My name is Louise, proud owner of Boutique Baby and this is my Small Business Journey. Well, where do I start on this journey of ours? What was planned as a part time job while I was pregnant with my second child has now engulfed and changed our lives. After having my first born I was not keen on going back to work full time so something needed to be done. Well, how things have changed as this one small online business I bought 8 years ago has now evolved with three online businesses and a Brick & Mortar store which we opened in the middle of Covid. This is my small business journey and what a journey it has been.
As the face of Boutique Baby, I feel humbled with the support I have had over the years. From very small beginnings when my husband and I drove down to an area just outside Geelong, Victoria. A few hours of website training and we drove home with around 6 containers of stock, a couple of boxes and a website. This was the beginning of a 8 year-long journey to today where we sit with a flourishing online business and a brick and mortar store located on the Gold Coast. https://www.boutiquebaby.com.au/contact/
It wasn’t easy. As new first time business owners, how to get our name out there, what other products can we source as we had to do more than the few we had. All while having a 3-year-old little boy who kept us on our toes. The first plan we had was an upgrade to the website which we found to be a worthwhile exercise. Like most things, people like seeing something shiny and new. What was a bit of an outdated site was now fresh, clean and vibrant. That was the easy part so what next. Stock and lack of it was our next big challenge.
Spending hours on the phone and countless emails contacting suppliers and finding those quality and respected products while also thinking as a new Mum what would I like to buy if I needed to. Trust me there were plenty of hits and misses on products, some of which I thought would sell but didn’t and others which I was hesitant on, have been our best sellers to date and still stock in store and online today. Who would have thought Dummies with moustaches on them wouldn’t sell. I thought they looked great. https://www.boutiquebaby.com.au/product/bibs-dummies-2-pack-prepackaged/
From these phone calls and emails, we had started to build supplier relationships with many suppliers who still to this day have been alongside me on my business journey. Like my husband said, building strong supplier relationships will help along the way. This could not have been truer through the years.
Many of my suppliers and sales reps today I would call more of a friend and we seem to talk more about life than selling me the newest product to hit the market. So, a new fresh website, more products to sell, that is great but how do people find out about me? At this point SEO, Google Shopping and other online sources weren’t even on our radar.
Starting local we thought the Sunday markets might be that opening we needed. Picking a number of large local weekend markets, we thought would give us the exposure we craved at that time. Dropping some brochures at our local day care and getting into the world of Facebook the next phase of our journey had begun.
5am wake ups, packing a new bought trailer and getting our little boy set for the day off we went for our very first Sunday market. At this stage we were still living in NSW and our first market was in a small semi-country town called Wilton, South of Sydney and around a 30-minute drive from home. I would think that part was the toughest, having to get our toddler out of bed at crazy hours in the morning and a year later we added a second baby to the mix so getting two out of bed on cold winter mornings and off we went. Those markets which were in large areas were the best, easy to park, drop the trailer and my husband would head home with the boys. Set up and pack down was pretty easy – every piece had it’s own place and it was like clockwork to us, very similar to Tetris. Close to 5 years and 150 markets later and as the saying goes, some days are diamonds and some days are rocks. Looking back I must say we definitely had more diamonds and apart from getting our name out into the public space we also met and got advice from other market stalls, what works, what doesn’t and little things like how much money you need to have on you to ensure a successful day. Packing up as a storm is approaching, 40 deg days and markets when it was blowing a gale, we had it all.
By this stage in early 2018, we had moved our family to the Gold Coast. New markets were tried and tested – we found Queensland markets a lot harder than Sydney markets as there were so many each weekend in a close proximity so it was a matter of picking the right one for us. We also found the weather so much hotter, and that markets would open around 7am, which meant super early starts!
The time had come for our next step on this journey and one we had discussed but never really felt like it would happen. As Covid hit in early 2020 this journey may have needed to stop or take a detour as what played out in our mind may never eventuate. Opening an actual shopfront and expanding on the business in the middle of Covid was a huge risk but one we thought we would need to do. There was a small local store I had been in a few times to buy some workwear and they had advised they had outgrown the space and were moving. Was this the opportunity we had to take the next step?
The shop sat vacant for a number of months and after staring into the window many times while doing my shopping my husband decided to make the call. With the shop being local to us and could be snapped up at any time we took the plunge. Apprehension in doing something like this was always going to be a factor but we thought why not give it a go. We signed a month-to-month lease which at the time gave us some reassurance just in case Covid lockdowns hit harder in Qld and like other states we wouldn’t be able to trade for months…Close to 3 years later we are still there. Our store is jammed pack, we are supported by our local community and our online presence is going great with many, many repeat customers!
So what else do you do when life is busy and business is going well, you just think of more opportunities to grow. Continually looking out for other business opportunities and add on to what we currently do with Boutique Baby. Something a little bit different but we can still capture the customer base we have and expand on our offerings. In September 2022 we got the opportunity to purchase another online business called Harry Hoot (www.harryhoot.com.au)
This business is a pregnancy, new baby, new mum hamper business which we felt aligns really well with Boutique Baby and offers something extra. For expectant mothers, new mums and also for those Baby Shower gifts we have a range of hampers to suit. In the limited time we have had this business we have been able to stock some of the products in store as well as expand the number of hampers we have to offer. It has been a fun process, curating and packing these hampers and we hope they bring the recipient joy when they open these Hampers.
And what is next… we LOVE what we do. We love searching for new and exciting products for you. We love to hear your recommendations and requests but the most important thing is we have had so many loyal and wonderful customers who have been on this journey with us. For the support we receive we thank you.