Mumpreneur Profile: Mindy of Mera Baby

MeraBaby-Sq-Logo150pxName of Business:

Mera Baby  – Indian-inspired baby, children’s and maternity wear. Specialising in personalised clothing, jigsaws, clocks and gifts.

Your Name and Age: Mindy Emsley, Age 32 

Tell us about your family

I have lived in Brighton since I moved here for university in 1995.  I met Billy in 1998 and married in 2005.  I am mother to 3 year old son Jayen and second child expected February.

M&JforaboutusWhat did you do before coming up with your business idea

I was a conference producer; a role I essentially fell into after completing my Masters in 2000.  Although it was a huge leap from researching and writing telecoms conference programmes to creating a brand and setting up an online retail store, I think a lot of the skills I developed through both my university education and professional life have served me well in my new venture.

When did you launch?

I began selling to friends and family during the early summer and my main site went live in November 2009.

How did you get started?

Although I had the idea for Mera Baby back in January 2008, I had to stick with my conference work as I really needed to bring money into the household. Consequently I only took pigeon steps towards launching the business throughout 2008.  The conference industry was badly hit by the recession and it wasn’t until losing all my work in April that I finally got the push I needed to pursue the business.

What research did you do before launching?

I did lots of web research, visited trade shows around the UK to meet similar businesses and made 2 supplier sourcing trips to India.

How have you funded the business?

With the kind and generous support of my parents, from what I was earning from my conference job and rather embarrassingly, through use of 0% credit cards etc.  I had a plan that I’d save every penny up before I launched, but in reality, sometimes you just have to take the plunge and go for it; or risk losing out and someone else doing it before you.

How do you promote your business? What has worked best?

We’re still in the early stages, so we’ve not yet pushed the business quite as hard we plan to next year.  To date most of our efforts have been focused on the internet; social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter etc.  We’re also featuring in some printed publications early next year.  Additionally and perhaps one of our more labour-intensive initiatives at the moment, is to target local schools and nurseries with discounts for parents, prizes for school raffles etc. It’s labour intensive, but does help raise your profile within the local community at the very least.  

 What has worked well about your business?

The customer experience we deliver -in terms of speed of service and attention detail. The feedback we’ve had has been fantastic ; so despite being extremely labour intensive and very demanding because we’re a very small team right now, getting great feedback makes it all worthwhile and helps keep you going!  It’s nice to know that people like our products and appreciate the extra little touches we offer.

What has been your biggest challenge so far? How have you dealt with it?

Time management and lack of human resources to share the workload.  As I mentioned previously, being such a small team right now means that there’s a lot of work to be done. Also, as many of our products are handcrafted and personalised (two of our key USPs), it’s very time consuming to get just one order completed and ready for dispatch.  I’m not sure we’ve found the solution for this yet other than getting faster at it and generally being prepared to work late every night!  

How do you fit in work with the family?

With great difficulty at times!  People have this notion that once you run your own business, you immediately gain perfect work-life balance. In reality I’m working longer hours now than I did when I was a conference producer.   I think having a flexible approach works well. For example my son was off from nursery recently with a sickness bug. It meant I spent several days looking after him during the day and cramming my work in to the periods during which he slept.  However I know that as the business grows and scales up, we’ll eventually be able to hire more help, leaving me to hand over certain roles to other people and thereby devoting more time to family life again.  I think you have to make certain sacrifices during certain periods of the lifecycle of your business (particularly during the start up stage), but keep your eyes on the end goal.

What advice would you give to someone else wanting to work in this area?

  • Research the market you wish to enter.  Make sure there is a genuine demand for what you plan to offer.
  • What’s your USP? (Unique Selling Point). Ensure your product or service is different or better than your competitors. 
  • Manage your risks carefully; particularly in terms of financial outlay on stock and equipment in the early stages of your business.
  • Write a business plan.  It doesn’t have to be the size of an epic novel, just something that you can refer back to as a sanity check. It will also be a requirement if you apply for a business loan or if you need internet merchant status for your website. 
  • Shop around for quotations on everything you may need to run your business (website development, professional fees, equipment, premises etc).   You’d be surprised quite how much costs can vary and how much you can save by doing your homework!
  • Ensure you have a credible and professional online presence.  Even if you plan to open a bricks and mortar business, the internet is the first port of call for many consumers, so some sort of web exposure is vital. If you can’t afford your own website, leverage social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook. There are also lots of free listing sites, directories and web guides.  Blogging is also a great way to gain exposure for your business.
  • Work-life balance is not immediate!  Don’t underestimate the amount of hours you will need to put in; it’s hard work. This is especially true in the early stages of your business when are you’re unlikely to have the level of resources you require at your disposal.
  • Don’t feel guilty when you can’t spend as much time with your family as you would like to. Remember how much your efforts will eventually benefit them. Your child will probably enjoy an hour of CBeebies if it means Mum can get her emails done and then devote some quality time afterwards.
  • Be realistic about what you can achieve on daily, weekly and monthly basis. Many mumpreneurs work independently or with very few people, so don’t set yourself impossible targets.  Setting realistic goals will keep you focused and above all positive about what you are doing.
  • Rome wasn’t built in a day! Your business will probably never be ‘perfect’; even the Deborah Meaden’s of the world admit they are always improving and learning new things even now.
  • GO FOR IT!  “You’ll always be surrounded by people who will give you every reason under the sun not to pursue your dream. But life is about taking on new challenges and pushing yourself forward.  I launched Mera Baby during one of the worst ever global recessions.  But it’s what I believe in and I’d rather say that I have at least tried, than be a spectator on the sidelines”.

Flexible working business opportunity:

We are able to drop ship many of our products; essentially offering an Affiliate Marketing opportunity. This means people who already own their own companies or are planning to set up a website may ‘stock’ our products at no risk. They simply take an order, which we would then dispatch directly to their customer. They of course get paid a commission for taking the order. This option basically offers companies/individuals the opportunity to significantly expand their range but at no risk as there is no financial outlay or commitment to holding stock. The Affiliate Marketing model is proving particularly popular with mothers in the US, who are able to run businesses based solely on optimising web traffic to their website and not incurring the risks of traditional stock-holding businesses.

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