My journey of how Kaboutjie started has been a wonderful experience which I would love to share with you.
My whole life my dream has always been to own my own business, the trick of course was figuring out what line of business I wanted to be in.
I thought about so many things throughout the years and I just landed up in the field I was in. I had finished school, studied PR for a year and then gone on a long overseas trip and was planning what to do when I got back home. Turns out that my father was short staffed and asked me to help out as a buyer for his engineering company until they could find someone. Within about 2 weeks one of the accounts ladies walked out and they needed more help. I stayed there for a few years and got some good experience doing both the buying job and the creditors. When I left his company I started doing the books for a few companies, which was not something I enjoyed doing at all, but I was working for myself and I was earning an income.
The crunch came when I fell pregnant and had my baby – that is when my life changed completely.
I found myself in the position that I hated what I was doing and I was struggling to work and look after my little girl. By the time she was 5 months old I had to put her into a crèche so I could work. This was terrible, I was sitting at home going over spreadsheets, processing invoices, doing VAT returns and filing and all those horrible jobs, so I could pay someone else to look after my child … so I could do a job I was starting to hate. I was downright miserable during that time period.
It was during this time that 2 things happened to me. The first being that I realised I would have to do something else or decide to be a stay at home mom. Why send my child away all day so I could do something I hate? The second thing I learned is that the baby clothing in the shops is firstly terrible quality and secondly expensive. If you want great quality you will pay the same for a baby vest as you will for an adult one. I couldn’t believe it when my daughter was 4 months old and I went and bought 6 jerseys in 6-12m and when the weather got colder only 2 would fit over her head….. did my child have an unusually large head or was something seriously wrong here?
The idea to start an e-commerce baby company started slowly coming to me and no matter what I did the idea wouldn’t go away so I started investigating and to be honest I got a lot of very negative feedback! I had one man tell me point blank that so many people have tried it and failed and I shouldn’t bother…. I am not one for negativity and plodded on with my plans. I worked on my business plan and I presented it to my father for financing and he decided he would fund me (thank you dad!).
I have learnt so much along the way since I started working on my business plan and so much has changed. I thought my business would go “according to plan” and it did not at all. That is not to say that it didn’t work out, it just sort of formed a life of its own and at first I tried to fight that, to force it to conform to what it was supposed to be doing in my plan. It was when I realised that no matter what I do it is not going to fit into that box and I must both adjust my plans and adapt to what is happening or fail. It was at this point that things started to get really interesting and I wonder sometimes if this is the point that a lot of businesses fail – the inability to adapt and go with it? I am no expert so I don’t know, but I often wonder about that.
Something that drove me crazy in the early days is that I wanted my business to have the best customer service and to be honest I think we achieve that on most days, but no matter how hard you try and no matter how careful you are, something at some stage will give! It is impossible to be perfect all the time and this grated me no end. The other thing I also struggled with is that even when there is nothing wrong with the product or service some people just like to complain and give you grief. I have now noticed in the last few months I have toughened up immensely. Take for example a few days ago when someone requested we post something anonymously on our facebook page for her and I politely refused and told her we couldn’t due to too many requests and I asked her to post directly on our page – her response was to call me a f**** stupid bitch. A year ago that would have had me crumpled at my desk and crying for an hour, this time I just decided that was enough of anon posts because this was not the only incident and stopped anon posts completely. I also wonder what sort of person behaves in this rude manner?
The things I have learnt over the last year are incredible. I have learnt about Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Mailchimp, competition sms lines, WordPress, Google Adwords, Google Analytics… I could go on. This has been a daunting process and at one stage I thought if I had to learn anything new my head would explode! I have had so many moms also starting their own businesses look at me and ask for wise words and they assume I am an expert… no I am not. I am determined and I learn to do things for myself and I figure things out. I make plenty of mistakes along the way too, but I pick myself up and I carry on. It is through making these mistakes that I learn and figure out a better way of doing things.
Starting Kaboutjie has been an amazing, fulfilling journey but it has been hard, especially as I started it when my daughter was just over 6 months old. My goal and vision for Kaboutjie is to supply great quality products at great prices and of course give excellent customer service. I don’t want to be a millionaire, but I do want to earn a decent living. One of the reasons I also wanted to start my own company is to be able to leave something for my daughter one day, to take over or if she so chooses to sell. As long as it can be something that will help her get ahead in life one day.
What has been the hardest for me? Without a doubt trying to multitask being mom, wife, business owner, sister, daughter…. all the different roles in life. I struggle with it and I really strive towards finding balance but I never seem to get it right. If anyone has any tips, I would love to hear them! The most difficult one is balancing being mom and my business. It is just me here and if my girl is sick it is a huge battle to continue to run my business and look after my girl alone. At the beginning of this year I had no child care for 2 weeks when I re-opened after Christmas and I literally worked for 2 weeks holding my daughter in one arm, standing at the kitchen counter typing on my laptop one-handed. I have honestly never been so tired in my life!
What do I love about running Kaboutjie? Definitely being in contact with other moms all the time! I love the activity on the facebook page, helping other moms with their difficulties and seeing moms going through exactly the same things I have and being able to let them know they are not alone and share with them what helped me get through it. I love watching other moms supporting each other and helping each other. The other aspect I really love is being in contact with other moms that work for themselves, both already set up and making it or moms that are just starting out. I regularly come into contact with moms that are wanting to start something off and enquire about buying wholesale or wanting to advertise with us. One of the difficulties I encountered when I started off is how to get good quality clothing at a decent price without having a minimum order amount, and it is so great to be able to offer this service to moms. There is a certain connection between “mompreneurs” and the togetherness, understanding and help they give each other are amazing. I have met some successful business women that technically are my opposition such as Ally from 4AKid that have offered support and advice to me. Of course there have also been plenty of women who have been bitchy and funny about things. I believe there is more than enough business for all of us and if we support each other and help each other we will all be the richer for it and it is so nice to see that the majority of moms I come across have exactly the same mindset.
I also come across a lot of moms that have a full time job and run their baby business on the side and I take my hat off to you! To be honest I don’t know how you manage to juggle everything and stay sane. Take Melanie from Baby BomBom’s for example that designs the most gorgeous clothing, gives great customer service, works a full time job, is a mom and wife…. how you do that I just don’t know.
What advice would I give to moms wanting to start their own business… firstly take into account what everyone says and listen to all the advice given but don’t take all the negative advice to heart. Yes a lot of businesses fail, but I really believe it is up to the individual – if you have a good product, if there is a market for it and you are prepared to work harder than you ever have in your life you can most definitely do it. The other bit of advice is from my dad when I have been downhearted and ready to give up: Be like a dog with a bone and don’t let go! This has been wonderful advice because there are ups and downs and you have to just go through it and come out the other side.
There are so many people that I need to give thanks to and that have helped me, too many to mention (or this will sound like an Oscar speech)…. but the person who deserves special mention is my husband. He has been supportive from the start and has helped me continuously by regularly allowing me to work late into the night without complaint, taking our daughter out for the day on weekends so I can work and just being there for me. I remember in the first few months when I had to work so hard to make one sale and every day he would call me and ask me if I made a sale and he would congratulate me on every small achievement. Even now when I make sales every day and business is good he still wants to know what was bought, how many, if it is a new customer or a returning customer, retail or wholesale. On my bad days he has comforted me and offered me advice on how to deal with problems. And right now as I am typing he is downstairs on my ipad and calling up to me that there are 8 people on the website right now, 6 on the competitions page….
Then of course my parents who have funded this company and offered valuable business advice and support all the way, I would not have been able to start without you and would not be where I am.
So what is next for Kaboutjie? As we stand right now we have hardly any clothing stock on our website because sales have been so good, and we have no space to keep enough stock to keep up with sales…. as my dad says “This is a good problem to have”. Within the next few weeks our website will be completely upgraded with a whole new section for wholesale customers; the articles, recipes, blogs, Kaboutjie Cares Project, business directory and other sections are being changed and re-organized. We are busy designing a Xmas clothing range, getting more stock made up in all the new colours and designs. We are also opening a new premises and will open shop in Langebaan before 01 October 2013 so we have more office space and storage space.
The other huge development which I also cannot wait for is that Melissa that started off being a Facebook page admin for us last year and has recently become fully employed will be relocating to Langebaan! Melissa has been an absolute gem and my right arm and it will be so exciting to have her at the same location and able to take on more responsibilities over time.
And then…. well I am 5 months pregnant so I plan to train Melissa asap to take over a lot of the responsibilities and then I am going to relax a bit and get really fat and have my baby!