Here’s a little visual summary of how my business has changed over the past 13 years.
Initially I was making products for my baby Angus, and selling extras. I had a little stock pile in the cupboard in the spare room. I was selling on Trademe, and it was nice to have a little bit of pocket money while I was on maternity leave. Trademe was a great way to learn about customer service – because I never wanted to get those red face feedback.
I started adding a few extra products, and found some suppliers. Things like baby lotions and nipple creams, which I stored in cupboards. I was dabbling into coding a very basic little website. I bought a domain name for $40 and found free hosting (back when Yahoo Geo Cities was around). I started selling Hotmilk when they first launched, they were one of my first big brands and stocking their bras really helped my business grow.
I was working part-time at my old job, and dabbling with my hobby business, and being mum to my gorgeous son Angus. We had another baby Lochie (great market research!) and I went on maternity leave from my job. The business kept going slowly, we had a couple of orders each day which was ok to handle with a baby and a toddler. I would walk down to the post office each day with the buggy loaded up with kids and a few parcels!
In 2009 my family relocated to Cambridge. Buying a different house meant that I had separate office area where I could work, and held stock. But moving away from Auckland also meant that I didn’t have my old job to fall back on. I resigned and decided that Breastmates would have to be my real job. (Thanks to my husband for not pressuring me to find work in Cambridge).
FYI in my old job, I was an engineer….. but that’s probably a whole other story. I had always had strong entrepreneurial instincts – even when I was a kid I would be making cards and art and selling them, or organizing big garage sales etc. Even though I had gone down the path of engineer, rather than business, deep down I should have done creative art and design! That’s always what makes me happy….. fastforward to today and I’m combining business and creativity anyway!
I kept adding products, developing a few bits’n’pieces myself, and needed to squeeze them into this same space. My customer base was growing and I was reaching more people. It wasn’t always about selling products – it was about making an impression on someone’s day in terms of our delivery service, regardless of what a customer was buying or spending. I was growing a community around me on Facebook etc, which was good when I felt lonely at home doing this.
But things were getting too busy trying to have boys at home and giving kids/business my full attention at each moment. So they went to daycare 1-2 days a week…. eventually they were going 5 days per week, but like everything we built up that change over time.
So a few years went by. (They went by so fast!!!) I was working from a cosy creative home office with a shelving setup in the entire garage. This is when I started getting other ladies working with me to help with packing parcels. Still at my house. I worked long hours, often until 10 or 11pm at night, as I was designing new clothing ranges. Always drawing, doing specs, working on webpages etc. Probably because my computer was so accessible. I wish I hadn’t worked like that….. it was part of the reason my marriage broke down. I just had such a determination.
As I started increasing my own range of Breastmates branded products and people kept liking my designs, I decided to design bigger collections. That was a big risk – so much more stock to carry. I needed more space. So I moved everything out of home and into a warehouse in Cambridge.
Now I get to come to work every day, and have a great little team around me. I love every day. It doesn’t ever feel like work. I can’t believe 13 years have gone by – how did that happen!? There are always new things to be doing, and every day is different. I LOVE making a great impact on customers, and giving people a great experience with my brand – that is really what drives me. I want people to feel great and get compliments when they wear my clothes. When I get home, I focus on my children (now 13 and 9) and do my own creative projects – very rarely work related!
Sure some days are hard, and very busy or very stressful. It hasn’t been easy. I have worked really hard at this – but I DID IT, I never gave up. I started it from scratch – with no investment or funding – just working working working. I often feel a lot of pressure on my shoulders in terms of keeping customers happy, having the best products, making the right decisions, and providing for me and my boys. But I am happy.
Its not often that I look back and reflect, as I am always looking forward. But I am so proud.
Dreams do come true.