Next in our Side Hustle Series, Hannah Porter, Founder of Bear & Moo, takes us through her amazing journey from Shopify start-up, to 7-figure success story. Bear & Moo is a cloth nappy brand going from strength-to-strength.

Find out what it really takes to grow a great business while growing a great family. And get simple tips from real people, to inspire you and help you write your own success story. Read all the articles in our Side Hustle Series.

When I had my first son, Regan, I knew I didn’t want to go back to a full time job.  I enjoyed working but I wanted the flexibility of being able to be there for him – go on school trips, be home if he was sick and everything else that pops up as a mother.

I was a marriage celebrant and wedding planner, and that was a great source of income for our family, but it required working a lot of Saturday’s in summer, which I wanted for family time.

After having our second son, Hadley, I decided I wanted to try my hand at ecommerce.

I loved the idea of making money in my sleep (if only it was that simple!) and knew I was reasonably tech savvy.”

We had used cloth nappies with both our boys and had found the information available quite overwhelming.  It seemed there was a ‘right’ way to do it, and the options for nappies were either incredibly expensive, not that cute, or available overseas and therefore lacking in customer service.

So one day I said to my husband ‘I could sell cloth nappies’.

‘Off you go then,’ he said, so I did.

Bear and Moo-Family
Courtesy: bearandmoo.co.nz

I came up with a name (named after our boys – Hadley Bear and Mister Moo), bought the domain names, made a logo in Canva, created a Shopify website, sourced product, set up social media accounts and thought I’d give it a go.  I thought best case we would sell all the nappies I ordered and we might make a few thousand dollars.  I set up a shelving unit in our spare bedroom and ran everything from my laptop and a home printer.  It wasn’t perfect, but it was a good start.

The business has grown at a rapid rate.  After 4 years we now have a warehouse in Hamilton (just up the road from home, thankfully), and a team of 9 (plus hiring 2 more).  My husband, Richard, quit his full time engineering job in December 2020 and joined the business.

We went from hoping to make a few thousand dollars, to turning over $2 million in the last financial year.  We have won business awards, and cloth nappy awards and are now much more than just nappies.

There have been a lot of challenges along the way:

  • Freight has increased drastically in price.
  • Ordering from China leaves room for communication errors and sometimes what turns up isn’t what I thought we were ordering (road cone orange nappies anyone?).
  • Moving from home to the warehouse was a huge leap of faith.

When we first moved in I was in awe of how much space we had. We stored our trailer there and the kids would ride their bikes around. Now we are packed to the brim and wondering where we’re going to put our next delivery of stock!

Bear and Moo-Founder Hannah Porter

This definitely wasn’t the plan when I started – it’s much bigger than I ever could have dreamed – but it’s been an incredible journey and I have no plans to slow down.

I’m so incredibly thankful for our customers because they keep supporting us and have gotten us to where we are today.”

Top Tips for Starting an Successful eCommerce Store

1. Research your product

There is no way I would start a cloth nappy brand right now as the market is flooded.

When you come up with a product idea, do your research, find out what competition you already have and figure out how you would be different.

What’s your selling point to ensure people buy from you rather than from someone else?  If the product is new to the market, even better!

2. Done is better than perfect

You don’t have to get everything right the first time.

Our original logo that I created in Canva used a free image, which meant it was easy for other companies to use the same Bear image.  It took 3 years but we redid our logo and made something unique to us, but the first logo served it’s purpose!

Same with the website, collateral, everything. Start with something and you can always make changes and continuously improve.

3. Customer service is key

Without your customers you have nothing.

Treat them the way you would want to be treated. Respond to emails quickly, own up to your mistakes and fix them, replace products as needed, engage with people on social media.

Your customers are your best form of advertising via word of mouth, so value them!

4. Be authentic

I know, I hate that word too, but it’s true. People buy from people.

Let your customers get to know you, your family, your brand, who you are and what you stand for.  Let them be a part of your community and ask their advice, and take their feedback on board.

I’m not boujee or fancy and our brand isn’t either.  Customers know the state of my house (note – it’s a mess), I’m a Mum of 3 kids and I run a business, they know the good, bad and ugly of life and they trust me because of it.

5. Ask questions and outsource

No one knows everything, but lots of people know some things and are usually happy to share their knowledge!

When I first started Bear & Moo I watched a lot of webinars, did free online training sessions, read a lot and learned all I could.  I joined Facebook groups, messaged other business owner friends, and absorbed as much as I could.

As we grew, and we had more money, I started outsourcing.  I pay people to do things so I don’t have to learn how to do them.  It saves me time and usually generates money.  It look a long time to get to this point but it’s important to recognise that you can’t do everything and you can’t know everything.

For more expert advice on growing and managing your family’s finances check out our Grown ups: Family finances section.

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