- Tell us about yourself, a bit of background.
Hi I’m Brigitte, 42 year old single mommy to 2 year old Zack (who has to be the busiest 2 year old in the world! Surely?)
I worked in the corporate work for 20 years in Customer Service, starting as an agent in a Call Centre and working my way up the ladder to Customer Service manager. About 5 years ago I decided to take my side-line business and make it a full time business. I was importing high fashion ladies shoes under my label MissB Fabulous. Unfortunately due to the steady rise in the exchange rate it became too expensive to import as a small business and I had to close down my business. This all coincided with me having a baby and moving back to my home town Durban (from 20 years of living in Cape Town). With my extensive work experience I thought I would be able to find a great job and live happily ever after raising my son, but this was not the case. After 6 months of looking and hardly any money left in my bank account, I realised I needed to do something soon before we were broke. Babe Bee had been in the back of my mind for a while (since Zac was born) so I decided to take it and make it real.
- What were you doing before you started this business?
20 years in corporate South Africa in Customer Service
5 years as a small business importer of ladies fashion
- Is your business full time or part time and why?
Babe Bee is my full time business. I am a self-supporting single mom so I also work 3 part time jobs (data capturer, kiddies lift club & mystery shopper) This allows me to pay my rent and other necessities so that my business money can be kept in the business so that Babe Bee can grow and sustain itself.
- How do you juggle the responsibilities of being a mom with your work?
I was very lucky when Zack was little as he could spend hours entertaining himself. I created play spaces for him all over the house and garden and then off he would go, with me moving my lap top to ensure I could see him. As he grew he became bored with being at home and work came to a standstill. So he went off to school. I now do all my business either when he is at school or sleeping. When he is with me I try to limit doing work because he really does need my attention and I love giving it to him. During the weekends he naps for 2 hours and I work. He goes to bed at 8pm nightly and then I work till midnight then put myself to bed. I’m not sure if that’s juggling, seems more like a nice balance of work time and Zack time. When he is sick and needs me then work can come to a standstill. Luckily I sell baby goods so if I send out a note saying “baby is sick and needs me”, then most of my clients understand.
- Do you have a business plan? If so, can you share a bit about your
strategy to make it successful?
I have a business idea and vision which I document. This I update as goals are met and new goals are set. I plan what i need to do to achieve these goals. Although I have never sat down I done a formal business plan.
- How do you get clients/ market yourself?
Facebook is my main tool for marketing myself.
Last year I tried markets but I was losing money as sales were non-existent.
I send out monthly emails to my mailing list of almost 2000 clients which also generates sales.
I am currently working on introducing my business to big and small retailers in the hope that we can partner up and they will stock my products.
- What’s your biggest challenge right now?
My biggest challenge is that my business needs to support my son and so money that should be staying in the business isn’t. This means it’s hard to save and thus partake in Baby Expos which is definitely where I feel my business should be heading to increase my brand exposure. I would also love professionally done product labels and an e-commerce website. I have to have savings plans for this.
Overall it’s a long hard process but I keep at it.
- Did you need a lot of money to start off? And how long was it before you made a profit?
I started my business with R100. I went and bought fabric and wool for the first two products I had in my mind – Baby Barefoot Sandals and Muslin Blankets. I had these made up and paid the ladies. I then put them on Facebook and shared my page like crazy. My first sale was a month later and I used this money to make my next product. And that’s how Babe Bee was born.
Other than that first R100 (which was saved over 2 months – times where very tough and I had a baby on formula and nappies), every other cent that has gone into the business has been generated from the business.
I have made a profit every month of being in business, although some months have been smaller than others.
- What makes your business unique from other brands?
I set out with a few specific business guidelines which I believe I have stuck to with 99% of my products.
- All products must be practical and assist mom’s
- Products I do have generally come from needs that I myself have had or my mommy friends have told me I need to solve. For example the No Escape Belt was developed for my boy when he started escaping from his car seat, and the No Drop Straps when he started throwing his bottle around the back of the car then crying because he couldn’t get it back.
- I have also taken some well know existing items and tweeked them to improve them. For example there are many car seat covers out there but we have added in a clip that goes underneath the car seat so that you can clip the cover together to stop it flapping in the wind. Small tweeks like this set us apart from all the mom’s doing car seat covers 🙂
- Products must be affordable to mom’s from all walks of life
- When I use to look for products I was always shocked at the prices and frustrated that I couldn’t afford them. As a mom you want everything for your child so I set out to afford mom’s this opportunity.
It’s these 2 things that I believe set my apart from the other baby and kids product businesses out there.
What I love about where my business is at the moment is that mom’s are starting to put requests in for products or idea to solve real problems they have. So now I’m also creating around all mom’s needs and not just my own experience.