Two years after selling their last start-up FindABabysitter.com.au to Fairfax for reported $3 million, Jeff and Delia Timms have been bitten by the entrepreneurial bug again.
The husband and wife team launched WhatShouldIWear.com.au in June. The website, and accompanying iOS app, gives fashion tips and style advice to women.
Delia speaks to StartupSmart about how launching a business has gone, second time around.
What gave you the idea for this business?
I was looking for some style advice myself. A friend gave me some advice, which was good for about a month, but then I was unsure of what to wear for other occasions beyond that.
I looked at a few websites, but they were all from the US and didn’t have much of an understanding of Australian style, brands or culture.
I recognised there was a genuine need for style advice. You can ask your girlfriends, but they aren’t always on hand. You can have a stylist, but that’s expensive, while online and magazines aren’t personalised.
A lot of the feedback to clothes online can be very general and irrelevant. People need style advice and immediately, too.
So do you want retailers to get involved?
There’s a customer angle to this, but there’s also the fact that retailers are struggling to engage with consumers online.
Everyone is talking on social media and it’s a great way, potentially, for retailers to engage with their audience. I hope to build sponsorship into the site and app, to provide geo-located advice, depending on where you are.
Ideally, I’d like a few retailers on board. If they want to white label it, then fine.
How did you go about developing your idea?
I was researching it from the middle of last year. I held focus groups and then began to design the site.
I knew I was looking for a fashion-conscious audience, so I got a few designs and showed them to a good network of people. I invited 20 babysitters, women in their 20s who were interested in fashion, to be a focus group.
What was the feedback like?
The feedback was that it looked like a breast cancer support website. It was very pink.
The group said that they look at sites such as Net-a-Porter and ASOS for their fashion, which are black and white, very slick. We learned a lot of that. We listen to our potential customers and changed the site around.
They liked the idea of having a ‘style panel’ on board, who give their opinions to users. We then moderate the site and encourage the community to help with moderation.
In general, 99% of the feedback is positive and helpful. No-one there is a skinny size six model, so everyone gets good, helpful advice. They are generally delighted that there’s somewhere online they can go for advice.
How have you funded your start-up?
On a shoestring, really. We self-funded it. We outsourced the development of the site to India, which moved things along quickly.
It has been a learning experience, but we’ve managed it well. I’d say the start-up cost has been around $15,000.
How will you monetise the site?
We are hoping to build partnerships and sponsorships with brands. There’s a great opportunity for brands to connect with the community. But right now the focus is on building the community up, as it’s hard to do anything without that.
How have you marketed it?
We’ve done a lot of search engine marketing, leveraging a lot of users from Facebook too. We’ve used targeted ads aimed at fashion bloggers, as well as run small competitions on selected websites.
We had 200 sign-ups in the first week and then rand a launch competition, which tripled page views. I’ve done two other apps before, so I knew what I was doing. The difference is that it is tied to a website, so there’s good opportunity for cross promotion.
What have you learnt from the process?
When I set up the first business, I was very naïve. There’s still an element of that as things move on so quickly when it comes to apps and social media, but there’s a lot less to learn this time around.
However, you never get over the fear of the unknown as an entrepreneur. That stays with you.
I’m doing some consulting at the moment and doing this part-time. We work well together – I do the fun stuff with bloggers and Jeff does a lot of the left brain stuff, such as search marketing. It fits in with our strengths.
What are your ambitions for the business?
We wanted to find a business where there was a real need, as well as something that I was passionate about.
We were on the look-out for the next opportunity, and this feels right. I can’t imagine being an employee again and I missed having something to think about and do.
I’m not sure how big the business will be, but I hope to build it and flick it within five years. I’d like to have two million page views by the end of the year.
They are aggressive targets, but we think there’s more room for growth than Babysitter. But we’ve got a long way to go until then.