Issues around children and sleep - and a desire not to join the regular workforce - prompted Dreamy Kidz owner Kirsty Shields to start her business. Here's her story.
What inspired you to start the business? When did you officially start it?
I had been using a product called Brolly Sheets for my own children that just made my life so much easier with night time toilet training. In fact I wouldn’t have survived that period without them!
I then realised that there were several other items I had been using that were not readily available in your large department stores and I felt inspired to help other mums find these wonderful items. I decided to focus on bedroom products as my third child was a terrible sleeper so we were always trying different products to get him to settle down and stay in his room.
We registered our business in July 2010 and officially launched our website Dreamy Kidz in October of the same year.
What was your start-up cost? How did you acquire the money and what did you use it for?
I would say my initial business start up cost was $2000. This cost covered basic business expenses such as business registration fees, website costs and promotional material. We only started with four main products which cost us around $2000 for the stock. Thankfully we had some money put aside at the time I went on maternity leave which we decided to use to get the business off the ground.
What was the biggest obstacle?
Time management! Just being a mum raising three young children is very difficult on its own. With my business it is not just about receiving and packing orders. I am solely responsible for website maintenance, stock control and ordering, marketing, book keeping as well as customer service queries. Particularly during the initial set up process, there were a lot of late nights had in my office which put quite a bit of strain on the family.
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 toughest days I have had have been dealing with some of my family members who didn’t take me seriously in that I had created a business. I think they thought it was more of a hobby. They quite often asked “when are you returning to work?” and would sometimes laugh when I told them what my next plans were. It was very hard not to feel deflated and question myself as to whether it was all worth it.
I then reminded myself why I started in the first place – to help other mums find the products that have helped me with my own children, and that it was not all about the money. Now the same family members ask me all the time how things are going and when I tell them they say how proud they are that I have created a successful business.
How long did it take for your business to become profitable?
With my website having only launched just over 18 months ago it has only been recently that I have become profitable. Up until this time every cent of profit was injected back into either purchasing new stock lines or marketing to enable my business to grow.
What do you love most about being your own boss? What is the downside?
I remember one day approaching my old employer to ask if I could duck out mid-morning for half an hour to watch my daughter sing a song at her kindy Christmas party and that I would make this time up in my lunch break. The response was a very hesitant yes and it was at that time that I realised I wanted to be my own boss. Now I can attend concerts or school excursions and just work those extra hours if needed in the evening. The downside can be trying to make friends and family aware that you are actually running a business and not sitting at home watching TV and drinking coffee!
How have you been using social media to grow your business?
My nephew suggested using Facebook as a very important marketing tool. Although I personally hated Facebook with a passion at that time, I am pleased he talked me around and set this up for me. Every new product is featured and we also run the occasional giveaway.
How have you been using public relations to grow your business? What strategies have you used?
We have not at this stage used any media to promote our business. We have joined a couple of large organisations which support small businesses, particularly work from home mums, and who regularly promote via Facebook and newsletters to over 50,000 subscribers. We have found this to be quite beneficial as our advertisements reach our target market of other mums. Through these organisations we have also been given the opportunity to promote at nationwide events such as Baby & Toddler expos.
Who are your entrepreneurial role models? What's so inspiring about them?
Since being introduced to the big wide world of Facebook I can not believe how many talented and crafty mums out there running successful businesses.
One person in particular is Kate Marshall from The Kids Room By Kate. A mum of three young children, Kate won the award for "Handmade Mumpreneur of the Year" at the AusMuprenuer Awards in August 2011. Kate’s business is very successful and all of her beautiful products are handmade by herself.
I think for a person to not only create such quality products but to then be able to market them and establish a successful business with a large following is very inspiring.
How have you acquired the skills and knowledge you have to make your business successful?
After spending 18 years in the banking and financial services industry, I have learnt the two most important skills to make a business successful – financial management and customer service. It is all too easy for people to hide behind the computer screen and not give their customers the quality and level of service they deserve. It doesn’t matter if they spend $10 or $100, every customer needs to be treated like they are the most important person in the world.
Word of mouth is the best form of advertising anyone can get. My banking background helps with the book keeping and budget planning.
What's the best piece of business advice you ever received?
Never give up. If you truly believe in what you are doing then keep going and show all of those people that said you won’t last that they are wrong.
What is your favourite product/service that you offer?
Our Microwave Bedwarmers. These are one of our original products that helped launch our business and I just love them.
Manufactured from microsafe materials, simply warm them in a microwave for two minutes to provide hours of warmth. Much safer than a hot water bottle. They can also be frozen and used as an ice-pack for sprains, bruising, swelling etc!
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
You don’t get anywhere by not trying. Just set a realistic budget and goals and stick to them. Don’t be too hard on yourself if things don’t happen the way you expect them to. Just remember why you started your business in the first place.
What social media platforms do you use in your business?