Be a mumpreneur - tips for starting your business
Do you have a great idea for a business but don't what to do next?
We ask mumpreneur Carolyn Creswell - mum-of-four and the founder of Carman's Fine Foods - the questions you need answered before starting your own home business.
How much money do I need to start a business?
When I started Carman's 18 years ago, I started with $1000 and grew the business organically, reinvesting my cash flow into buying more oats, nuts, seeds and honey – each time I got a cheque it went into more ingredients to make more muesli, and when I could I would take money out for petrol for my car to make deliveries.
There were times when things were tight but I always seemed to make ends meet. I remember once driving along in my little hatchback with a client in the car and the petrol light had been on for a long time, I remember thinking 'please don't run out until I drop them off!'. I used to pull up at the supermarkets in my little car with a single box of muesli beside semi-trailers unloading pallets of cereal. I remember thinking, one day Carman's will arrive in a semi-trailer - and now, it even gets sent overseas in container ships!
Do I need a business plan? What should be in it?
The Huggies MumInspired website has some great resources to help get you started. It's good to plan little goals along the way, such as just finding a couple of ways to sell your product or service, but things change as your business goes along and you may find success in a really surprising market. The most important thing is just to start, take each day as it comes and never give up.
How do I make my business idea stand out?
Think about what makes your business offering different to what's currently on the market and focus on communicating that. For us, we believe that food should come from the kitchen and not the chemist, and that's what makes Carman's unique. I make sure that when you read the ingredients list of our products you understand everything that's in there – oats, nuts, fruit, seeds, not words you don't understand or preservatives with numbers after them, just natural wholesome ingredients that are good for you and taste great.
I'm a stay-at-home mum and sometimes I stay in my pjs all day. How can I present a 'professional' image of my business?
Professionalism is not just about an image but a way of conducting business in an ethical, genuine manner. When we first began exporting, distributors would ask us things like if we wanted our freight sent CIF or DDP, we had no idea what that meant and had to say ‘we haven't' decided yet, let us get back to you' then we'd do our research, make up our mind and come back with an answer. If there was something I didn't know, I'd find out – I'd take courses, research online, ask friends who had experience in that area. Sometimes what's more important is that you work hard and are passionate about what you're doing, than whether you're wearing a suit when you're on the telephone to someone.
I'm creative but I am not great at maths ... how do I handle all the paperwork that goes with a business?
If you recognise a weakness in your ability, then find people who can help you who are experts in that area. A smart person employs people that are smarter than they are, so surround yourself with mentors and experts. It doesn't need to be expensive, you might have a friend who's got good book-keeping skills who can help you in exchange for babysitting favours.
How long until I can declare my business a success ... or, a failure?
Going into business is a journey, so I think it's a success the first day that you start. Even with ventures that don't pan out, you learn so much and you take that knowledge with you, so there's really no such thing as a failure in business, there are only very steep learning curves!
What are realistic goals to set when starting a business?
Set yourself small milestones then slowly grow your goals as your business grows. Have big ‘one day' goals to aspire to, but celebrate each win and be proud of what you're doing.
How do I get my business out there, without spending heaps on advertising?
Have a great product and service and people will talk about it – especially other mums! I am still amazed at how often people refer Carman's on. If I find out that someone has referred our products to their friends and family, we send them a thank you pack to show our appreciation for their support. Sometimes the smallest gestures can make the biggest impact – just because you're doing something differently to the big guys.
Where can you go to get information on setting up a business?
The Huggies MumInspired website has some great resources, and there are a lot of small business government initiatives and grants that you can find out about with a simple google search. A lot of TAFE colleges also have small business courses on accounting software and other elements of small business available.
How do you network when you are a stay-at-home?
There are SO many great parenting websites, blogs and other forums online (such as Bub Hub and Huggies.com.au!) where you can connect with other mums. Also, a lot of people use social sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Linked In to engage in meaningful conversations and connect with people.