Hi guys, today i have an interview with trevor ginn, the founder of hello baby - an online baby store.
Hey Trevor, how are you doing? Great to have you on YHP. Can you give us some background information about yourself?
Previously to starting Hello Baby I was working as an eCommerce consultant, mainly advising on online marketplaces and search engine optimisation. I have been working in the internet space for around 10 years which has been quite up and down.
For some reason I am attracted to start-ups and most of the companies I’ve worked for are no longer around! This has been a great opportunity to learn from the mistakes of others.
So tell us about your business Hello Baby, how did that start up, what is the story behind it?
With eCommerce growing at around 20% per year, my clients were doing very well and this frustrated me as I felt that I knew much more about online marketing they did. So I decided to put my money where my mouth was and launch my own online business.
I did a lot of research into different retail sectors in order to decide on the vertical in which to start a business. The data we used was eBay historical data as this gives actual sales data at the product level. I had a number of different criteria for choosing a sector, for example, it had to be something I knew about, be non-seasonal and have the opportunity for good margins. My research led me to believe that the nursery industry presented the best opportunity.
I had also recently had my first daughter and the amount of money which all new parents seem to spend on stuff was also an inspiration!
How did you raise funds to start it?
So far we are self funded. We have kept our start up costs very low by choosing very cheap office space and drop shipping a large proportion of our stock.
Who are your target markets?
Our main target audience is new parents, but we also stock gifts such as old fashioned wooden toys which are great for anyone who is looking for a present for a new baby.
How has the journey been so far?
Before starting this business I knew a lot about online marketing and websites in general, but almost nothing about other vital areas such as purchasing products, dealing with customers and fulfilment. It has been a very steep learning curve! Luckily we have a very good back end system which automates a lot of the processes and saves a huge amounts of time.
Growth has been very healthly and sales are up 20% this year, despite the recession.
Our turnover is currently around £40K a month and we making a comfortable profit. I expect our profitability to improve as our volumes grow and we can benefit from economies of scale and better prices from our suppliers.
Tell us a moment of doubt, a time of struggle starting your business, what made you carry on rather quitting?
I haven’t really had much room for doubt as sales have been growing steadily from day one. We had some problems with online fraud about a year ago and lost about £5000 which was a horrible experience. I did, however, manage to persuade our card provider that it was in fact their fault and got all the money back.
What would you say has been your most memorable moment so far?
We have recently launched an iPhone app which has had about 20,000 downloads, has been featured in all the national baby magazines and drives around 500 unique visitors to our site a day. The app is available for free from the iTunes store.
What have been the key lessons you’ve learnt since starting your business?
When I first started the business I was trying to economise on everything. Whilst keeping costs low is wise, it can slow things down. I also got friends to build my website at ‘mates rates’ which was very cheap but took forever. I now understand that is it not always best to go for the cheapest option and speed to market is really important. I should also have employed staff earlier as to start with I was doing everything on my own.
What have been some of the key techniques you’ve used in developing and expanding your business?
The traffic to the website comes mainly from natural search, although we are now launching a paid search campaign. We also sell a lot of stock through eBay and Amazon marketplace. Offline we do some in house PR and offer discounts to nurseries, hospitals and other trade organisations.
Is the business been profitable so far?
The business is profitable, but we need to improve the sales a lot before I can start to draw a proper salary as most of the profits go back in the business. We are constantly expanding our range and soon we will be launching a revamped website.
Rather than renting a physical shop to sell your products, what are the benefits/advantages of starting an online shop?
Online shops are much, much cheaper to set up and run than physical shops. They are also open 24/7 and can be accessed from anywhere in the world. However, with a traditional shop the customer can look and feel a product and take it home with them today.
Online, the customer must rely on the photograph and wait for delivery.
What do you do to relax from business? I know running an online shop is not an easy job, i have friends that run online shops and they tell me all the time how stressful it is.
Running your own business is very hard work and it is quite difficult to switch off (I am doing this interview at 9p.m. on a Saturday night). I have two small children which provide a sense of balance and stop me working too hard.
What should we be expecting from you in the future?
In 5 years time we have plans to be a £5 million turnover operating in several European markets. We also want to take the knowledge we have gained building Hello Baby to launch in other sectors.
Before we leave you, do you have any tips for young entrepreneurs starting up?
Budding entrepreneurs should consider stating a business with proven business model (i.e. someone has done it before) and start small if they have to. Online retail is great in this regard as online marketing places like eBay and Amazon give quick access to customers and transactional website can be set up quickly and cheaply. We started off with about £1000 worth of stock and an eBay store and took it from there.
Thanks for your time Trevor