I was flattered to be interviewed by Cosmopolitan Pregnancy magazine for their Spring edition (out now with Catriona Rowntree on the cover) about what it means to be a successful Mumpreneur. In great company, with other Mumpreneurs such as Narelle Chenery of Miessence and Ally Schultz of Minimink, I thought I would share the full interview with you. Enjoy!
What did you do for a living before you started your business?
I worked in Marketing and Communications for shopping centres, industry associations and hospitality.
How did you come up with the idea for your business? (was it necessity, an idea you’ve always had etc)
Pink Frosting was absolutely born out of passion! I always loved organising smaller events rather than big corporate ones, so I started Pink Frosting as a wedding planning business. Over time, I realised that Australian brides and anyone wanting to put on a great party didn’t have access to the gorgeous decorations, favours and ideas available overseas, so I made it my mission to bring all of these gorgeous things to Australia. I started the online store almost as a sideline to the wedding planning business but very quickly, the website went from being a sideline to becoming a very large full time job.
How did you begin your business? (Did you get a bank loan, start at the markets, sew in your garage etc)
I started the business just with the income I had from my full-time job. Luckily, I earned a good wage, so that sustained the business for the first twelve months before I was able to quit and work for myself. Investing in the first website was pretty cheap (but I learned quickly that you get what you pay for!) and the only other investment was in stock and travel to the US to lock in exclusivity deals and do the buying for the business. I worked from home with both the kids when they were babies. I had a dedicated studio and office and we had our garage completely filled to overflowing with stock. Thank goodness, we now have a big warehouse and a beautiful office. I think back to those first months and cringe at how hard it was to find stock and spread out!
When did it really take off?
The online store really took off about two years after it was launched and it’s still growing astronomically now three years later. A leading ecommerce entrepreneur in the US told me that I shouldn’t make any decisions about the viability of a website as a business until it had been live for two years. She was absolutely spot on – two years almost to the day after we launched www.pinkfrosting.com.au was when we never looked back.
How did you manage the family/business balance?
Luckily, when the kids were babies, the business allowed me to work around their sleep times. I also burned the midnight oil seven days a week– most nights I didn’t get the bed before 1am even when I was breastfeeding Darcy, so I was a bit of a walking zombie for some time! An online store allows you to be a bit flexible with your hours as most of the communication with customers is via email, and because most of my suppliers and partners are in the US, working at nights always worked best anyway.
Did you have a lot of support/backlash?
I have an incredibly supportive family and husband, so this made building the business a lot easier. Most of my family is in business for themselves – my grandfather, my Dad and my brother all have their own businesses, so I didn’t need to look far for a support network that understood the pressure of working for yourself. Whilst my parents don’t live in Canberra, they were always available to come and help me with the kids when work was getting on top of me. I’ll always be grateful for that. My gorgeous husband also worked very hard to get the business off the ground. He came home from work every night, helped me get the kids fed, cleaned and into bed and then spent countless hours packing orders in our garage.
Did/Does your husband/partner (please specify) help with the business?
While David doesn’t need to pack orders any more, he still plays an active role in Pink Frosting by being my sounding board and helping with stocktaking, building shelves and any other handy things we need done. He’s a trouper and a real support for us all.
Do you have staff working for you? How many did you have in the beginning? How many do you have now?
It started with just David and I. My first employee came about 2 years after the online store was launched and Kathy is now our Operations Manager, a real star. I now have six employees not including myself, which astounds me. I take employment very seriously as you’re essentially looking after someone’s livelihood, so putting on each team member has been a mixture of both joy and anxiety!
Where do you work from (home, office)?
We have a big warehouse, a showroom and an office in Fyshwick Canberra. I still work from home every night and on weekend nights, so I have a nice office set up at home where I do my blogging, write for the Pink Frosting website and talk to my US suppliers.
Who looks after your children when you’re working?
Both my kids are in a wonderful childcare centre. The centre staff are incredibly loving and the kids are thriving there.
What’s the best thing about setting up your own business as a new mum?
The best thing is the flexibility with hours. It is absolutely my decision about when I work and I just love that the business gave me many joyous hours with my kids when they were babies. I am certain that I wouldn’t have had the same amount of time with the kids if I’d continued with my corporate job.
How many hours a day do you work? Is it part-time, full-time?
I wouldn’t even like to try and count the hours that I work! I check my emails before the kids get up at 5am, I then work a normal full time day at the office, and then once the kids are settled at night, I spend time blogging and working on content for the site. I do this seven days a week so it’s a real labour of love. If I didn’t love it, it would seem ridiculous!
Were there any challenges when you were getting the business off the ground?
Money is always the biggest challenge when you’re starting out. In an ideal world, entrepreneurs with a good business idea and management experience could get access to seed capital. Despite Pink Frosting being Australia number one wedding online store and a top 10 Australian gift store, we have struggled to get business finance through the traditional bank system. As we grew, we simply needed capital, so we had to get a second mortgage on our house to finance the business. This was scary but I’m also glad we did it this way because it means we own 100% of the business and haven’t had to give away some of the business we created to investors.
Where are your products stocked?
Our products are stocked at www.pinkfrosting.com.au and we also have a wholesale arm that distributes our gorgeous things to party and wedding retailers around Australia and New Zealand.
What was your turnover first year in business?
For the first twelve months it was around $200,000 with absolutely no profit whatsoever!
What’s your annual turnover now?
Over $1 million.
Any negatives that come with starting your own business as new mum?
Like any working mum I spend time worrying that I’m not giving enough of myself to each part of my life. I don’t think this changes whether you’re in business for yourself or your working for someone else. It simply comes with the territory!
Where would you like to take your company next? Do you/Are you planning on exporting overseas?
We’ve just launched a new product (Pink Frosting Template Stores) which allows other mums to set up their own party, baby shower or wedding online store using the Pink Frosting shopping cart, fulfilment systems and warehousing. Because we’ve got so much experience in setting up a successful online store from scratch, we’re really excited to pass this knowledge on to other budding entrepreneurs who perhaps don’t have the know-how, collateral or time to start from scratch but they really love weddings, parties and baby gifts.
I’m also really excited to be able to spend more time on blogging and creating beautiful and inspiring content on our website to help anyone interested in parties, entertaining and weddings to create spectacular events. Having time available to spend on creating content is a dream! I am so lucky to have a great operations team now who deal with the day to day business of Pink Frosting which allows me to go back to my roots and be more creative every day. Bliss!