Up this week on Meet the Mumtrepreneur I’m chatting with the founders of Babyboo.ie. Mums, Vicki and Michelle spotted a gap in the market back in 2014 and they’ve never looked back. With a growing and expanding business, and friendship as it seems these two women are so inspirational. And I’m a huge fan, I’ve easily got over 40 babyboo.ie bandana bibs now but don’t tell Joe, though! Here’s how we got on…
Tell me a little about babyboo and how you guys came up with the idea?
We make and sell drool busting bandana bibs, newborn bibs (little boo), bigger bibs (biggerboo) and a sleeping bag with detachable sleeves (snuggleboo). All our bibs have two layers, a top layer which is cotton and a fleece lining which ensures nothing soaks through to baby’s chest and clothing.
The littleboo bib is a slightly different shape from the bandana; it has a smaller neck and the bib is wider to stretch to a newborn’s shoulders. Newborns tend to leak milk out of the side of their mouth so this bib catches it before it hits their clothes.
The bandana and biggerboo bibs fit around the baby/child to ensure the drool does not get to the fold in their neck and behind their ears when lying down. The cotton layer folds down over the fleece lining to prevent rashes which babies are more prone to during the teething phase.
The snuggleboo is our sleeping bag which is our latest product, we offer a size up to 48 months, it is cotton inside and out and the 2.5 tog has detachable sleeves.
The idea for babyboo.ie –
My (Vicki) daughter Ruby had bad silent reflux and eczema as a baby, so it was a challenge to find a bib that looked nice while actually soaking up the acidy drool and not aggravating her skin, anything plastic backed was a disaster. I was buying bibs in from the US and the UK which still were not fully doing the job and that’s where the lightbulb moment came, we realized there was a market there – if I was having problems then other parents were too.
We launched in October 2014 after sourcing manufacturers and designs for our first 7 bibs. We then hired our own designer so now all our designs are unique to us. This year we launched our organic Snuggle Boo sleeping bag with detachable sleeves and our LittleBoo newborn bibs and we have our next product in the pipeline for January. We try to design our products based on things we wish we had had or adapted products so they suit parent’s needs more, the detachable sleeves were something we wish we had had, for example, our sleeping bags also zip top down so little fingers find it harder to open zips and escape.
What has been your biggest challenge starting-up babyboo.ie?
I think we both agree that we find it hard to switch off and are constantly thinking about new designs and products and messaging each other (as a reminder) at any hour.
Being friends for over 20 years as well as business partners is a challenge in itself. We try to separate work/social occasions. Avoiding talking about the business when we’re out together with our friends, we are sure they’re all sick to death of listening to us talk about designs for bibs or new products….
It’s a very steep learning curve so the financial side of things and cash flow is probably the biggest challenge, however, we play to our strengths. While I look after the social media and marketing of the business, Michelle is super organized and good with the financial side of the business.
Finding space to work has been another challenge, our homes were taken over by boxes and bibs so we sourced a storage unit about 18 months ago. Since then we have leased our first office and hired our first employee to help us out so both of those milestones will help immensely and allow us to focus on expanding the business especially the wholesale side of it and growing our reach in the market.
And fulfilling the orders we received in the last month since we were on Ireland AM has been a massive challenge, a good one of course but stressful nonetheless.
How did you fund your Babyboo?
We self-funded initially for our first order, then reinvested the revenue from each sale back into growing our designs and then our bank (AIB) helped last year when we wanted to launch the SnuggleBoo. We got a grant to redesign our website from our local enterprise office this year which just launched. We’re still working on advancing the website and our online presence but we absolutely love the new website and feel it’s going to help us grow the business much faster.
How do you guys juggle childcare?
Vicki – Always a challenge, I work full time so Ruby is in Montessori a few mornings and has a fabulous childminder and a day with her grandad. I tend to work a lot in the evenings and weekends updating the blog, all the social media, responding to messages, comments, and emails and researching new products/design ideas.
Michelle – I have 3 children in school and 1 in Montessori so I work in the office in the mornings fulfilling orders with Lisa (our new employee). I’m at home with children in the afternoons for homework and after-school activities. The evenings I catch up on emails, count the new stock, bills, new projects we are working on etc.
Both of us try to limit our work at the weekends so we have time with our families. The real challenge is when we have to be away for a few days at a time, Michelle’s husband has been hugely supportive and I rely on my parents a lot as a solo parent to help me out.
What are you guys most proud of?
Lots of things, the main one is that the business has been a success to date. We worked without pay for the first 12 months to give the business the best chance of succeeding. It was a great feeling to make it past the first year and recently the second year. We won the best marketing for a startup at the Cork Digital Marketing Awards last year which was just such a huge achievement when we were only in business 12 months and this year the Snuggle Boo won the Mums and Tots best new product award which we were thrilled with. Reaching 20,000 fans on Facebook was another huge milestone and we were featured on Ireland AM just this last month which was another big achievement for the business – every positive review and every time we see a little one in one of our bibs gives us a buzz.
What words of advice would you give to other mums who wish to set up a business during maternity leave or with young kids?
Do your research, upskill if you need to, build your relationship with your LEO and your bank but if you think it’s worth a shot then go for it. Don’t underestimate the costs and time involved, though, we are lucky because there are two of us to share the load and we have different skills plus there are two of us to bounce ideas off. Have a cut-off point – a date, budget etc and stick to it. If your business/product is not making money by the deadline you gave it be prepared to walk away. A partnership agreement is a good idea if you are going into business with someone else e.g. a friend or relative.
What’s next for you two and babyboo?
We have another new product launching early next year and another in the pipeline, our Christmas range of prints are due back in stock next week, they sold out in 8 hours 2 weeks ago!! We have lots of new bits and pieces due for the website and one big collaboration with another Irish brand we absolutely love and can’t wait to work with early next year!
And finally, where will I find you?
Check out our website or find us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram