Having a baby is just about one of the biggest events in anyone's life. The idea of starting a new business at this time in your life might seem like an unachievable dream, but for a growing generation of 'mumpreneurs', this is becoming a reality as they are embracing the opportunity to take a new direction in their career too.
We speak to Amy and Julie from Cheeky Chompers – a company specialising in innovative baby essentials with a cheeky twist, designed to make parents' lives that little bit easier. Their flagship product – the Neckerchew combines a stylish dribble bib with a chewable teether – no more dropped teethers! They share their experiences in starting a business after having a baby, along with some gems of advice for those considering joining the league of extraordinary mumpreneurs.
We met at our doctor's surgery antenatal class before the birth of our first babies – it was lovely having a group of people who were all going through each stage of the new parent process at the same time; having a support network of friends and family can be such a lifeline as a new mum. We both came from business backgrounds (working for companies) and had both always dreamt of running our own business, but starting a business with a new friend at this new stage in our life was not something we expected to happen…!
However when we heard ourselves saying “I wish someone would invent a teether that stays attached to the baby”, we couldn’t resist the idea of investigating it further. After a night with a bottle of wine, some blank paper and colouring pencils we worked through ideas as to the best way we could fix this problem and the idea of the Neckerchew was born! When we explored it as a possible business venture, it became more and more tangible to us, but there was a lot of learning as we went along!
There are a number of ways you can take a product or idea to market, but for us, first of all, it was a case of researching what was already out there, what were the best feeling teethers made from? What annoyed us about current dribble bibs that we could then improve on and make sure everything we did was the best it could possibly be?
We then needed to design the product, source suppliers, make prototypes, test the market, find a manufacturer, understand safety testing requirements, build a website…the list goes on! It was all a huge learning curve but we just took it one step at a time and learned a lot along the way! We launched at The Baby Show in London in February 2013 and we had an amazing response from parents and gift buyers. The number of people who said ‘What a great idea, why didn’t I think of that?’ was incredible and we knew we were on to a winner!
Into the Dragon’s Den
When BBC’s Dragon’s Den approached us to be on the show we had only been trading for 11 weeks, but we knew it was an opportunity we shouldn’t turn down. We were both working in our ‘normal jobs’ plus had 1-year-olds and Amy was 32 weeks pregnant with baby number 2!. But we had so much belief in our product and knew the exposure would be a positive, even if the Dragons didn’t invest! That’s exactly what happened, but the experience and the exposure not just in the UK but around the world was exactly what we needed to take the business to the next stage.
Fast forward 5 years and we have been on an incredible journey. We have expanded our range to 9 products and sell in 35 countries around the world. It has been a hectic and full on 5 years both personally and professionally but we wouldn’t change it! As with all good ideas the Neckerchew concept has now been copied by other companies, but we remain the original and stay true to our promise of the best quality, super safety tested products that we would feel confident using on our own babies. Our fabric products are all made here in the UK and this has allowed us to ensure the quality is consistently high and that we can work really closely with our factory to deliver the best products to our customers.
Amy and Julie's top tips for starting a business:
- Make sure there is a market for it. Decide what you want to develop or sell. Does it exist already? There are lots of working from home opportunities that you can use your existing skills for; or you can bring something new. Think about the unique selling points and what value it can add to your customer.
- Know your product inside out and market research your idea as thoroughly as possible with the right audience. Use your existing networks as much as possible.
- Understand your financials – how are you funding the enterprise? Think realistically about what you are projected to sell and the possible income generated. There are lots of funding and investment opportunities out there.
- Use technology to your best advantage – whether it’s for selling your product/service on a website; promoting on Social Media; accounting tools; organising your filing system.
- Be flexible – unless you have a partner who is a 100% full-time parent, you will find you have to juggle a number of balls (which will sometimes feel more like the size of footballs!). Decide what you want your home/work pattern to be and set aside the time that is sacrosanct to you and your family, but the rest of the time you will probably be full-on all-hands-on-deck!
- Business mentors are a great way of getting advice and support along the way. To begin with, these might be local businesses you meet through networking events, but as you grow, you might find ones more specific to your line of business.
We would encourage anyone with a bit of entrepreneurial spirit to reach for their dream! That’s why we set up our NetWorker Programme for parents who want a work-from-home opportunity that fits in with their own circumstances. Being in control of your own business can give you a real buzz, and you will be setting your children an example of what you can achieve when you put your mind to something. Good luck and enjoy the ride! For more information about our journey go to cheekychompers.com
Lots of love,
Amy & Julie x
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