Handmade Children’s Clothing and Accessories
While pregnant with her third daughter Kate McLean was looking for singlets for her 3 year old daughter in a major department store. She came across bra and underpants sets that were targeted at 5 year olds – an age that clearly does not need to wear a bra. Then and there she decided to start her own business designing and creating children’s clothes that encouraged and allowed kids to dress as kids, and not to dress as mini-adults. Kate says “Our children are children for such a short time, let’s encourage them to dress as kids in colourful and bright clothing that is age appropriate and allows them to play as kids should play.”
Here is what Kate shared about running her business.
Q. What did you do before you starting your business?
Prior to starting Whale Spout I worked in Human Resources in the travel industry. After having three children and moving away from Melbourne, I was not able to return to this role so I was looking for a new challenge.
Q. Did you have any business training before you started?
At university I completed a Bachelor of Management and majored in Human Resources, Tourism and Management. Before launching Whale Spout, I also completed a program through The Body Shop called Bizness Babes, which was targeted at Mums looking to start their own businesses.
Q. Describe your business and products/services you offer
I design and sew both boys and girls clothes from size 1 through to size 12, as well as accessories, these include – girls dresses, skirts, pants, boys shorts and pants, drawstring bags, cushion covers, and soft toys. I collaborate with my brother, a graphic designer, to create designs for boys screen printed t-shirts. I also handmake girls hair accessories.
Q. How long have you been running your business?
I started planning the business in mid 2010, while pregnant with my third daughter. I then completed the Bizness Babes course in early 2011 and launched Whale Spout and the website in October 2011.
Q. How many hours a week do you work in your business?
Depending on whether I have a stall at a market that week, the hours can vary anywhere from 10 hours to 50 hours a week. As I sew all of my own products, the hours I work can be anywhere between 6am to midnight.
Q. What kind of online and offline marketing do you do and which is working for you?
I am currently trying to build the blog on my website so that I can focus on being an online business only, and not do so many markets. Offline, I have advertised in national children’s magazines (eg, My Child) and local newspapers. I have advertised in online magazine such as Tickle the Imagination and the AusMumpreneurs magazine (which also became an online magazine). I have my business listed on a number of child related websites that parents frequent. For two years I was also a member of the local ‘Bellarine Kids’ which held local expos and is a source for local parents.
To be honest, I haven’t found that any of this marketing has been successful for me, and as a result I have imposed an advertising ban and this is why I am focusing on my blog to increase my visibility online.
Q. Do you use social media as part of your marketing?
Whale Spout is very active on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. I do have a Twitter account but this is rarely used.
Q. What mistakes have you made in running your business and what lessons have you learnt from those?
I have invested too much money in advertising without any reward. I have learnt that my products are mostly sold via word of mouth, where one mother will comment to another mother about the dress their daughter is wearing, and then go home and look Whale Spout up. I would estimate that 50% of my sales are via word of mouth and the other 50% are past customers.
Q. How has your website helped you run your business?
Having a website has presented Whale Spout very professionally and has allowed my customers to have trust in the legitimacy of the business. The website’s shopping cart helps the business almost take care of itself and provides me with very helpful statistics to plan from.
Q. What obstacles or challenges are you facing at the moment?
As above, I am currently trying to increase Whale Spout 217;s visibility online by blogging. Hopefully this will bring Whale Spout higher on searches for ‘handmade kids clothes’.
Q. Any other comments / points you would like to share about running your business?
Like most small business owners, I thought that running my own business would be a breeze. It can be lonely so a support group is essential – I attend monthly meetings with about 14 other mothers who run their own small business. We bring our issues and challenges, we support each other, and we provide the motivation and encouragement that we all need.