This week, the team at Shape Your World sat down with another budding entrepreneur in the massively profitable baby/ toddler goods sphere to find out what it takes to make it in the baby industry. Katherine kindly took some time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions about her business Milk Tooth which stocks some of the most stylish baby goods from brands like Le Toy Van, OB Designs, Weegoamigo, Noe and Zoe, and Colette Bream to name but a few.
What was the inspiration for opening Milk Tooth?
My inspiration came from a few different places. Firstly, I want to be able to stay at home with my daughter, Sylvia, who’s currently 16-months-old. Secondly, I have a bit of an entrepreneurial streak, and having helped to create and support other small businesses when I was a banker, I’ve always wanted to own and run my own business. Finally, I love shopping for beautiful things and I really enjoyed creating a nursery for Sylvia while I was pregnant and nesting. Milk Tooth lets me satisfy that interest as I get to hunt down amazing baby and kids’ products from all around the world. I’m always finding cute doll houses, baby blankets, and felt ball rugs that other mums are envious of!
Has running your own website for children products helped you develop your relationship with your own child?
I probably wouldn’t put it in those terms, but as I mentioned above, one of the reasons I’ve created Milk Tooth is to allow me to stay home with Sylvia. I’m probably getting an additional three days a week with her that I otherwise wouldn’t have if I were working part-time, so in that way my business is supporting my relationship with her. That, and she’s often a “product tester” for some of my baby and toddler toys and bits of gorgeous nursery décor! I still remember the first weegoamigo blanket i gave her, it was so cute.
How has your life changed since starting Milk Tooth and what opportunities do you envision for yourself as a business owner?
The first part of this is a particularly interesting question. It’s changed a lot, actually. Not only am I not working a standard office job, but the people I’m socialising with have shifted a bit too, as not all of my friends seem to understand what’s involved in running a business and I’ve created some new and fantastic friends through the business, including some other work-at-home-mums. I’m also living much more frugally than before, because small businesses take a while to turnover a real profit! We’re doing fine, but my family is definitely being more careful with money until Milk Tooth becomes a real success. Of course how I spend my days and nights is completely different now, too, because I spend my days running around after a toddler and then I really get stuck into work from about 8:30pm onwards (I’m a night owl so this suits me perfectly).
Have you had any challenges or difficulties running the business and how did you overcome them?
Time is my biggest challenge! I honestly can’t get any work done (aside from the odd social media post or comment and regular trips to the post office) while I’m looking after Sylvie. There is SO much more to do to create and build an online business than I ever realised before. I had no idea before I started. I love all of the challenges though, particularly learning about the different facets of website design, marketing and advertising.
How do you maintain a healthy work/life balance?
My business provides me with the healthy work/life balance! I get to spend all day every day with my child which, while exhausting and oftentimes difficult, is a privilege that many mums don’t get to experience. I will never regret that. The tricky part is making sure I give myself some downtime in which I’m neither mothering or working. A coffee with a friend, sans child, a couple of hours relaxing with a glass of wine in front of the tv in the evening, that sort of thing, is important. It is a bit tricky though, because I love working on Milk Tooth (if I didn’t I should just stop!) so I need to remind myself not to spend every spare hour on it.
Where do you see your business going in the next few years?
I hope to be able to continually build the business over the next few years, to get it to a place where it’s making a decent income for me. That’s a reasonable three-year goal, I believe. I’ve read in a few places that it generally takes three years to really get a business going and profitable. I’d really like a part of that to come from returning customers, as I try to provide the very best shopping experience and customer service possible, and I want people to feel at home on my website and feel like they’ve gotten to know me a little bit. Beyond that, I’d love to see Milk Tooth grow to a point where perhaps I’m utilising warehouse space and I have a couple of staff helping me out. If I could create a couple of jobs out of the business for other people, that would be very rewarding in and of itself.