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Mum’s the word – Page 2 of 5 – StartupSmart

Anita Lincolne-LomaxBabes in Arms


Babes in Arms, founded by Anita Lincolne-Lomax six years ago, won the Mumpreneur of the year award.


It specialises in baby-wearing products – baby slings and other carriers that allow mothers to hold their baby hands-free.


How did you decide on your business idea?

At the time I was running an architectural practice with my husband. We had our first daughter Tilly and I found it harder and harder to take my child with me on site.


When Tilly was six or seven-months-old I discovered what is now a flagship product called the Ergo baby carrier.


It was a really “ah-ha” moment in my parenting journey. Suddenly I could wear her on my front, hip or back.


No other carrier offered that flexibility, or that ergonomic weight distribution to my hips. Suddenly I could hold her for long periods of times, and parenting got a lot more fun.


Everywhere I went everyone asked where I got this product from. So I started to develop a relationship with manufacturers. It was serendipitous timing – they were looking for an Australian distributor.


I naively thought I could do the job – I didn’t realise the potential. I envisioned a micro-distribution, through mothers’ groups and the like.


However, our business grew about 190% in that first year. It was a very steep, wild ride, especially given I was moving from a service-based to product-based.


My husband had to press the pause button on his architectural career, to come on and help me. He’s never been released. We’re still working together.


What challenges did you face when you were starting up?

The main challenges for us from a business perspective were moving from service- to product-based industry.


It just requires a very different business acumen. I really made sure that as we grew we kept surrounding ourselves with people who were more knowledgeable than us.


We kept employing business mentors who had specialist experience in areas where we needed some help. We found it short-cut a lot of the steps you otherwise would have to learn.


That was on a professional level. The other challenge was a cultural challenge. The culture of parenting in Australia is very much pram-dominated.


We don’t have a strong tradition of baby-wearing in this country. The reliance on the pram really dismissed the need for a lot of parents for baby-slings and carriers.


That’s why we’ve promoted the educational side of our business – it’s not just about hands-free, but about emotional and neurological benefits that come from nurturing your child in your embrace as you get on with your day.


Thirdly, and lastly, it’s been a real personal challenge for me as a mum of three and soon to be four young children.


The eldest is seven, and the youngest is two, and I’ve got another due in a month. Juggling the children and business requires a team effort, and having that rare combination of strict timeframes and boundaries but also being flexibility, because kids bring an element of the unknown and the unexpected.


What tips would you give other mums looking at starting a business?

I think the thing that I’ve learnt is that there’s a big gulf between an idea and a reality.


It’s very easy to dream up businesses, and to long for the flexibility that people assume comes with running your own business. Bu, it’s a lot of hard work and it takes all the energy and all the courage you have to bring a business idea to life.


It’s really critical to plan well and to have realistic expectations. Write a thorough business plan and have really detailed goals. It’s also really important to surround yourself with good advice.


It’s really important to delegate. As a mum you are time-poor. Delegating to people who are more competent or have more experience than you will be really important. So you can focus just on what you are good at.


You also need to make a deliberate and conscious effort to achieve balance in your life. Put up clear divide between yourself and your work – turn off the phone when you go to the park with the kids. Honour your children when you’re with them.


And celebrate your achievements. We always want to be further ahead in our business plans, but acknowledge little plateaus and moments that come in a business, the same way you should with your children.

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