Bababoo was set up by Sarah Tashnizi last September to sell luxury handcrafted and award-winning ethical baby products. But just two months later the mother-of-two was ready to give it all up due to poor sales, only entering a BusinessGateway competition as a last resort saved her business.
Thankfully, taking second place in the pitching event in January turned the company’s fortunes around, providing Sarah with access to expert advice that has helped her build the enterprise and take on five sales consultants, who have already helped increase monthly sales by 46% since joining her team at the end of May.
She said: “I previously lived in Orkney where I ran a very successful Facebook ‘store’ and I just presumed that my business would do extremely well when I officially set up in Falkirk.
“I quickly found out that wasn’t the case because, regardless of population size, people want to buy the best for their babies from sources that they know and trust, whether that’s directly from friends and family or through recommendations, and no one knew who I was.
“One of my business aims is to promote positive mental health through flexible part-time employment for stay-at-home parents or guardians, allowing them to remain financially independent while they take extended leave to care for children.
“But after a disastrous Christmas fair I was ready to give it all up. It just seemed impossible to get going. Then the Youth Business Trust recommended I enter the competition. When I picked up the £500 runner-up prize in January it gave me the affirmation I needed to keep going.”
After gaining expert advice, Sarah updated her business plan and received further support from Business Gateway Falkirk that included help to set up an e-commerce website.
She then began a social media search for consultants who would sell Bababoo products directly to their friends, family and local baby groups.
“I had found out the hard way that selling baby products is all about trust so I knew I needed a team of people who would essentially become advocates for the business,” She said.
“Within a few weeks I had over 60 applications mainly from full-time mum’s who loved the concept of selling products they themselves have bought, earning the same commission I give myself on every item they sell.
“ I now have consultants in Orkney, North Lanarkshire, Livingston and Glasgow, and a waiting list of people throughout the country wanting to join the team.
“There is such a shortfall in flexible employment, and childcare costs can be very restrictive, so my aim is to create a further 25 UK-wide Bababoo consultant positions by the end of the year.”
Councillor Dennis Goldie, Falkirk Council’s spokesperson for economic development, said: “Turning a hobby into a business is a great idea, but it’s not always the ‘easy’ option as Sarah found out.
“She had a great business idea but needed expert help to translate her aims into a workable model.
“Now with Business Gateway’s continued support she is learning how to manage her team of home-workers and has been signposted to potential funding streams, one of which will help her provide each consultant with their own landing page on her website and a CRM system that will allow them to talk to each other, making it even easier for them to generate sales and form a supportive community.”
As well as selling luxury plush blankets and organic teething rings, which are all handmade by Sarah’s seamstresses who have worked with her from the start, the business only stocks award-winning products and ethical goods, many having been made by groups of women in developing countries helping them to generate an income.
She said: “If you’d have told me last December that the business, which grew out of my own attempts at making a teether for my son, would be in such a strong position now, creating jobs and empowering woman throughout the world, I wouldn’t have believed you.
“But none of the achievements of the past six months would have been possible without the help of my Business Gateway adviser, who has believed in me right from the start, and the Business Gateway ‘Heat’ competition. I am so grateful for all the doors the organisation has opened for me.”
BQ will continue to cover Sarah’s story as Bababoo continues to grow.