Meet Katrina McCarter. You will see why Beyoncé should have sung, “Who runs the world? Mums!”
What are the benefits to balancing business and motherhood?
I like the flexibility that it offers. I can head up to see one of my kids get a merit certificate at assembly and pick up the lost time in the evening.
Also, upon giving up a paid job to create a start up, I needed to be available to manage the kids. We were relying on my husband’s salary and the financial resource for nannies and childcare was not there. If I was going to start a new business, it had to be on top of my motherly duties.
Many of my clients are mums operating businesses whilst juggling their kids. I find that many of us work school hours and then work in the evenings once the kids are in bed. I find this a great time to reach many of my clients as they are working online then too. Many a deal has been struck in the late evening hours on Bubbler.
What motivated you to start your own business?
After nearly a decade working in sales and marketing for large multinationals in the grocery industry I moved to Perth and had three kids. I had always wanted to be at home for their first 5 years of my kids’ lives and when my third started school last year I quickly realised that I was going to need to recreate myself as there was limited work in my industry based in Perth.
The two major accounts within the industry – Coles and Woolworths, operated in Melbourne and Sydney so I had to find something else which would allow me to utilise my sales management skills and there seemed few opportunities which provided me with any real interest.
I have always held the belief that the pinnacle of my career would be to successfully create and run my own business. I really wanted to test myself and see what I could do. I have enormous respect for people who put themselves on the line and take the calculated risk to give something a red hot go.
I have always had a great interest in reading about entrepreneurs. Reaching the age of 40, I decided it was a case of now or never. The older one gets, the greater the financial commitments and I just really felt it was important that I do not look back with any regrets. I really wanted to push myself to achieve this ultimate goal to run a successful business.
The variety of creating a business from scratch is particularly appealing too. Each day can be so different from cold calling prospective merchants, bookkeeping, negotiating new business partnerships, meeting bloggers, attending conferences. I am on a huge learning curve picking up new skills and meeting some really interesting people.
What is your advice for others thinking about starting their own business?
Do not underestimate the power of social media, more specifically Facebook. This is a really cost effective way to drive your business in the early days. One of the best pieces of advice someone gave me in lead up to our launch was explaining to me how to do what’s known as a Facebook Shout Out within the industry.
Find a business with the same target market but with a business which does not compete with yours and contact them and arrange to share their page with your customers and they share your page with their fans. It provides you with the opportunity to expose your business to a new group of users at no cost.
Alternatively, look to sponsor a site by offering some money to pin your business (and perhaps a special offer or competition) at the top of their page. Driving business via Facebook can require lots of time but it does not require some of the high costs associated with other forms of advertising.
One of the beauties of doing Shout Outs and Facebook sponsoring is that many mumpreneurs operate businesses targeting women and it is women who are the high users of Facebook. Mums are typically online in the evening after the kids are asleep so this is when it is the best time to post your Facebook status updates and arrange your shout outs to feature.
If you are considering starting a business and juggling the kids consider your support crew. Who is available to help you when you urgently have to see the client after school pick up? Who can get a meal on the table? Some of these practicalities are often overlooked.
Before you start get some meals frozen in the freezer. Cook a few curries, stews and spag bog as there are likely to be times when you cannot fathom cooking after the demands of managing kids and a business. Just knowing that you can whip something out of the freezer can assist manage your overall stress levels.
In your pre-launch phase you are likely to be working extremely long hours. Build up your sleep bank as you will not get much of that in the first year or so. Mums are often really good at dealing with this as having a baby has been a great training ground for little sleep!
Think about who you can call on or what child care is available at short notice and affordable in your area. Mums are well versed with multitasking but they need to know what is available to assist them to juggle the demands of motherhood and a business in its infancy.
Consider renegotiating your home duties with your partner. It is not going to be sustainable for you to continue managing all your domestic duties and starting a business. Talk to your partner about how they might be able to step up to the plate and take on some additional duties around the home. Knowing that hubby is doing the school pick up one day a week can be a life saver or that you don’t have to get dinner up every night can assist manage your increased demands.
Set yourself a few goals where you treat yourself. My girlfriends bought me a full day at a really ritzy day spa for my birthday last year. I vowed I would not use it until I had achieved a significant milestone in my business. As soon as I reached 5000 members I enjoyed a full day of heaven at that Day Spa and it was a great reward and kept me focused.
Accept that as a working mother you are not going to be able to do everything and attend every event with your kids. There will be times where you will need to miss family time or a significant kids’ event. Find another family member to attend and introduce a ritual thing which you do every week without fail. For me, I always am around to take them out for fish and chips on a Friday night. Every week we walk up to the fish ‘n’ chips shop and pick up our regular order and enjoy it together and chat about our week.
Why did you start an online business? What difficulties did you face?
Whilst there are risks associated with starting up an online business there are also fairly low barriers to entry which can make setting up an online business particularly attractive.
I would say the technology side can certainly be tricky for the inexperienced. We found significant variances on prices in setting up our ecommerce site. It pays to shop around and do adequate research on your selected developer. We spoke to a number of existing clients about the quality of the developer’s work.
We found people to be very honest in their critique so we knew what to expect and could factor into our negotiations. It is also a huge advantage to have someone in your team who really understands website functionality requirements and has some code experience. This is particularly important if you are outsourcing your technical requirements offshore.
I certainly realised that I needed to have a business partner who was IT savvy and could oversee much of the web development work as this was not part of my skill set. I was lucky enough to meet Colin Wee when our children attended school together a few years ago and I knew his IT business management experience really complemented my sales and marketing background. Initially he consulted to Bubbler but is was not long before he saw the Bubbler vision and came on board as an active shareholder.
One of the advantages in operating in the online space is that we can work anywhere. Over Easter I travelled up to Coral Bay as we do every year with my husband and three kids with my laptop and dongle and I worked in the evenings from the campsite doing deals. None of my clients would have known where I was. I was able to enjoy the day’s snorkelling with the kids and in the evenings after they went to bed I was able to run the business with my laptop and a camp light.
The digital space is a really interesting place to be operating in these days and I’m really enjoying it. Customer attitudes and behaviour has changed and there is a higher degree of trust in purchasing online. Coupled with this we are seeing how a small business like ours can grow through the use of social media at low cost.
Did you consider any other businesses before Bubbler Deals?
I did consider being an agent for a child related product soon after my first child but I do not believe the timing was right. More recently I had also made some enquiries about running a franchise but I always came away thinking that the start-up costs where too great and in many cases unjustified.
What makes you think you can successfully launch a national business from Perth with much bigger competitors in the market, particularly with the launch of Mumgo?
Bubbler Deals will be successful despite the presence of larger players as we fill a niche in the market catering for family deals provided by new and emerging businesses. Additionally we provide great community benefit. Our 5% donation program makes people feel good about their purchase or running a campaign with us. We are committed to feeding back a portion of monies from each sale to support kids throughout Australia get the resources they require.
From a customer perspective: Our customers want variety. They want to see new and fun offers which they have not yet come across. As a mum myself my customers know that I vet all the offers and that they trust what we present to them. Deals offered are things which I would consider purchasing myself. Bubbler’s success will lie in showcasing new and emerging businesses and connecting them with an audience of mums actively seeking new products and activities for their family.
People often tell me how much they look forward to opening a Bubbler Deals email because they love to see what we will offer next. They also love the high level of customer service they receive. If there is an issue with a voucher they know that they will promptly hear from either myself or my business partner Colin. This has been recognised and we won the 2012 AusMumpreneur Awards for Best Customer Service.
From a merchant perspective: It was really evident to me that there was a real gap in the online discount shopping market with no one adequately catering for small businesses wishing to expand their market. Bubbler seeks to fill this position by offering lower commissions and not demanding the high voucher numbers of the larger shopping/deal sites enabling many stay at home mum businesses the opportunity to run a Bubbler Deals campaign.
We give them great support by featuring their business for up to seven days where they are not competing with a series of other offers on the page. Our national launch aims to showcase some of the great talent coming out of the home offices across the country such as Claire Eaton from Creative Parenting who provides wonderful online parenting programs allowing parents to avoid the babysitting costs and view at their leisure from the comfort of their couch. Then there is Rebecca Hurst, a mum from Queensland who runs 4 My Earth and designs and sells eco-friendly lunch and snack wraps.
We were recently the launching pad for Leaf Bean Machine’s move into the domestic market with an amazing offer on a coffee machine and capsules. The offer went viral and brand awareness for Leaf Bean Machine increased significantly. They backed it up with prompt delivery and the feedback received online on our pages was extremely positive and complimentary. A real success story! These businesses would be overlooked by many of our competitors.