I started a business when expecting: Stefanie Shedd of Itsy Bitsy Bargains

Tell us a little about your business

Itsy Bitsy Bargains (www.itsybitsybargains.com) is a ‘deal of the day’ website that offers fabulous baby and children products at discounts of between 40-70% off their retail price. I was surprised at how expensive things were when I was pregnant and I struggled to find things I thought were fun and unusual in my price range.   So our goal is to make shopping for children fun again, even in this difficult economic environment. Its not all doom and gloom!

What was your job before starting your business?

I was (and still am a bit) a consultant and work with museums and charities with their business and strategy issues.   Before that I worked in finance and consulting in the corporate environment.

I love the variety of consulting but its very feast or famine and I did two all nighters on urgent deadlines while pregnant.  Then I had a client take almost 5 months to pay me as they were having cash flow problems.  I don’t necessarily want to give consulting up, but I would rather it be something fun on the side.

How did you go from your old career to your new business?

This all transpired when I was about three months pregnant and was on an especially stressful project and it made me worry about how I would juggle such work when my son arrived.  While I will still do some consulting, hopefully I can pick manageable and positive projects vs. be compelled to say ‘yes’ to everything.

What were your reasons for starting a business?

I am single mother and its a real struggle to make enough money to live on and be the kind of mother I want to be.  How does anyone get the balance right?  The business really is about trying to build a viable future for us.

Did you use any childcare? Or do you work mainly in the evenings and nap times?

I have a lovely childminder three days a week who I found while still pregnant through mumsnet.  Then I have the evenings once my son goes to sleep.  Naps?  I wish he did napped, but they are so rare that when they do occur, I hardly know what to do with myself. So I tend to run around the house trying to spot clean.

How did you get your business idea?

This is kind of a chicken and egg question.  For the past couple of years I have been searching for a fun business idea, and have actually carried around a little red notebook to document random thoughts and ideas.  Then one day I was looking for a gift for my US-based niece and found a site called mamabargains.com.  I realised that not all good ideas have to be entirely unique and I did not have to recreate the wheel.  Doing some research I realised there was a gap in the market and then set out on the journey of putting it together.

What were your challenges and how did you overcome them?

Financing, time and a crazy Indian programmer who took my money and ran.  It all worked out in the end as I then found an American designer (Cleverbirds) and another Indian programmer (Adolmedia) who both really did their best to deliver a great site. I can’t thank them enough.

What training, information or advice did you need to get started? Did you get this, if so where from?

Luckily my business background gave me a lot of the skills I needed, but I still have some pretty significant knowledge gaps – such as how to import stock; how best to price retail items; the logistics of distribution.  Its all learning by doing, which can be a bit messy.  I wish I had a mentor with a great retail background but that hasn’t transpired yet.

If you could give one  piece of advice to a mum of a baby or toddler starting a business, what would it be?

I am by nature a real planner, but at the end of the day I had my concept and business plan, but quickly things did not evolve as I anticipated.  I have had to learn quickly to be flexible and find some innovative solutions that I would have never expected. A key element of this though has been having great friends as a sounding board and being really open to their feedback.  I can’t do everything myself and no one can.

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