This is the story of two young mums. Two great friends, Stacey and Lorraine, had babies at the same time and decided they wanted to get back to work but not to the corporate rut. Sounds familiar? Read on to know how they started their own business, tested their product before spending too much on it and how they’re marketing their brand to reach new heights.
One day while they were walking on the beach with their kids, they realised they were constantly looking out to protect their babies’ little feet from sharp rocks, shells and slippery bits. That’s when the idea to create beach booties for toddlers was first born.
With a mission to “fill the gaps” in a parent’s life, the two women started Minnow Designs in the summer of 2015. Luckily for them, Stacey is a marketing guru while Lorraine is a fashion designer.
We recently caught up with Stacey to chat about their top marketing tips for other businesses like them. This is what she had to say:
1. Have a clear market niche.
When we thought of this idea for designing unique booties for children, I knew that from a market point of view, it was a niche need. There weren’t other similar products in the market and we could fill in a gap for parents looking to explore the beautiful Aussie beaches with their babies. It ticked a lot of boxes from the marketing perspective. And we haven’t strayed from the original product because it’s different and gives us a distinct brand tonality.
2. Start off by creating samples.
Having a good idea is great but you need to know if you can execute it successfully. For us, Lorraine created a few samples so we could understand more about the design options and production requirements for creating these wetsuits for tiny feet.
3. Test the product.
As a marketing professional, I think it’s extremely important to test your product before spending thousands of dollars to get it out in the market. It helps you understand whether there is a market for your product or not. Plus it gives you perspective on what your potential audience thinks about the product and gives you the opportunity to improve the product based on their feedback. But to do this, you also need to first think about who your key audience is going to be.
For us, we knew we had to reach out to new parents. That’s why, Lorraine and I carried our product to a few mums groups and gave people free samples for their feedback. That was a really useful exercise and gave us great insight on how to best approach the design and marketing for the shoes.
4. Start small.
Before you go full throttle, create a small batch of your products so you can understand and learn from the sales, production and marketing processes. This will help you create successful strategies for the the future. You can also then decide if you need to hire other people to help you out through the different stages of planning and execution. For our first batch, we produced 1,000 pairs of booties, which sold out very quickly online.
5. Listen to your customers.
The other important thing to remember is that user feedback is not just for the beginning. You need to keep listening to your customers to understand what they want and how you can improve your product. Once you push your product out there, there will always be competition and you need to know how to stand out.
For us, it is important to constantly talk to our customers, see how parents are using our product and make sure the product is right for them. People often tend to focus more on marketing instead of developing the product. But in fact, if your product is not good then you’re wasting your time and money.
6. Educate and up-skill yourself.
As a small business owner, you need to wear so many different hats that it’s important to understand every side of the business. You don’t have the time to exclusively focus on what you’re good at. For me, besides marketing, I keep reading about production, sales, stock control, customer service, Facebook advertising and new ways to make our website look better and make it more user-friendly.
Learning on the go made us realise that we need to spread our wings across both ecommerce and retail. Even though ecommerce is where you can have bigger margins, retail has more volume, which brings down the overall cost of wholesale production. Plus being available in store means people start recognising your brand.
7. Network with other business owners.
It’s so important to connect with other people who are in a similar trade. For instance, we try to attend trade fairs - we’ve found this to be extremely useful because you get to meet other business owners, product manufacturers and entrepreneurs.
It’s always a good exchange of information - sometimes people tell you of grants that you could access, or policies that can help you get money back. Sometimes, you get introduced to people who can help you with very specific tasks. Plus, you can seek opinions and feedback on other retailers and people you could be looking at working with or it could be something as simple as a new plugin that helps you automate the ecommerce process. If you’re friendly, people really try and help you.
8. Always help other people.
What goes around, comes around. Small businesses are all about building a community and it’s important that you too help people whenever you can.
In the end, remember that when you’re a mum, time is your most valuable asset and you need to know where to best spend your energies. Being your own boss gives you flexibility but it’s also a huge responsibility.