Carlie and Ronnie McKenzie don’t initially appear to be natural online entrepreneurs – Ronnie is a trade-qualified carpenter and Carlie is a trained physiotherapist.
But the couple realised there was an opportunity in the baby and maternity products niche after Carlie gave birth to their son, Samuel, last year.
Ronnie talks to StartupSmart about how the fledgling business is getting on.
What gave you the idea for the business?
With Carlie on maternity leave and the building industry slowing, we felt financially frustrated and anxious, only then to add on the cost of raising a little one.
Carlie, being an avid online bargain hunter, made a comment one morning about the difficulty of finding good quality, reasonably priced baby/maternity products online.
Seeing the benefits of an online business and wanting to build a job for myself, I jumped into action and a short time later, Bambino Brands was born.
What convinced you that this was a sustainable business?
Children are always being born, and as parents we all want to provide quality for our children; but as we found out, financial hardship is so common among parents of young ones.
So we felt that if we could level the playing field between product quality and price, and could offer this to Australian parents, we would have a sustainable business.
Was it a big leap to ditch your job and do this?
Not at all, Carlie was on maternity leave and wasn't looking to return to work any time soon if it could be avoided, and with work slow for me, I jumped at the chance to continue being my own boss, start this business and build a future for my family.
How have you differentiated yourself from all the other baby-focused businesses out there?
From the beginning we wanted quality, service and a “family feel” to set us apart from other online baby businesses.
Carlie blogs alongside the site on many current and important baby and parenting topics, and will spend countless hours researching and offering advice for any mothers wanting information on products or general baby information.
Through Facebook interaction we have had great feedback from our posts and we will strive to continue to build the Bambino Brands community spirit.
One of the biggest differentiators is the way in which Bambino Brands sells its products. Each brand on Bambino Brands runs for a period of up to two weeks, selling many different products and lines at up to 80% off RRP.
By accessing suppliers’ overstocked items and by running sample sales, we can access top quality items at fantastic prices.
How much did it cost you to start-up?
The reason this business model appealed to us was that the structure made it very affordable in that we do not need to pay to pre-stock our warehouse or a store.
We have spent close to $75,000 in setting up the business including marketing and web-development costs (which by far have been the most expensive costs so far, that equates to about $25,000 of our budget).
We unlocked the equity in our house in order to fund the start-up.
Can you explain the planning process for the business – has the start-up phase been challenging?
The process started by researching if there were other sites like ours already targeting our niche (which there wasn't – this was the deciding factor in pursuing Bambino Brands), a search of baby and maternity brands in Australia, and then investigating if we could access enough of them to keep the website fresh and updated as regularly as required.
We completed business plans, projected cashflow, budgets, break evens and all the fundamentals to have a clear direction of where we had to aim.
As with any start-up, I believe you will always face challenges, and the biggest one for us was convincing suppliers to book in campaigns for the site before we had a site to show them.
As soon as the site went live this job was made a lot easier.
What has the toughest aspect of starting up been?
Having two people do all the work. From uploading campaigns (every item is uploaded individually at the moment) marketing, inventory management, etc.
The toughest part is sticking to the strict deadlines for each sale and having everything ready to go when the campaign is set to go live.
What would you have done differently given another chance?
I think we would have budgeted a lot better. Having a clear guideline to go by is important or you find you have pumped a lot more cash into an area than what may have been needed.
Also budgets allow you to really focus on how the money is spent.
Adwords and Facebook advertising needs to be closely watched as they have diminishing values the longer they run and you need to pick these up as soon as it starts happening so your money is continually working as best it can.
How are you marketing yourself?
Our target customers are parents-to-be, and parents of children five years and under.
Currently we are advertising through Facebook and Google Adwords. Facebook has been our biggest marketing tool as we have been able to test and measure all ads and nominate exactly who is seeing the adverts.
We are also currently sending out media releases to share out story and business with the people we started it for.
Finally, what are your ambitions for the business?
In Australia we are aiming to have 200,000 members within five years and take it international within two years with New Zealand, the US and Asia firmly in our sights.