Not an attendee at the 2016 Ausmumpreneur Awards Conference? Here’s a snippet of what you missed. Pip’s finalist presentation speech for her Ausmumpreneur of the Year Award entry.
Thank you for your attention and the opportunity to tell you what I’m about. Today I am going to give you a snapshot of my story as a Mumpreneur; where I have come from and the path I have walked to get here.
Then I’d like to share with you 3 specific qualities that I feel are foundational to my success as a Mumpreneur.
To begin though, I wanted to frame everything I have to say with a favourite quote. This quote informs my approach to business and life, and of course it is the attitude I have taken with my presentation today.
Albert Einstein said:
Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.
I hope that each of you will find some aspect of value in what I have to share, and I consider that as long as I am valuable in some way, there I find success each day.
My name is Pippa Buxton and I am the Owner and Managing Director of Little Earth Nest. Little Earth Nest is a comprehensive eco family store, with both online and bricks and mortar presence. We offer a wide range of eco-friendly products with a family focus, from our core business in wooden toys to baby carriers, stainless steel products, eco personal care items and so much more.
I’m sure like many of you, at Little Earth Nest I am also our book keeper, social media manager, copy writer and graphic designer among other roles a Mumpreneur plays in her business.
I am also a Midwife and the Mother of 3 beautiful children. My son Taj is 8, my daughter Hazel is 5 and my son Sullivan is 1 and I’m the lucky wife of my best friend Rick.
I grew up in Perth in a split family after my Dad came out as gay in the early 80’s. My Mum was bullied after this and had a hard time in single parenting. My childhood was a mix of social stresses and love and all the complexities of life, just perhaps dealt with a little early. Despite things being challenging and complicated, I’m close to both my parents; and grateful for the early awareness through my Dad’s life experiences, of a need for unconditional love and respect for difference.
I also had a seed planted in my childhood experiences about money. Early on I began pushing to climb out of the restrictions of having little money. Indeed a childhood of frugal living, which is also a very sustainable approach, would go on to inform and add value to so much of my future business.
I took my first job in a pizza shop where I then worked for a few years not only for money but for the social experience – as I’ve always been a person that enjoyed connecting with others.
The owner of the shop would often drive me home and I would press him to give me tips on business and life. I’ve always been interested in prompting people to connect and share from a young age, and I encourage you all to do the same, as there is such wisdom to be learned from the experiences of others and of course one never stops learning. The pizza shop owner’s advice was mostly similar to that of my grandfather who spoke old fashioned values. Their advice: work hard, live life to the full, family comes first.
On graduation from high school I used the money from my job to fund a year long exchange in Denmark. During this time I found a strength and stability that had been lacking in my earlier life. I also became fluent in the Danish language and took on the Danish affinity for style and quality, which continues to inform my business choices.
I came home and began studying Commerce at our local university; and I also took a job opening a bakery in the early morning. I would then study in the day and afterward work night-fill til midnight at Coles in evenings and then start over, opening the bakery again the next morning. I might have thought it would be the worst quality sleep of my life before having children.
All at once things got a bit bumpy – a uni friend was killed in a car accident, I discovered a burglary in my family home and of most significance, I was then held up at knifepoint and with a blood-filled syringe at my bakery job. I decided to act on a change and created some opportunities for work at the Sydney Olympics Games where I then accepted management job there, continuing my studies as an external student at the same time.
This was supposed to be a short-term move East but I met a Victorian on my travels. So after a time, found myself living in Melbourne with Rick. Having finished my first degree I had secured employment with Qantas, where I kept studying, first a Diploma of Airline Operations and then a Cert IV in Workplace Training and Assessment among other qualifications including the start of my Masters in Business Management. I was sort of collecting business qualifications trying to fill a void and once I realised this I left my corporate job to reskill through study as a Midwife.
My business dreams really sparked off here. Midwifery is an amazing profession but I wanted to work from home once I had children. My own dream was of a family and knew that I wanted to give my children the close access to their parents that I had yearned for in my own childhood. I registered an ABN in 2005 and started work on a business plan and though I was able to refine my ideas alone, this took time. Looking back this slowed my progress, and now I would always suggest that you seek guidance where you need it, as especially women in business are so generous and generally willing to give the right prompt to help ignite the dreams of others. Today free small business resources are abundant, so access them!
Rick and I got married and moved to Geelong to care for his ailing grandparents, and we decided to put down roots there. By 2006 I had set the business up with a name and logo and began building a website, something I knew nothing about and was much more intensive 10 years ago. For a brief moment I was working on a manufacturing idea; but then when I fell pregnant and was bedridden with hyperemesis gravidarum, I decided that I was more ready for retail and that in my circumstances with illness, retail would provide a more immediate opportunity to trade.
I started with less than $250 and a single cupboard of a small house, and grew to filling a room, then 2 rooms, then the garage of that house. Things grew slowly, like many of you a lotto win or money tree would have been lovely but failing that, hard work and reinvestment of profits was enough as I also took time to master skills I needed for promotion and growth. I have struggled for many years with IBS, migraines and anxiety and when pregnant with Hazel I was again bedridden for much of the time. I later required surgery of my bowel and was advised not to have another child, but I yearned for my precious Sullivan and felt he was worth the bedrest and other risks, and indeed he is. At this point 5 websites and 3 children later, it was clear that the public supported what we stood for as the online store had been profitable for so many years, and we were motivated to open our East Geelong boutique.
We scratched together every penny we could and fit out was achieved by upcycling furniture purchased off Ebay and our local junk yard. We painted and we merch’d – all largely achieved with children in sleeping bags on the shop floor while I was 38 weeks pregnant.
The East Geelong eco boutique has been such a successful venture, meeting a need for our local community and bringing us all a lot of joy. We have been able to connect with a variety of charities along the way, giving away countless prizes and some cash donations. We worked hard and after launching our East Geelong boutique we experienced firstly around 34% YOY growth and then 48% in our next year. It hasn’t been completely easy; we did have a burglary of over $10K worth of stock in our first 6 months and Rick also spent 5 months out of action nearly losing his finger in a trade accident. We kept going. We keep going.
Our social media growth has been consistent and comprehensive across FB, Twitter, Insta and Pinterest. Our website remains an industry leading ecommerce destination, our growth continues and our passion is steady. We leverage every technology to improve our position daily.
I could talk to you about so many more practical business concepts that could be behind our success. I could talk strategic profit reinvestment, the importance of scalability and having set procedures, or even social and community strategies; but you will hear about this anywhere on the net or in any business school, TED talk or business channel on Youtube. When I really think about the core reasons that this business has experienced success, in my mind it always comes back to 3 things.
The first is Kindness
Kindness to me is a verb. Kindness is something I do on the daily. It’s a state of being that permeates my day from decision making with suppliers, to interactions with customers and even when interacting with my self. I do think that kindness to self builds up a reserve for giving kindness to others.
Plenty of people even my most trusted friends were not confident about my goals in retail, particularly when I wanted to step into our bricks and mortar space. When we opened our East Geelong store in September of 2014, we had enough funds to last our family until November. Somehow knowing if a physical store could fly with it’s own wings became more important than money; and we held on to our own optimism to make it happen.
This is an essential element to any toolbox containing my foundations of success. Things have been very heavy at times but what I know and I’ve always known is that that’s life and life can get heavy. So to move closer towards life the way you really want it to be each day, you have to keep getting up and moving forward. Work out what you want and take action. Be the architect of your own happy life and successful business. The two go hand in hand.
I look back and am grateful every day for the gifts that I have in life, and I know in my heart that I owe much of my success to the challenges in it too. I encourage you to go after what you want, knowing that road bumps will come along the way just as they do in life. When they do, be kind to yourself and others, and keep faith that eventually good will come and that you can make it.
Look to your children too, and know how successful you are every day, simply because you are so desperately valuable to them. Your businesses are successful because your children see your commitment and dedication to them. I hope that my children see that business is not just money to me, as much as I want and need for that financial freedom too. At the core it’s a people connection, rooted in kindness, optimism and resilience.
Now you know where I am from. I’ve shared so much because I want you to know just how much this opportunity means to me and how long its been coming. I hope that there has been some value in some part of my sharing, that might help you to reach a goal in your own business.