When Wooloowin mum, Sandra Ebbott, began searching for Australian brands that made non-toxic, natural, PVC-free rubber teething toys to give her baby daughter some relief, all she found was a massive gap in the market.
“I did some research and discovered there weren’t really any Australian companies making all-natural teething toys, and educational toys for babies from 0-3years old” says Sandra, founder and managing director of Mizzie the Kangaroo.
Sandra decided to fill that gap and, for two years, she self-funded her own research to develop a teething toy made from 100% natural rubber. She also wanted to give Aussie children a uniquely Australian character to play with, so she created Mizzie the Kangaroo and shaped her teething toys into her new business mascot.
Since launching in 2016, the Mizzie the Kangaroo range has expanded from teething toys to Australian-themed educational toys including puzzles, interactive books and music boxes. Customers can find Mizzie the Kangaroo products in more than 400 stores across the country, as well as in the United Kingdom after their recent international launch.
What is your professional background?
I have a double degree in finance and marketing, and have worked in marketing for major global brands. My passion is being creative and strategic.
What value do you place in business plans?
I’m definitely a planner and a strategist. The first thing I did when starting the business was put a business plan in place. I think it is important to have a clear strategy. We have a global vision of where we want the business to be in five years.
Had you run your own business before?
At one point, I noticed people were coming to me for marketing advice, so I started my own small marketing agency. I’ve found that a product-based business is very different to a service-based business. It takes a lot longer to make money in a product-based business because you have research, design and production, among other stages, before your product hits the market. In a service-based business, you open your doors and start making money.
How did you raise capital to finance your business?
It’s been completely self-funded to date, but I am applying for grants now and opening up a seed investment round. So far the product awareness has been organic and as we haven’t invested a lot of money in marketing because it went into product research and operations instead. That has been a difficult decision for me due to my marketing background, however we have a lot of marketing activities planned for 2020!
How do you market your business?
We recently started promoting digitally and on social media. Otherwise, it’s been through trade fairs and trade press.
What has been the best financial investment you’ve made in your business?
At the start, I had to do it all myself and wear several different hats in one day. I think the best investment has been in outsourcing jobs, that I’m not necessarily good at, to professionals who specialise in those areas.
How do you manage risk?
I’m a strategic thinker. I analyse all avenues and always think ahead. Before venturing into new markets, I make sure I do my research – and I always have a plan B.
How do you stay up to date with the latest business information?
I’m constantly chatting to other business owners, and I attend as many networking events as possible. I don’t think there’s only one way to go about it, but I think talking, and surrounding myself, with other business owners helps keep me up to date.
What is the greatest lesson you have learned in business?
You need to be persistent and you must persevere. Especially when launching a product, you need to be dedicated and passionate, and believe in your product while remaining patient. There are a lot of upfront funds invested in developing a product before you see any return.
Where do you see your business in one or five years’ time?
In a year, we will be fully launched in Europe and the United States. In five years, we hope to be a global player and globally known, while still being based in Brisbane. We need to keep innovating and staying up to date with trends to achieve these goals.
What things should someone consider before starting a business?
Make sure you have the time, energy and perseverance to start a business. You must be all in if you want it to work, especially with a product-based business.
Is there anything you would have done differently?
I would have looked to raise capital earlier to build awareness, but there have been a lot of lessons learned through this process that has helped me to really understand the business.