Starting The Suite Set would have been radically different a decade ago.
Launching a small business as a parent of two children under two would have been a much greater challenge if I had not been able to do my research and development all online.
I’m not the only person to have discovered this it seems, there seems to be a burgeoning of home-based parent startups.
Sally Branson Dalwood with her sons Magnus, 3 and Fenton, 1. Credit:Eddie Jim
The physical commitment is not as great so therefore the thought of starting a small business seems more accessible and less daunting.
The reality is that there are always going to be challenges to a fledgling small business no matter what mode is used to start up and it just means these pop up at new and different stages in a small business.
When we say The Suite Set has been set up from our kitchen table, this is no word of an exaggeration.
With the exception of attending a plastics trade fair and a face to face meeting each with our accountant and our web designer, all the set up has been done online.
This includes organising samples, manufacturing and purchasing.
Our e-commerce site sells our own product, our 'hero' product The Suite Set packing bags for hospital and then a group of 'Mama Must Haves' which are products that are helpful and beautiful for new mothers.
I've used social media to find stockists for my 'Mama Must Haves'. Two of our products I saw on websites I follow.
I tracked down the women who make them via the web, and started conversations about stocking their products. One is made by a new mum in New York and the other is made by a pregnant woman in London.
I bought the products sight unseen because I felt so strongly about the ingredients of the products, the story of the products and the story behind why they were made. I felt they were a perfect fit for our own brand.
It was a significant risk, but one that I felt ok about taking because of the online research I had done.
Both products have exclusive stockists and I was nervous about approaching them. My conversation with the American product was 4am. I sat at the kitchen table in my pyjamas and prayed a baby wouldn’t wake as I tried to pitch our business as an exclusive stockist.
I’ve long been a member of 'Like Minded Bitches Drinking Wine', 'The Women’s Business Tribe' and 'The LadyStartUp Lounge' Facebook groups. I’ve used these pages as informal advice spots the whole way through the process.
In each of these groups, business owners post questions which are then answered by group members, so is a source of experiential advice. I specifically used LMBDW to ask detailed questions about trademarking, how best to communicate with manufacturers, and finding information on setting up an e-commerce site.
From these sites, I found my web designer and my trademark lawyer. I didn’t just pick one in a random selection from a Facebook page, I found them and then researched further.
Then all of my meetings have been done via email or video call from home.
I’m sure there is an interesting discussion to be had around the volume of startups all created online, consequential market share and then how many new businesses that fail because of the volume.
The ability to be able to source everything online also creates a false sense of ease, especially working from home with small babies.
I think "I’ll just jump online when they’re in bed" and by the time the end of the day comes, the to-do list is even longer and my capacity to work is shorter.
Sally Branson Dalwood is the founder of The Suite Set. Next week: Patience v Hustle
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