Mumprenuerial spirit: We chat to the founders of bubsboutique.com

Mumprenuerial spirit: We chat to the founders of bubsboutique.com
15 May 2013

What’s bubsboutique all about?

We’re an online boutique store (established 2009) where you can find all you need in the way of strollers, essentials, unique gifts, toys, organic clothing and boutique brands.  Many of the brands we stock are award-winning and exclusive to bubsboutique in the region. As mums ourselves they are often selected as a result of us having tried and tested them, so they really do get our seal of approval!  We deliver throughout the region and beyond, and have created a unique boutique shopping experience which over the years has built us a very loyal following. 

How did you get the idea?

Our babies were around six months and we were both thinking about going back to work but knew that the corporate world was no longer for us (we now have five children between us!) Kirsten is from a PR Background and I am from an HR background, so our hours would have been totally incompatible with family life.  We noticed another online store closing down as they were moving back to Australia. Initially, we thought we would buy surplus stock and host house parties. But once we met them, previous owners encouraged us to set up something similar. At that time there was only two other websites in the region so it was fairly innovative.

How did you finance it?

From our own pockets. And as we’ve financed it ourselves, we obviously think very carefully about the investment because the buck stops with us. We really do need to make sure we are getting a return on our investment.  We are all about value for money too, so think carefully before we make our own personal purchases.  It’s very easy to get carried away when you live here as there is always so much going on. We do have to reign ourselves in from time to time.

Has the nasty economic downturn affected your business?

We launched in a recession – and that has meant we’ve always been exceptionally disciplined in how we run the business. Obviously, launching in a recession also meant we had to finance the business ourselves as no banks were willing to support us. We also noticed during the peak of the economic downturn and periods of uncertainty that people’s buying habits changed and they stuck with the absolute essential purchases.  It makes us as mums think about what are absolute must have’s for new parents and we often focus our brand selection on that.

What’s been your biggest financial challenge?

Cash flow and cash management.  As a small business, it can be challenging to negotiate payment terms with international companies - particularly when we launched at the height of the downturn.  Most suppliers require payment upfront which does present challenges.  To this extent it has made growing the business quite hard work as obviously, you have to spend the money to make the money!

And achievement?

When we consider the challenges we've faced, we look back at where we started and where we are now, and we feel immensely proud.  We started with just a handful of brands and products to now have over 65 brands; many of them award-winning and unique to bubsboutique in the region.  We have customers throughout the region too, and many of whom have been loyal to us the past four years.  And we’ve branched out.  We are now selling our products in Bliss Flowers, Favourite Things and La Petite Palais in Galleries Lafayette. 

Debt is a loaded word. What’s your opinion on it?

Well, to make it very simple, we both avoid getting into debt to fuel our own personal consumption needs.  But obviously, in terms of the business we’ve had to take on a small degree of debt in order to fund the investment and get where we are now.  However, we have kept our risks to an absolute minimum and the risk that we have taken on is completely manageable. 

Hit us with your three top financial tips for consumers today...

1)      Do the research before you make a purchase on a big ticket item, like a stroller, for example. Really think about your own personal needs and future plans for more babies - and the product’s resell value.

2)      Always look at value for money. If something is cheap, you may feel like you’re making a saving.  But in the long term, you can end up spending more. 

3)      Don’t feel pressured into buying everything before your baby arrives. Get through those first few weeks of new parenthood and sleepless nights. Then you’ll have a better idea about what you actually need.  We get a lot of emotional calls from parents, who thought they’d never need a carrier or a sling, but suddenly realise the benefit of having one when they can’t settle the baby or have their hands free to do a simple task like make a cup of tea!

How are you ‘making it happen’?

We are completely driven and very passionate about what we do.  To make it happen it’s all about hardwork and determination and a desire to succeed. We both constantly bounce ideas off each other, and before we take any risks we make sure they are calculated ones.

Paula Harrington and Kirsten Fairfield are co-owners of bubsboutique, which was founded in 2009.

 

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