KiwiOz Nannies director and Cafe Nanny founder Rachel Lewis has watched her business spread into the UK, New Zealand and Australian markets during the past 10 years. Along the way, she's learnt some valueable lessons - the hard way. Here's her story for The Making of An Entrepreneur series...
What were you doing when you decided to create your own business? I was very young, just 22 and working as a nanny in London.
What inspired you to start the business? When did you officially start it? My business partner and I were both working as nannies and we decided there was a gap in the market for a good agency to help young Kiwi’s and Aussies make a successful move to London for work.
What was your start-up cost? How did you acquire the money and what did you use it for? We had very little by way of funds so we had to make do! We started out by meeting nannies at cafés and working from a desk in a bedroom. We continued to work as nannies for at least three years after starting the business - we decided to share all of our income so we had more flexibility with work. Sometimes one of us would take on a short term full time contract while the other continued the business, and we’d both work evenings and weekends. We used the initial money we had come in to pay for marketing and advertising. We had to be very careful where we spent our money and how we monitored our results in order to try and avoid wastage.
What was the biggest obstacle? Our lack of experience in business/ childcare recruitment. It took us much longer to get our processes streamlined than it needed to! In hindsight, one of us should have picked up a job at a rival company for a few months to work out how it was done.
How did you rise above the tough days? Those days when people said no, things fell through or someone said they didn’t ``get it’’. The hardest times were 3-5 years into the business when we still weren’t making much and were constantly wondering if it was all worth it. However, we are both stubborn and very positive and we just tried to focus on the positive things and keep going. Our friends and family all showed us great support and we truly believe that what we do makes a difference.
How long did it take for your business to become profitable? After 3 years we were making enough to work full time for the business ourselves, but we found we were challenged as soon as we wanted to hire staff, which I think lots of small business owners have trouble with. Lisa moved to NZ to establish our office.
What do you love most about being your own boss? What is the downside? I love being able to control my own day, decide what I want to do and when. The downside for me is that I feel constantly obligated to work! With offices in NZ, Australia and London we have consultants on the go from 7am until bedtime for me which can be a struggle. Sometimes I feel overloaded with responsibility!
How have you been using social media to grow your business?
Yes, we have a blog, Facebook page, twitter account, newsletter and a nanny networking site called www.cafenanny.com. I think you have to be careful not to fall into a trap of just relying on social media avenues - which people sometimes do as it’s perceived as being ‘free.’ For us, we like to balance traditional print advertising with PR and social media, without spending too much time on any of it!
How have you been using public relations to grow your business? What strategies have you used? We have just employed a PR representative in Australia to help us with our launch here. It’s not a strength of mine and though I loathe saying goodbye to the money I think seeing your business in print is worth it!
Where do you work from? Home and office
Who are your entrepreneurial role models? What's so inspiring about them? I have a few - I love Natalie Sisson- the Suitcase Entrepreneur. She’s created an inspirational 6 figure online business while travelling the world and doing incredible things! My sister, Janine Ogg at Love Your Small Business - she helps other women in business establish their business values and vision and find their business niche. Social entrepreneurialism at it’s best! I love all women in business who aspire to create businesses that help other people, improve their lifestyle and earn them good money!
How have you acquired the skills and knowledge you have to make your business successful? Experience! When we started out we joined some local business groups in London but we never found one that we really ‘clicked’ with. I think there is a lot more available online now to help new business owners, and have joined one or two great online courses/ mastermind groups to learn new skills and help give some focus and direction to our business plan.
What's the best piece of business advice you ever received? Look five or 10 years ahead and imagine what you want your ideal life to look like - personal, business, the works. Where does your business fit in to that? How many hours are you working? Who are you working with? Then work backwards to clarify what you need to do to get there and plan your action steps out. Advice courtesy of Janine at Love Your Small Business!
What is your favourite product/service that you offer? Our babysitting services. It’s affordable for everyone and it’s been a great way to get to know our community more in Sydney!
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
As above! Set goals, work backwards and everything makes more sense. If you know where you’re going, you’ll figure out how to get there and be able to start working step by step towards your destination. Keep positive, and try to set boundaries around work and family time. Good luck!
Do you have a plan in place for your business or blog? Did you work backwards from your end goal to create your business plan?
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