Online business connecting mums and bubs to culture
ANYONE who has shopped for children's clothing and accessories know the limited choices on offer.
Pink unicorns and cupcakes for girls. Blue trucks and dinosaurs for boys. But what about those wanting to celebrate their child's cultural identity?
That's where Clarence Valley mother-daughter duo Bianca and Vikki Monaghan come in. Founders of With Love x Two, the pair are alleviating a clear lack of options for aboriginal children, one baby wrap at a time.
Bianca said inspiration came from her two children Maisie and Lennox who were limited by department store designs.
"I went to fit out Lennox's room, but everything was very generic," she said.
"The only options were zoo animals and farm animals which are kind of boring."
Instead, Bianca found fabrics and decorations which reflected her son's proud Bundjalung heritage.
This refusal to accept 'generic' has since evolved into a successful online business, with orders Australia-wide.
However, as tempting as it may be, Bianca said they have no plans of expanding the business. Instead, she and Vikki prefer to maintain it's boutique reputation.
"By doing that it keeps people interested," she said.
"There's that element of exclusivity; if you miss out on a great product, you'll have to wait until next time."
Here, Bianca explains how With Love x Two evolved from an idea to a successful online business operating right here in the Clarence Valley:
SEWING HAS BEEN PASSED DOWN THROUGH MY FAMILY
My grandmother sewed and mum was always sewing when I grew up. She sewed a lot of our clothes, so it was always there. I didn't get into it seriously until I had kids of my own and had a real reason to sew. Friends began to ask me if mum and I could making something for them. Another friend suggested that we start selling our clothes at the markets. After a while we just thought, yep, let's give it a go. The business has been going for about four years now.
WHEN WE FIRST STARTED, IT GOT OUT OF CONTROL
We initially took orders from people and it just went crazy. We ended up only filling orders and not being able to restock the website or release a new range of designs. It was good in one way, but it's just easier to do a size range and put it up as an exclusive sale. It keeps people interested in your page.
MOST FABRICS COME FROM THE NORTHERN TERRITORY
When we first started, we sourced the aboriginal fabrics from the Northern Territory. But now we get our fabrics through Grafton Textiles in South Grafton. It all started when mum happened to pop in there one day and noticed a few designs. Now we source everything from there. We're proud to support a local business. Underneath every item of clothing will have the name of the artist who designed the fabric.
WHEN I HAD MAISIE, I WANTED HER TO HAVE AN INDIGENOUS DOLL
There are plenty of dolls with blonde hair and blue eyes, but it's hard to find a doll with dark coloured skin. I ended up buying her a doll. I redressed it, painted it and gave it to her for her birthday. I made two more dolls for my nieces and my sister said 'why don't you just sell these?'. So I did a post on our Facebook page to see if there was any interest and it went out of control. The first lot sold out in about ten minutes.
OUR CUSTOMERS ARE EVERYWHERE THANKS TO ONLINE
We send our products all over Australia, but we still do local pickup. That's the best thing about an online business: you're not limited in customers. We started selling our products through Facebook, but when Afterpay came out, the business really grew. Online businesses are perfect for mums because it gives you that flexibility. We used to sell through local markets, but they're a lot of work especially when you're working all week.
SOCIAL MEDIA IS THE MOST POWERFUL FREE THING YOU CAN USE
When you're starting out, you're better off to start small. Start with a Facebook page and then go into a website once you're established. Websites come with a cost and you don't want to go straight into building one and have costs that you may not be able to pay instantly. It's also important to know the best times to post online. We found that 8am and 8pm are the busiest times for social media. Initially, we used to post at night which didn't work out. We were putting things up and a lot of people were missing out on a sale because they didn't see the post. We discovered it was better to post something in the morning to tell people of a sale or new product going live that night. It gave people a chance to look at the product, decide if they wanted it and be ready to buy it at the chosen time.
PHOTOS ARE CRUCAL FOR AN ONLINE BUSINESS
We find the most effective photos are really clean with a white background and flat base. Sometimes I'll include decorations or my kids to help tell the story of the product. The photos we have on our Facebook page are from customers who send in photos of their kids. It's good to be able to share photos of their kids using our products because it shows we're genuine about what we do.