NZ Women in Business Series: Charlotte Devereux, Co-Founder, EGG Maternity
Charlotte Devereux and Colyn Devereux-Kay are the Kiwi mother-daughter partnership behind EGG Maternity, where Charlotte takes the role of Designer and Colyn acts as Business Director.
Charlotte and Colyn established EGG in New Zealand in 2000, when Charlotte, pregnant with her daughter, started designing her own maternity wear for lack of stylish choice in the market.
Together, Colyn and Charlotte have grown EGG into an impressive international maternity lifestyle brand loved by women in New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, the US and UK, with plans to launch EGG Europe later this year.
We spoke to Charlotte about her international expansion plans; the start up she most admires; and the alternative career path she might have chosen.
How did you come up with the idea for EGG Maternity and then arrive at the decision to turn your idea into a reality?
When I was pregnant with my first daughter Jasmin, now aged 11, I simply could not find stylish and comfortable maternity clothing. Colyn and I had just sold our previous businesses so it was perfect timing as we could not let a great opportunity go to waste.
It was a matter of days from a disappointing shopping trip to creating EGG!
What makes your company different from your competitors?
EGG is very much a one stop shop in maternity clothing and accessories – everything from nursing clothing, active wear, corporate to evening wear. We manufacture a full range of skin care products as well as carrying all the essentials like the EGG Mama tights to the must-have products for the mother-to-be’s hospital bag
Who were your first customers and how hard was it to attract them?
The first customers were my girlfriends and their friends. It was at a very good time as everyone I knew was having babies and frustrated like me at not being able to find attractive maternity clothing. I was also very fortunate to be featured on the cover of a top fashion magazine – 9 months pregnant and wearing EGG!
Who are your customers and partners now?
Our customers are very diverse as we have added a lower price point range - Chic by EGG so we can cater to most people even if it is just one essential maternity piece of clothing like jeans. Our customers are women that want to still look fashionable and feel great when they are pregnant. Our designer range – Charlotte Devereux for EGG also attracts celebrities and girls that would like to buy an outfit that is more exclusive.
What is your marketing strategy and what has been the most effective source of new customers so far?
EGG has always been leaders when it comes to new marketing strategies. Running special competitions like EGG’s Next Top Pregnant Model has been very successful.
To entice people in it has always been important for EGG to have fantastic imagery. Through social media EGG is engaging in a larger audience and is very prolific in blogging and now making great videos to load on its website and on YouTube. The latest marketing strategy for EGG is using QR codes in a new and exciting way. Watch this space!
What is next for your company?
We are expanding into China. The maternity clothing is so limited there and not the most attractive! EGG is also growing through E-Commerce and is planning on having its websites in several languages including Chinese!
Have you come across any other exciting start-ups recently and what is it about them that appeals to you?
I have seen a new budget accommodation open recently called Jucy Hotel – it was something I was keen on doing 15 years ago when I had my boutique hotel. There has been a real gap in the market with accommodation that is cool and stylish and well-priced and costs not much more than a backpackers’ hostel. The guys behind this started Jucy Car and Camper Rentals so is a great natural progression.
What lessons have you taken from your successes &/or failures?
Always plan. There have been times when I have got so caught up with the small things that I forget the big picture.
Do you have any tips or any advice for women who are thinking about becoming entrepreneurs?
I think it is great to have a mentor and a very good business advisor. A business plan is of course a must. It is also important to have some funds behind you. When we started we put $8,000 in each which worked well for the first 6 years however when you start to grow like anything it takes $$$.
Do you have any role models or mentors?
I have always been fortunate to have Colyn as my mentor and as for role models Trelise Cooper has been a fantastic success story. I have also always followed Pumpkin Patch and how they have grown their brand.
What does your day look like?
- 6.00 Get baby India age 2 off to kindergarten and Jasmin and Sam off to school after making 3 lunches and breakfast
- 8.30 Start at work – check emails. I have to be careful not to get too caught up as I could spend all day doing them!
- 10.00 Run though the following weeks marketing initiatives and set up for website, facebook and email to our own stores and franchise stores
- 11.00 Work on designs for next seasons range
- 12.30 Check on production or catch up with staff on any areas that need covering
- 13.00 Eat at my desk while checking emails again
- 14.00 Follow up and work on priority projects for off-shore and local
- 14.30 Go and pick up India from kindergarten
- 15.00 Work from home
- 16.00 Help children with homework
- 17.00 Make dinner and serve
- 17.30 Respond to emails I did not have time to get back to
- 18.30 Time with the children and get them ready for bed
- 20.00 Eat dinner
- 21.00 Start surfing the web looking at new and in innovative ideas. Work on the blog and my new fixation, Pinterest!
- 22.00 Sleep
What is your top tip for balancing motherhood with a career?
I am constantly trying to find a balance but I do set aside time to spend with my children – it is written in my diary as I find I can sometimes get too caught up with work! I am working on getting some time for myself. Yoga twice a week has been a great start and helps me mentally and physically.
If you could get on a soap box and get something off your chest about the world of entrepreneurship, something you’d like to change, what would it be?
It does take a lot of hard work to make a business happen – it is not going to happen by itself or with very little input.
Many people think they can start up a business like EGG and work minimum hours – and make millions - I wish!
If you hadn’t chosen entrepreneurship, what alternative career path might you have pursued?
I would love to have been a stylist or a florist.
What has been your biggest challenge throughout the history of your company, from planning to funding and execution, and how could others learn from it?
Earlier on in our business we let some accounts get behind - one very large account in particular – to the point where we did not get paid and spent a lot of time and money trying to get it back. In the end they went bankrupt and we got nothing!
Is there a moment in the history of your company which you remember as the highlight so far?
When Colyn received an Order of Merit to Services in Business - a very proud moment. Not only has she been very successful with EGG and her previous business Les Floralies she has also helped and inspired a lot of people in business.
Is there anything we haven’t asked you, but you’d like to share with The Next Women’s readers?
As my mother always says “From mighty oaks do little acorns grow”. Have a dream and go for it and remember you need to also love what you do – well at least 70% of the time!
Click here to read our first interview in the NZ Women in Business Series, with Dr Kim Chilman Blair & Dr Kate Hersov, Co-Founders, Medikidz, a company which provides medical information for children through a series of comic books.
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