Startup Diaries: Transitioning from Micro to Small Business

Let me start by saying that my business Kate Lauren Designs, isn’t about me.  It’s about creating special spaces for children where they feel nurtured and safe, and where they have an opportunity to thrive. 

Do you still remember your room as a child?  Do you remember that special toy, bedside lamp or blanket?  Do you remember how they made you feel? I know I still remember details of my room – my colourful quilt cover, my chest of drawers, my blanket - and even though we moved house many times, those were the constants that always remained in my “space”.   

And so now as an adult, I have the opportunity to design linen and décor for my own children and children all around the world. I can help other parents create rooms for their children that inspire, nurture and to help create precious memories.  What a tremendous honour this is!  Let me share with you the story so far…

The concept for Kate Lauren Designs was “born” in late 2010 from my love of interior design and decorating.  After having three kids I knew that my previous career wasn’t going to cut it for me and that I had to follow my passion.   I’ve never had any formal training in design, but friends and family often commented on our renovation ventures and asked me for decorating advice for their own homes. 

Creating beautiful interiors is a passion of mine and each day I spend working in the business really isn’t work for me – I love it so much! 

After a suggestion from one of my good friends and trying to decorate my own children’s rooms, I decided the best way to channel my creative energies was to design my own range of beautiful linen and décor for children.  I was looking to create a range that exuded sophistication, was timeless and fresh and would equally suit babies through to toddlers.    Trying to come up with a name for the company wasn’t easy.  I considered many names and then I had a light bulb moment and decided to name it after my beautiful eldest daughter Kate as I really felt that the name “Kate Lauren” exuded charm and sophistication. The other collections have been named after my children and their friends.  Each collection has a little “story” that accompanies it, which describes the charming little characteristics of each child. They are all a source of inspiration for me!

After registering the company, I spent about nine months designing our first collections, sourcing suppliers, manufacturing our products and creating our website.  It was important to me that our products are of the highest quality and so our sheets are made from 100% cotton sateen and I can honestly say they are the softest sheets I have ever felt!  Our website launched in August 2011 with one staff member and a casual administration assistant.

To begin with, I undertook our own PR by approaching blogs, developing a Facebook presence and even trialling a stand at the markets, which proved unsuccessful. However, it did create brand exposure and was a great learning experience for me. I was able to meet other business owners like myself and chat with them about their businesses.

I have learnt so much from chatting with other owners and the things they have learnt along the way! 

I have now engaged a PR and marketing firm to assist me with brand awareness, marketing and media publicity.  This has helped to grow awareness of our brand and our range of products.   Our products are now regularly featured in national glossy magazines and other lifestyle publications.

I started to receive wholesale enquiries as a result of my social media presence and I also approached some stockists directly. I then started to focus more on this area of the business which continues to grow today. I attended our first tradeshow in February last year, and then a second in August.  The response we have received has been amazing and our list of boutique stockists continues to grow.  Regular features of our products in magazines has helped to create demand for and interest in our brand. We’re very much focusing on the wholesale aspect of the business now, while still receiving orders directly from customers on our online website which was originally developed to cater for both retail and wholesale customer access.

Over the past twelve months we have also focused on building the brand. This has been achieved through increasing our social media presence and following, coverage in glossy magazines, newspapers and popular blogs and having a presence at exhibitions and trade shows.We now have over 20 stockists Australia-wide and have had international interest.  We have added four new collections to our range and are planning on adding more in the near future as well as expanding to include bedding up to Queen size due to high demand.

Some lessons I have learnt along the way are to:

  • Consider carefully your brand/service and what it is that you will provide, how you will do it and what your “point of difference” will be.   Make your business stand out from the crowd.
  •  Use social media as much as possible to promote your business.  It is cost affective and a great way to engage your target audience.  Build your newsletter database – these are the people who are genuinely interested in your brand, so let them know when you have new products, sales, etc.  This is a direct, effective and cost efficient way to engage with your market space.
  • Talk to other business people and become involved in a business group.  They can often be an invaluable source of information, experience and contacts.
  • You really must have a passion for your business.  You’ll invest a huge amount of time and effort in the beginning stages of your business, and the passion for your business will help you get through any setbacks you will encounter. 

 Resilience, courage and a positive approach to business are important as these things will assist you to overcome challenges, have the stength to make the important decisions and the mindset to maintain positivity and confidence.

  • Think carefully what it is that you’d like to contribute. Having your own business demands a lot of energy, commitment, determination and persistence, so it’s really important that you love what you do.  Seek out advice from other business owners, but in the end, go with what you think is right – it’s your business and you are the one who knows it best.
  • One of the greatest things about being a mumpreneur is having the opportunity to do what I love and the flexibility to balance my business and family in the best way I know how. To be able to make my own decisions about what I think is best for my company is an empowering and responsible position to be in.
  • One of the greatest challenges I’ve faced has been transitioning from a micro-business where production is very small-scale and most of the labour is undertaken by myself, to a small business where demand is much higher.  To address this, I’ve introduced systems to streamline our customer queries, orders and dispatch systems; delegated jobs to others; outsourced manufacturing and developed reliable relationships with suppliers.  Of course, cash flow is also a great challenge, particularly when minimum orders apply to manufacturing and in this case I have had to predict future cash flow, plan promotions and trade show orders to ensure the least risk possible.

Kate Lauren Designs was founded by Julie Parianos in October 2010 after she decided to pursue her passion for interior design and décor. As a mother of three, Julie relished the opportunity to create a mix of fresh, timeless and elegant collections for children’s rooms.

Kate Lauren Designs provide children’s bed linen and coordinating décor and accessories such as blankets, cushions, cot bedding, wall decor, single bedding and so much more! Kate Lauren Designs have one of the best quality and softest linen collections on the market. All of their products are fashioned from materials of the highest quality and are designed to make a room both luxurious and liveable.

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