Tell us a little about your business
Lafeenoire Maternity is an online boutique featuring a unique range of funky and functional maternity clothes which tend to be my own taste. The collection includes dresses, tops, lingerie , jeans and swimwear etc but my unique selling point is Hug-a-Bump SPD Maternity Support Band. Created to address a desperate need in the market for a wearable and effective pain relief for pregnancy back pain and symptoms of SPD. This condition now effects up to 1 n 3 pregnancies and in fact almost every pregnant woman can benefit from it as backache is so common place during pregnancy. I commissioned my design to be manufactured and after a 6 month wait it was launched following successful trials with SPD volunteer sufferers I found on the mummy forums and was lucky enough to grab some fab PR in the Daily mail in April 2009 and the band flew.
What was your job before starting your business?
Executive Recruitment for the previous 10 years (headhunting) within the luxury goods marketplace. Self employed and working from home already (for the last 3 years of that time) so the transition into something else from home was not difficult. I was completing an assignment two days after my baby arrived and realised then something had to give!
How did you go from your old career to your new business?
I gave myself a short break and began gathering stock for my website when I saw how quick I could sell my own maternity wardrobe online after I had finished with it. A friend suffered SPD and had been given nothing effective to relieve the problem and I myself struggled with back ache due to a particularly large baby bump due to a fibroid. So the seed of Hug-a-Bump began….I found it far less stressful buying and selling ladies maternity clothes than juggling candidates and clients at every turn…so instead of life with a phone strapped to my head , I now had a tiny baby strapped to my chest!( metaphorically speaking !)
What were your reasons for starting a business?
I need to be my own boss and work around my family commitments as they are priority and the cost of childcare outways the income of most new businesses so it made sense. I already worked for myself and knew I wanted a quieter less stressful life now I had a child. My intention was always to be a stay at home mum when it happened and what girl doesn’t love buying clothes! Hug a Bump is a passion for me as practically every customer who buys it gives me fabulous feedback and is really grateful so the stress of having it made and protecting its name and design is worthwhile. My testimonials sometimes make me well up with the thought that I have changed someone’s day to day life during their pregnancy simply by reducing the pain. It is also now sold globally and is endorsed my UK midwives and international maternity reflexologists too.Now my baby is at school I can work more or less full time on my business so should see a growth
What were your challenges and how did you overcome them?
I self-financed the business from my previous income and am slowly recouping this initial investment. I figure you need to speculate to accumulate but have never used a bank loan. Credit cards are useful of course! I started with a pretty poor home made website and tinkered for a long time before investing in a designer and am now on my third (and for sometime final!) design and I am now delighted with the image of the site. In creating a home-made site I did benefit from becoming quite proficient in HTML, links and general SEO so I do all of these mundane tasks myself to save money. I feel I have the time so use it wisely to save myself money
What training, information or advice did you need to get started?
Basic IT, I am self taught and read and read until I understand how to do the things I need to do myself. IT support and SEO services cost a fortune so if you learn you save. Information is out there for all to use and is generally free.
If you could give one piece of advice to a mum of a baby or toddler starting a business, what would it be?
Don’t skimp on a cheap looking website…it will look cheap to everyone and your shop window will let you down. It is false economy. Don’t overload yourself with trivia and be sure to find a niche. There are hundreds of Maternity clothes websites but only one Hug-a-Bump SPD Maternity Support Band. Find your niche and push it. I had recent interest from a well known retailer following my own introduction to the product but given the margins involved to get a product into retail, be sure you keep focussed on the end goal and control before you leap into handing your ‘baby’ over to someone else!:-)
You can visit Rachel’s website at www.lafeenoire.com