I Started a Business With a Baby: Julia Odgers of KidsTravel2 (Part 1)

Julia Odgers was a marketing communications manager then became a freelance marketing consultant after her baby arrived. Last year she became the owner of online business KidsTravel2. Here’s how she did it…

KidsTravel2 is an independent online specialist in children’s luggage, travel games for kids & other family travel accessories.  We also share travel tips, experiences and offer free children’s car activities via our blog.  Our unique selling point is in bringing together a niche selection of high quality product for children that cannot be found in one place elsewhere.  We back this with a personal service, guaranteed next day delivery free for orders over £50 and pride ourselves on following up with all our customers.

Before KidsTravel2 and before having children I had a senior role as a Marketing Communications Manager reporting into the board of directors & worked long hours.  A stimulating career was always important to me but I knew when I had children I didn’t want my working life to carry on like this or I would miss their childhoods!

…when I had children I didn’t want my working life to carry on like this or I would miss their childhoods!

We relocated to Dorset when I was on maternity leave with my son and I knew that when I went back to work I wanted to do something different but which built on my previous skills acquired in publishing, online marketing and which critically enabled me to achieve that ever elusive work life balance.  I set up as a freelance web design and marketing consultant, taking on small projects that enabled me to work in the evening and around my son’s sleep times.   I would help business startups or small businesses set up online and develop a marketing strategy for them, KidsTravel2 being one of them.

KidsTravel2 was originally established in 2006 by a lady called Gervase Walton but I was heavily involved in the development of the business from the early days.  In the summer of 2007 she contacted me for help to give her start up a much needed boost.  She wanted to improve her rankings in the search engines, get more traffic to the website and ultimately increase sales.  I helped Gervase over the next 6 months or so with improving the usability of the website and recommended a complete marketing strategy to her.  Much of this I followed through to implementation including setting up a mailing list and running several promotions.  We achieved (and still hold) page 1 positions on Google for important keywords like childrens luggage and kids luggage.

I returned to my freelancing but found myself increasingly wanting to get more involved with the businesses

After the birth of my daughter I returned to my freelancing but found myself increasingly wanting to get more involved with the businesses and take things further – something you can’t always do as a consultant! I had started to mull over the idea of setting up my own online business to enable me to do this. It had to be something that I was passionate about and that could fit around my family life.  Then, it was while doing some last minute Christmas shopping for my son that my path crossed with KidsTravel2 again.  I dropped them a friendly hello while ordering something from the website. Gervase got back to me and told me she was hanging up her travelling boots and moving onto pastures new, having decided that online retail wasn’t for her. ‘Oh no, what a shame!’, I said, ‘ and what will happen to KidsTravel2?’.  A few conversations later and I became the owner of a fun monkey travel neck pillow and KidsTravel2!

The investment was buying the limited amount of stock remaining, which I did with the earnings from my freelance work.  Since then I have grown the business organically using my gut instinct, talking to customers and by analysing sales figures / website traffic to invest in new stock and build up trading partnerships with key suppliers.

2009 was a steep learning curve.  Our office/working conditions were storage in the loft, and my husband and I wrapping/packing on the lounge floor after the kids had gone to bed!  I would run the orders to the post office at some point during the day to fit around the children’s timetables of pre-school, sleep and school.  As the business grew this became untenable.  I look back and don’t know how we made it through Christmas last year we were so busy.  We had trebled turnover on the previous year.  By New Year 2010 the business was literally taking over our house – something had to give.  I bit the bullet and we outsourced all warehousing and fulfilment leaving me free to concentrate on developing and marketing the business.  So far this year we have exceeded all targets again and turnover is 50% up again on last year.

In Part 2, Julia tells us how she balances growing her business with her family life, plus she gives us her advice for mums starting out in business. Part 2 will be published here at Business Plus Baby this Friday 13th August.

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