Name of Business: Loubilou.com
Your Name and Age: Heath Kane (40)
Tell us about your family
I’m married and have 2 gorgeous kids. We are living in north London. I was born in Australia. My wife, Trine, grew up on a little island in Denmark. Luck seemed to have brought us together. We’ve been married now for almost 20 years. My son is 7 years old and my daughter is 5 years. We’re a happy little family.
What did you do before coming up with your business idea and how was it making the transition?
I spent the past two decades working for many of the world’s leading agencies within advertising, branding and online. I’ve had the great fortune to have worked on some big exciting projects, got paid well and was placed in a senior positions. The transition however came when I began to realise that I was going down the same path my Dad did when I was growing up. The only problem with this was I hardly got to see my Dad growing up as he was either working late or onboard on business trips. I vowed when I had kids I wouldn’t do the same, so I made a conscience decision to spend a lot of time with them. As a result I work quite a lot from home.
When did you launch?
The site went live February 1st 2013. The first two months we spent just contacting independent brands to join Loubilou – which we have now successfully done. Last week we launched to the public! So we’re very excited.
How did you get started?
Our idea didn’t start with Loubilou. Two years ago we launched Odelay.co.uk – a free online marketplace to buy, sell and share used goods. The site was positioned as an alternative to eBay. We had hoped the allure of a free marketplace would drive users to the site. Sadly it didn’t. It has been a big learning curve for us – lots of lessons learnt. The site is still running. We now have begun promoting it to schools, charities and other non-profit organisations as an alternative way to fundraise. The idea however for Loubilou was born out of the desire to do something more with the (marketplace) platform that we created for Odelay.
I think it started one day when I was buying a t-shirt for my daughter from one of the big High Street childrenswear chains. The very next day, we spotted three other kids wearing the exact same t-shirt. It made me realise how big and influential some of these High Street retailers have gotten over the past decade. Not only have I become frustrated by the limited choice available on the High Street – because I believe independence is important to children – but my big worry is what the retail space will look like in another 10 years. Will it be possible for small companies to even compete?
What’s your favourite thing about running your own business
There’s lots of great things about my job. Perhaps the thing I enjoy the most at the moment is interacting with all our sellers. What you quickly find is behind every business there is a story and a person who cares passionately about what they make. This is what we hope we can introduce through Loubilou. We want to provide an authentic shopping experience. When someone buys on Loubilou (9 times out of 10) they’re buying direct from the designer makers (the other 1 out of 10 are small businesses who spend a lot of time and energy sourcing from other small businesses). I find it easier to sleep at night too knowing that we don’t have to support offshore sweatshop operations in the pursuit to make things cheaper.
What’s the thing you least enjoy about running your own business
There’s not much I don’t enjoy doing. The biggest down side to running your own business is knowing when to switch off. Once the kids are in bed I often power on through the night working. I’m also reminded by my family often that I’m terrible at taking holidays and time off. My biggest fear is failing – and letting down everyone who’s gotten involved and supported us.
What has worked well about your business?
It’s still early days for us. But what I think is working well for us, is we are building a thriving community and getting people engaged and involved. It’s exciting to be part of. It’s certainly something we hope to be known for moving forward.
What’s been your biggest business mistake? How did you deal with it?
There’s been no big mistakes so far (touch wood) – yet we’ve made plenty of mistakes from previous work experiences to steer us away from making similar mistakes – at least for now. We are reminded too that we’re a new site and there’s still lots of thing we are cutting our teeth on. Good news is we are dealing with any hiccups fast and effectively. We have our CTO, Jordan Hammond, to thank. We are positive about the future – even though we will have a lot more obstacles to face.
How do you fit in work with the family?Is your partner supportive of your business?
My family is very supportive. My wife works 3 days a week – on the days where she is home, she has been roped in helping me. My kids also love getting involved. My son has lots of ideas that he likes to share with me how everyone in the world could find out about Loubilou – and make it a big success. It’s very sweet. The current agreement I have with him is he will take over the business for me (“when you’re dead” so he tells me)
Are you working towards a financial goal for your business?
We’d love to see revenue being generated (what business doesn’t?), however for the next 6-12 months our primary focus is to establish a strong foothold for the brand. We hope to expand into Europe next, although we already have set up a test site in Australia, which is doing well so far. Later this year we hope to open our door globally. It’s a big ambition, but we are taking things one step at a time.
Would you ever give up your business to do something else?
If something came along that was more interesting, less stressful and paid better – yes! However I was brought up to believe that to be successful in anything, means having to work hard. I’m grateful that I have a business that I genuinely love doing – and that I believe in. So I don’t think I’ll be giving it up any time soon.
Do you have an exit strategy?
Right now I’m just enjoying the journey that we set off on. At some stage I’m sure our (future) investors will want to have some input on this.
According to my son however, ‘exit strategy’ is when I die, he takes over.
Have you had your ‘I’ve made it’ moment? Tell us about it. If not when do you think it will come
Not there yet, but I had a good feeling that we were heading in the right direction shortly after we launched in February, when we began to realise that we had already attracted over 50 leading UK independent children’s brands to the site. Since then we have growing even faster. What’s more interesting is we receive emails from people all around the world asking to join too. Now that we are ‘officially’ live and open to the public, our main focus now is to generate awareness with UK parents. I urge people to join the site, share your thoughts and feedback and become part of our growing community.
Where do you hope to be in five years time?
The true success of Loubilou I hope will be measured on how much market share it regains from the big multi-national retailers – including supermarkets and other conglomerates who dominate the market. Our goal is to level the retail playing field by providing small businesses with a platform that allows them to compete with multi-nationals as well as giving the consumer much greater choice.
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