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Two mums launch baby clothes business during covid-19 and it's made Sh2.6m

ENTERPRISE
By Mirror | May 2nd 2020
By Mirror | May 2nd 2020
ENTERPRISE

Two mums who took the gamble to launch an online business half way through the coronavirus pandemic have already made Sh2.6 million - and now they are looking to take their idea abroad.

Laura Boswell and Laura McBride, who have named their store BabyChum, sell everything from baby blankets to handmade toys - and they say they have made Sh2.6 million in the past two weeks.

The duo, who came up with the idea to sell baby essentials last year, spent months planning their business, before setting it live in early April - mid-way through the coronavirus pandemic.

It was a make or break move- with so many firms fearing the worst amid growing uncertainty in the economy.

The idea was founded by Laura McBride after an afternoon of shopping online for baby gifts.

After searching popular marketplaces like Etsy and Notonthehighstreet, Laura noticed how difficult it was to find the perfect item without having to sieve through hundreds of other products, like wedding stationery or home decor.

"A couple of my friends had children around the same time so I was looking for some special gifts online," she said.

"I usually shop on marketplaces because I like how you can always find something unique or handmade, which always feels more special," the 29-year-old said.

"After hours of browsing on other marketplaces to finally find what I was looking for, I thought there has to be any easier way to find baby and family related gifts online, without having to filter through lots of other products.

"Then it came to me, there is a gap in the market for something like this - I'm going to create it!"

With the help of her friend and business partner Laura Boswell, Laura started talking to friends to see if other people felt the same way.

They used social media to create polls and surveys wondering if others stumbled across the same issue whilst searching for unique baby gifts online.

With hundreds of other people saying they could relate, the duo moved forward with their new business idea and started approaching independent sellers and crafters to see if they'd like to sell their products online.

"We knew there would be a lot of work involved creating a marketplace, having individual vendors selling under one roof means there is a whole different level of functionality involved, much more than just a normal website," Boswell explained.

"We had to think about individual shipping options for each seller, and had to code that into the site to make it an option.

"There was also the need to make the marketplace as seamless as possible in terms of personalisation and customisation, which meant coding product pages to allow people to add a name or date of birth of their choice to their purchase as easily as possible," she added.

The two women borrowed money from family members - which covered work on website development and branding - and started testing their new marketplace out through friends.

"Our friends had upcoming gifts to buy so we asked them to spend on our marketplace, that way we could ensure the site was performing at an optimum level before we took it live.

"They were pleased with the whole experience, with most of them saying how easy it was to use. After that we kind of had the validation we needed to launch," McBride said.

BabyChum hit the web on the second week in April.

"We were a bit wary about launching during the pandemic, wondering if people were going to be trying to look after their pennies during this really uncertain time.

"But then we'd heard that Shopify were seeing the same amount of website traffic daily as their Black Friday traffic, and thought, okay now is the time.

"We also felt a bit of a duty to help support the small businesses, crafters and sole traders on our site, we couldn't let them down, so we took the plunge."

As well as celebrity promotion and digital advertising, the two Lauras began to promote through social media, and with a following of over 29,000 they managed to pick up momentum quite quickly.

By the first week, they'd sold hundreds of products and realised that they were onto something.

"We were quite lucky, our friend Tor Sandford and then Chloe Lewis promoted the brand for us which built some traction, that combined with digital advertising and social media, meant we started making sales pretty much straight away," Boswell said.

"We're up to our eyeballs now with admin and following up on orders."

And things are only going to get bigger from here.

"With the closure of physical stores, people are relying more and more on online shopping - even just to buy things like greeting cards!

"So now our focus is to find more sellers for our marketplace and to supply a bigger product line. The aim is to get another 50 sellers on the store within the next week, and we will continue on from there," McBride explained.

"If we carry on the path we have been on, we could be looking at a £300,000 turnover in our first year of business, and with that we'd also be supporting hundreds, potentially thousands of other small business owners. We'd be pretty happy and proud if that was the case," she added.

According to figures by Starling Bank, online shopping jumped 51.5 per cent on 24 March, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the lockdown of the country.

By 29 March, more than three-fifths of the bank's transactions were made up of online purchases.

"The current situation means sales are up, so we've really got to strike whilst the iron's hot. We've already achieved overseas sales, so that will be another big focus for us later on in the year," she concluded.

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