Your Name and Age: Maebh Collins, 38
Tell us about your family (partner, children, ages, where you live etc: whatever you feel happy sharing)
I am happily married to my husband Pete who is also a director of our Company Baba Me. We have four Children, Seamus 18, Aine 14, Tiarnan 6 and Feidhlem 4. We live in a beautiful spot called Omeath which is right on the coastal peninsula between Dundalk and Newry, in Ireland. It is the sort of village where everyone knows each other.
Six years ago I was a tax accountant with KPMG, working 12 hour days, with a very professional career behind me and a great amount of potential ahead. However, whilst I loved the challenges of business life, I hated the long hours, the 3 hour commute and not seeing enough of my three gorgeous children (then 12, 7 and a few months old).
When I discovered I was pregnant with my fourth child in Autumn 2005, I decided enough was enough and wanted to trade in the exhausting work schedule to achieve a more fruitful balance in life. It was really difficult wondering what I was going to do financially but I realised that I couldn’t go on with such a demanding work schedule for my family’s sake.
When did you launch?
How did you get started?
We started with £100 of stock!
I handed in my notice with the company I had been working for, at the time I was three months pregnant with my last child. I then set up The Natural Baby Resource Company. My mission: to bring to Northern Ireland all the natural, chemical free, environmentally friendly baby products I longed to use with my own family but found so desperately hard to source locally.
Within two months my husband Pete had to give up his job and within five months (with me about to pop at any minute!) we had to invest in a shop and warehouse as I could no longer cope with the huge demand on my own and from the kitchen table!
But the real turning point came when my final baby, Feidhelm, was just three days old. Passionate about reusable nappies I’d been previously in touch with the US inventor of a new brand of reusable nappies called intriguingly, bumGenius! I tried them with my 3 day old son and my then nearly 2 year old to see what I thought. And the rest is history.
The Bumgenius V1 nappy was adjustable to different sizes so the nappy fitted both of my children of different ages. I knew instantly they were going to cause a revolution in the cloth nappy market to which they did! They were so completely different and so so so much better than everything else in the market.
How have you funded the business?
We started with £100 and have just grown organically with no debt or loans. Each month we reinvested the profits and sales into more and more stock for the first few years we lived very much hand to mouth. However these early years have really taught me about cost control and served very well in the recession. Looking back we could have probably bigger a bit quicker with funding but for the first 5 years our turnover has doubled year on year, so higher growth may have crippled us in other ways.
How do you promote your business? What has worked best?
Baba Me finds that several different types of marketing work best for us, particularly a combination of press and social media but word of mouth has worked the best so far. To be honest we find that the mum’s experience of both our customer service and the quality of our products allows them to make up their own mind. As we have progressed the online mums forums and our facebook competitions that we have run in the past have been hugely successful.
What has worked well about your business?
Excellent customer service has stood us in really good stead. We were a complete niche market and recognised way before others the cloth nappy revolution. This allowed us to have the first market advantage and then we grew as a market leader. We also made sure that we had a listening ear and asked parents what they wanted. Initially we were one of the first suppliers of breastfeeding products in Ireland which saw lots of mums coming to us for advice and information.
Also we have been lucky and we have been industry recommended as a supplier of great products, now we are the Irish supplier of the innovative childrens brand Trunki
What has been your biggest challenge so far? How have you dealt with it?
I think there have been many challenges along the way but probably the tremendous growth that we have had makes it especially challenging to keep on top of all the aspects that a business needs to survive successfully.
Raising four children has been a running a business at the same time!
How do you fit in work with the family?
It has been very difficult at times, I make sure that I try and be as flexibIe as I can at all times I always I make sure I drop my kids to school and then go into the office. My husband Pete also works flexibly and ensures he is there for the pick up after school has finished.
I work the ghost shift at night time when the kids are in bed. This means I can work on U.S.A time and complete as much work as I can in the evening in order to be more organised during the day.
What advice would you give to someone else wanting to work in this area?
Only sell something that you have a passion for. If you have a family you have to be dedicated and passionate about your products in order to be able to sacrifice those long hours.
Even when you are losing money, make sure your customers are happy.
Be wary of taking on lots of debts, try and grow organically in order to keep your business right!
Your website link: www.babame.com
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