for both parties.
- We had our best selling season to date.. and felt like we had developed a stronger style theme for our brand. We found our sweet spot between our prints (what we are known for) and some complimentary neutral tones.
- We added heaps of new styles – and ventured out from the cottons and linens we were accustomed to using.. to jerseys!
- We had to pivot many things at the last minute (due to Covid) - all our Expos were cancelled or postponed..so we instead did online markets and an online warehouse (both very successful).
- We grew our wholesale market despite no events to attend due to Covid.
- We took our ladies avenue seriously.. we launched a much bigger collection that included our exclusive prints. It sold really well!
- Due to Covid, we had to think outside the box – which we did.. and most of it worked.. ha!
- Covid also meant some of our costs (freight) increased by 500%. We learnt we need to always have plan A, B and C ready to go at any given moment.
- Covid really mixed things up – everyone had time to really focus on what is most important. Although it was tricky to navigate the constant changes and the surprise lockdowns and cancellations etc.. we learnt to be grateful for what we have.. and were thankful it didn't impact our business too much in comparison to what many others went through (including our bricks and mortar stockists).
- Launching ladies collections brings a whole new ballgame in terms of fit! Sizing, styles and fits are so much more complicated for women than kids!! We tried the 2020 styles on at least 30 different bodies.. ha!