Filename: Ep3_our business journey prt 2
Terence: Welcome back to our podcast, Know Better, Be Better. This is episode three, part two of our business journey and we are following on from where we left off last week.
Rebecca: We are delving a little bit deeper into the [inaudible 00:51] years of the business and building it up to current day. So buckle in and we hope you love hearing our business journey as much as we have creating it.
Terence: Let's get started.
Rebecca: That year our property that we were in was sold and the landlord moved us into a new building. We took up an opportunity [inaudible 01:22]. I think we turned the store layout in something like two weeks. We told him we would be opening in two weeks. I think he just looked at me as if to say that won't happen.
Terence: Yeah. There was a bit of a snigger, but little did he know that it will be done.
Rebecca: And it was done. So we made an agreement and two weeks later we opened our store in [inaudible 01:41]. At that stage we had La De Dah Kids and we had Shelter 7 and we called the shop Shelter 7.
Terence: Under Shelter 7, we were doing a lot more in sort of the homewares and adults products market in terms of decor, et cetera. The La De Dah Kids products sat really well in conjunction with that. It had a similar feel to it all along the handmade nature, the handmade nature of the product.
Rebecca: The product kind of evolved every season and we would take on more things. So it started with hand rattles and toys and then we would do new toys and then it evolved into floor rugs and crocheted baskets and decor. And then that expanded into homewares and further. Being a creative and seeing shiny new opportunities, we kind of moved with where the market was taking us. Instagram was still showing us a lot of transparency at that time. So it was great being able to test the market and show things and we really used that tool for transparency. And the feedback that we were getting was integral to our business.
Terence: Yes, and I think another form of feedback we were getting with a shop as well, we had the opportunities while we were doing markets to speak to our customers and our clients, but having that shop there as well and having people come through on a daily basis and gauging their reaction and getting their feedback on the product was detrimental as well.
Rebecca: We took on that shop and we were in [inaudible 03:13], I believe two years. At that stage we had the warehouse as well. So we moved our office from in town in Geelong out to an official warehouse, which was a shed.
Terence: Yes. It was pretty much a tin shed, but we had a lot of space there because we were certainly outgrowing the old property that we had. There was no stairs, which was an absolute bonus and we had a dedicated little office area where we could move all of our staff into.
Rebecca: Yeah. At that stage we were doing containers and containers were getting more and more difficult to unload and get up the stairs. Our freight forwarding company who had started with us from our home, delivering to our home, delivering to in town to now delivering in that warehouse was very happy that he now had space to unload into our warehouse and we are excited as well.
Terence: Yes. But we needed some extra help as well. Having a warehouse is all good and well, but we employed our first ever other part time employee in terms of warehouse help and he was with us for quite a long time and became an integral part of the business as well. It got to a point where he was attending markets with me, on the stand, helping with the setup, et cetera.
Rebecca: Managing two locations brought on a whole new set of...
Terence: Well, I think we had three locations at that point.
Rebecca: Oh, we did have three locations for a little while, which was quite challenging in itself with a very small team. So we had the shop, we had [inaudible 04:43], which we are still using as storage and a photographic studio and we had the new warehouse out in North Geelong.
Terence: Yes. And that's certainly, like Bec said, came with its challenges. You had to sort of divide yourself in between most of the time, two different places quite often. The shop would ring and they are out of stock and you would have to drop everything and run some stock up to the shop. Weekends were taken up by moving the shop around as well. So from a time point of view, it was very draining on both of us.
Rebecca: Yeah, it was really a seven day week. The online business and the wholesale side of the business were very separate and that was growing at a rapid rate. We also had the retail store, which was also growing. So trying to manage those, a lot of weekends was spent in the store re-merchandising, moving stock around to keep the shop really fresh. So it was a really challenging time as well as having new staff members to manage as well in the shop and in the warehouse. It was very challenging as a business.
Terence: What also happened for us in 2015 was the decision that we took to rebrand from La De Dah Kids to Miann and Co. I feel that's probably something for a whole other episode because we can talk about that for hours. But I think there was a lot of shock in the marketplace as to, why are we changing our name and what are the reasons for changing the name as such?
Rebecca: It was a huge decision for us and at that stage we had La De Dah Kids and we had Shelter 7. We were managing two Instagram accounts. We were managing two of everything, two invoicing systems. We were running them as separate businesses. So it was very challenging to have those two businesses on a very small team.
Terence: Yes, it certainly was. I think that business structure for both of them were set up differently as well, which brought along a whole lot of other complications too. But it's almost like you had to focus on different areas within the same day, which was really hard at times.
Rebecca: So we decided in 2015 that we would rebrand. There was another catalyst for the rebrand and that was because we had been on a two year journey of trademarking and we will go into great depth about that because it's some of the biggest mistakes we have probably made.
Terence: Yeah, I think that's probably two episodes worth.
Rebecca: Yeah. It's quite a long journey, but trademarking is something that businesses need to do. But because we were in so many product categories, it was such a huge cost to our business in the early days. We had gone down two years of trademarking and then we paid for all those outgoings and then we realized we couldn't secure the name in all the places we needed to.
Terence: It's also such a daunting area I think especially if you don't have any knowledge around that area and trying to find the right information and making sure that you are working with the right people to get this all done for you. We certainly learned our lesson and learned how to do things differently along the way, but like we said, something for a different episode.
Rebecca: We will absolutely be sharing that trademarking journey with you. We wanted a name that we could roll two businesses into one and reduce the amount of, well, try and reduce or make more efficient our workload. So we decided in 2015 and already started the process of rebranding on our products, because remember we were working a year in advance on our products. So labelling and all of that were already well underway.
Terence: Yes, and certainly we were very scared going into this process. What if people don't make the connection between La De Dah Kids and Miann and Co? It was certainly one of the most daunting things that we've ever had to do in regards to the business, and just making sure that people follow on from La De Dah Kids and continue to follow you on your journey into Miann and Co. We were at that stage researching a lot in terms of how do you rebrand, how do you communicate this, should you rebrand, shouldn't you rebrand. There was mixed results out there as well.
Rebecca: Yeah. We went down the road of trying to do it ourselves. We looked at branding agencies that were well out of a small business reach with regards to price. It was just way overpriced. So we knew that we knew our brand, we had faith in that. Someone gave us a little pep talk, which I am forever thankful for that phone call. The person will probably know who it is, but calling again, on market people that we had met through the industry and they gave us the confidence that we knew our brand and we could do it ourselves. And we did. We were happy with the results.
Terence: Oh, we definitely were happy with the results. I think the old name La De Dah Kids is still out there. You still hear it being mentioned and I think people have certainly carried over from that and started following us along on our Miann and Co journey. So that has been absolutely amazing to see.
Rebecca: Absolutely. We are so thankful to all our customers for embracing the change. One of the main reasons we evolved it as well was the name was hard to spell. There were different spellings of it, so it was hard to Google. There was also another... It was very kid oriented and we wanted to be able to move into other markets, which we already had, but we had to do it under another name. So we wanted to bring everything back in under one umbrella. So Miann and Co was born.
Terence: Yes. Coming up with the name Miann and Co, that's another question that we get asked all the time. To be honest with you, it has taken as a whole... It was probably a weekend process where we tried to lock ourselves in a room and the kids were running around and all of this, but it's pretty much a made up name.
Rebecca: Absolutely made up for trademarking purposes. My advice to anyone trying to trade mark a name is make it up, because it is not easy to trademark globally.
Terence: Do your due diligence before, because if you are trying to trademark a name that has been taken by someone else and you haven't picked it up before, it's pretty much like starting over again.
Rebecca: That moves us into 2016 when we did launch the rebrand to everyone and everyone embraced it so well. The feedback was really positive. We launched our first clothing brand. We started with knitwear. We did a really small sample range. Again, tested out the market, got feedback at markets and used the whole approach that we had previously.
Terence: Yes. And I think we saw some big changes in the business from that moment onwards. Wholesale was [inaudible 11:34] for us, but we now had another category that we were adding on to our business as well. So that almost changed a lot in our marketing approach as well in terms of what we are putting out into the marketplace when you are known for a niche kind of product, but you've added a different range too to your product set as such.
Rebecca: We really wanted to extend the natural fibres. We believe so passionately in natural fibres for so many reasons, particularly when it comes to kids' clothes. It's the durability. It's also the recyclability. It's also… so many things with natural fibres. I could go on and on, again, another podcast. But yeah, natural fibres we feel so passionately about. So we had started doing homewares with natural fibres and really wanted to extend that over into clothing as well.
Terence: Like Rebecca said, it's something we are really passionate about, working with natural fibres, the handmade aspect, helping people in other environments and also sustainable living, which is something that we will always continue to focus on and where we are taking the brand as well.
Rebecca: We are absolutely, we are continually growing and learning in this realm and I can only see it getting bigger like it has in the last 10 years. Ethical wasn't even a word, that was very rarely being thrown around 10 years and it has grown so much in that time. So it's a great thing, I think, the industry evolving. That year we also took the kids on a sourcing trip to India and Vietnam
Terence: And that was an experience.
Rebecca: That was an experience. And our kids still remember that trip and [inaudible 13:24] has asked that he never goes on another holiday like that again. Little did he know that it was a sourcing trip.
Terence: We all had fun, but we all got sick as well at the end of the day. But once again, the importance of going to meet and see your suppliers, knowing where your stuff is produced, how it's produced and by who it's produced is extremely important.
Rebecca: Yeah. So that summer we spent going to India, which was great. We were sourcing, looking for new, different products, visiting some factories that we were looking into. We weren't actually working with them yet, also Vietnam as well. We were looking at moving into Vietnam as well and we were doing a little bit... We are doing baskets with Vietnam at that stage. So again, meeting our suppliers and learning a lot about the new product categories that we had anticipated for that year.
Terence: That's right. And trying to see where the business will grow from there and what other categories we can add on. So yes, those two trips were certainly beneficial in the direction of the company.
Rebecca: Later in 2016, I became pregnant with our third child and at that stage we decided that we were a super small team. We were still only four people and we had some casuals coming in to help with picking and packing, and so we closed. At that point we decided to close the shop. I had intense, intense morning sickness. So trying to merchandise stores with morning sickness was very challenging. And so we made the decision to pull back on some of the areas that we were doing, and the shop was something that went.
Terence: I think the shop was a very obvious reason for us when we were looking at our business model, when we actually sat down and crunched the numbers to see where the money was being made, where the money was being spent, time-wise as well. I think the decision for us was pretty easy to stay in the online market and within wholesale as well whereas the shop was extremely labour intensive, but also a lot of additional outgoings that you don't necessarily always have in the online area. You certainly have some outgoings, but it's totally different areas and it's a lot easier to work into your product as well.
Rebecca: 2016 was challenging for a lot of reasons. We decided to close the store down and move back just to online. It was also the year that we had a huge issue with rip offs.
Terence: Yes, rip-off. That's a totally different area. Once again, going back to what we said in a previous episode, it's so easy to source products these days. You've got online avenues. You can find something so quickly, but you don't necessarily know what you are buying. And we have had it on occasions where people have bought products that were actually a rip off of our product, not knowing what they had bought.
Rebecca: It was huge for us. To be honest, it was a real dagger. We had everyone from people in Australia, big retailers in Australia copying us to people on Alibaba and then smaller Australian shops importing those rip offs or counterfeit products in. It was a real challenge for us to navigate legally as well as emotionally, being pregnant. So I headed back to China to try and understand how our product was being ripped off.
Terence: I think for anybody who has been in that situation it's only then that you understand all this hard work time and effort that you put into designing a product, coming up with the idea transforming it from 2D to 3D and getting it out into the marketplace. All of that hard work that you have spent on that product has literally just been copied by somebody in a matter of probably hours and then put into manufacturing. And it's out there for everyone and anyone to buy and sell on.
Rebecca: I think it was the year that we sent them most legal letters out too and the responses were honestly interesting. We had a lot of local shops which we were trademarked and we had rights here locally. China was a little bit more tricky with Alibaba. We were writing Alibaba, we were having our photo shoot campaigns that we were investing in ripped off. We spoke to Alibaba stores and pretended to be big retailers and some of them were selling copies of our designs in large quantities to overseas. So it was really tricky for us to navigate that. And because our product wasn't seasonal, we weren't moving that fast with the market as well. So it did really affect our business.
It was a tricky area to navigate and I guess because our products weren't being made in factories, so I saw firsthand it being done. We went to the people's homes that were making our products and if there were yarns leftover, they were translating these into designs for other people. And to be honest, when you've got people working from home, it's really hard to control that. So it was quite a challenge for us to navigate.
Terence: So by this time, we've grown the business into a few different areas. We've got hand rattles and soft toys, some baby products as well as decor. We had some homewares in there along with some furniture. We started on baby clothing and kids' clothing and 2017 saw us add a woman's wear to the mix as well. It was also the year where we closed down both of the retail areas in town and it was the year that Coco, our third child and our first daughter was born.
Rebecca: Navigating that was the next step. Juggling a third child as well as a business was quite challenging, another challenge or a new challenge
Terence: Definitely a new challenge, yes.
Rebecca: She entered our life and we hired a designer to help out with the design because we were moving into women's wear at that stage and launching women's wear. So it was quite challenging having a newborn. I think having a bit bigger of a gap between our kids, I think we had forgotten what it was like having a newborn again.
Terence: Yeah, I can hand on heart say we forgot about the early days and the toddler years and the sleepless nights and just everything that comes along with a baby from day one when they come into the house.
Rebecca: Yeah. So that year we were navigating, there was not really any maternity leave, so we were navigating a house reno as well as we were busting at the seams. We didn't have a spare room for the baby, so we renovated our house that year and we were also navigating juggling a newborn baby, two other children and a business at the same time.
Terence: Poor Coco didn't even have a bedroom when she came into this world. We pretty much... When we bought our house back in, I think it was 2008, it was a small three bedroom house, one bathroom, one toilet. There was obviously myself, Rebecca and the two boys living here. We were on top of each other and in waltzes Coco. So we had to jump. We've had these plans in mind for quite a while, but it was now time to jump into action and certainly make some other dreams for us come true in terms of our home and where we live. That was very exciting as well.
Rebecca: That was our first ever home. We've stayed here. A lot of our money has gone into our business. Our business is personally funded. So nearly everything we've made has gone back into the business. We didn't take salaries for a very long time. It has only been the last two, three...
Terence: About three years now that we've been taking a salary.
Rebecca: Yeah. We signed up to that initially. So I guess when people say you've got to love what you do, you really do have to love what you do because you are paying other people's salary before you are even paying your own salaries.
Terence: Yes. And I think as a business owner, there are always these ups and downs. Even now, some weeks we probably don't take a salary because you've been hit with some bills or some unexpected costs. But you've got all these other people relying on you as well. You've got families relying on you for an income. We pay our staff weekly as such, but we've certainly had our fair share of lying awake at night worrying, how are we going to pay our staff? We've always been alright which has been really good, but there is always those added stress, et cetera that comes along with owning your own business.
Rebecca: So that year we renovated. We set up a cot in the office, so Coco was coming to work every day and it worked really well when she was a baby.
Terence: Until she started crawling.
Rebecca: Until she started moving and it was a juggling act. So it worked really well as a baby. She slept, we fed and work continued on as normal. We've always worked every day in the business, both of us. We are not part time workers. We work most days in the business. I think we've had one holiday in the 10 years where we haven't checked emails every day.
Terence: Yeah. Most holidays are work trips for us. Or if we go away we end up working too, but we have had the opportunity to take a holiday and not have to spend too many hours on emails, et cetera.
Rebecca: I think that's a blessing of modern day and it's also a curse that you can take your business wherever. So we can take our business with us and work online. We can talk to our factories online. We can visit our suppliers. So it does work really well for us to be with family overseas to be able to transport our business.
Terence: Yeah, that's right. So back to 2017, we've now added women's wear to the mix. That's certainly a category that we've seen grown over the last couple of years as such. And definitely something that we are staying excited about. Once again, an area that we are also passionate about and once again, working with natural fibers, ethical production and sustainable living, which is something that's really big out there in this market as well.
Rebecca: Absolutely. Natural fibers, extending it to women's wear has been a little bit more challenging, I'm not going to lie, in getting the right drapability, but we were super passionate. There wasn't a lot out there in the natural fiber market for women's wear. There is the odd piece, but not whole collections. So our whole collection has gone around natural fibers, which again, for durability and quality is really good. We also started it because we were sick of buying knitwear that would peal or get little holes or the amount of knitwear that we had that had shrunk. Yeah, so being able to provide an all-natural knitwear alternative in winter was huge for us.
Terence: Fast forward a year and we find ourselves towards the middle of 2018 realizing that we've probably outgrown where we hire at the moment in terms of warehousing, adding on women wear has certainly taken the business up another level too. So it was time to try and find somewhere else or see what other options were. At this point we were already spread across two warehouses on the same property as such, but still just having stock in two different locations made it quite tricky in terms from a picking and packing point of view. So yeah, 2019 we found ourselves moving into a new warehouse.
Rebecca: Yeah, that's right. We were exploring lots of different options. Our lease was up in our current warehouse and we also really explored the option of third party logistics, which nearly happened. We were tossing up between third party logistics and removing, not removing our team, making our team more remote and not having an office space. We looked at moving to another warehouse. We were exploring lots of different options for the business and we thought it was time for change.
Terence: Yes, we certainly did. We explored a whole lot of different avenues before we decided to move into the warehouse. We thought, is a warehouse really necessary? Can we outsource that whole side of it? Look, for some businesses it works. For us, it wouldn't have worked. I think it's due to the nature of our product and being in clothing as well, you've got one product, but that product has probably got eight different sizes when you add it up between babies and kids and then women's wear as well. So the number of SKUS that you carry, my advice to anybody wanting to do third party logistics is, do your homework. Make sure that the costs are transparent because for us, it would've certainly blown out. But yeah, certainly for other businesses, it could definitely work depending on the number of skews that you have, how many orders you are shipping, et cetera, et cetera.
Rebecca: Also I guess the volumes of your order; that was another problem. Our products were quite bulky and so the amount that our products would take up in another warehouse was quite substantial. So we went with trying to find a new warehouse, which in itself was really challenging because we had a big wish list. We wanted to be able to have a bit of a retail space. We wanted a decent office space with really good heating and cooling and we wanted a really... We needed a bigger space to outline the warehouse how we wanted it.
Terence: That's right. I think in terms of location, we were also looking for something that was maybe a bit closer to home as well, which certainly helps when you are commuting from home or you need to run home quickly. Being in town has certainly helped as well. I think this space that we have at the moment is just being enjoyed by everyone who is there.
Rebecca: Absolutely. I think having decent heating and cooling. Our last shed got very hot in summer, even with air conditioning and it was very cold in winter, so it was quite challenging. It wasn't very insulated. It literally was a tin shed and that's where our office was. We covered the floors with carpet and made it as comfortable as we could possibly, but it wasn't insulated, so it was very cold in winter and very hot in summer. So our new premises is lovely and air conditioned and heated. It's actually... Yeah, it's a pleasure to go to.
Terence: It definitely is. It's also lighter and brighter. We have a dedicated kitchen area, et cetera. It's just all those little luxuries that we haven't had before. But once again, you can't have everything from the beginning. I think when you work hard at it those things will come.
Rebecca: Yeah, absolutely. Writing the outline for this podcast topic was really interesting. I think we don't take much time to reflect on how much we have done, how much we have achieved together and juggling the kids. It has been a ride and it is a journey. I think our kids talk about that journey too, and we are really glad that they could be part of that. They see that mummy and daddy have worked really hard at this thing that has been building over time.
Terence: Absolutely. By doing this podcast, I think we've also realized there is also something that needs to be addressed and that's the fact that we are not as big or we are by no means big. I think there are a lot of companies out there that call themselves small businesses and they have got employees of a hundred plus. I mean, our team consists of five people and that's including Rebecca and myself. So we are really still a small business. Just because of our profile on Instagram or something like that, that by no means, means that we are a big business or we are bigger than what we are.
Rebecca: I think perception is sometimes not reality. I know that we don't do a very good job of portraying that on Instagram. That's the designer in me. I love pretty pictures and I absolutely agree that the push at the moment is to show more behind the scenes and more transparency. That's partly our fault for not showing the transparency. But we are really small team. Even things like photography and I think staff members even get surprised when they enter our business at how much stuff we do, do in house.
Terence: I think this brings us to the end of this episode on our business journey. I hope that it shed some more light on the Miann and Co story and how we grew the business.
Rebecca: Yeah, it has been... Some days it feels like we've been in this business forever and other days it really feels like we are just getting started. It really is an exciting journey. It's a long journey and we are it for the long-haul and it is an exciting journey. So I guess hopefully, we can inspire people from everywhere to look at starting their own business. There are so many times that people say to us that they wish they could start. And we are like... Our biggest and best advice is to just start.
Terence: Yes, just... If you've got a passion, if there is anything you want to do, you've got to start somewhere. I think these days the community is so big where you can get the support and all of that. We've certainly seen that along our journey.
Rebecca: Yeah, absolutely. There are so many resources out there these days, the internet, the podcasts, the books, reaching out to other brands. There are so many opportunities. We hope to hear of your business journeys in the coming months. Thanks guys.
Terence: Thanks guys.