Kristy Withers started her online retail business Incy Interiors in 2011 in order to try something new and achieve a better work-life balance.
The children’s furniture business is now going gangbusters and is on track to turn over $7 million this year. SmartCompany sat down with Withers to find out the secret to her success and why she recommends staying humble no matter how fast your company is growing.
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Prior to doing Incy, I worked at eBay managing their marketing and advertising team.
I went on maternity leave, had my son and then the Global Financial Crisis hit.
I got to my son needing to move into his first ‘big boy’ bed and I searched high and low for something suitable.
I just wanted a brown wrought-iron bed, but everything in Australia was old or painted red – which I was worried about for safety reasons.
I could see a gap in the market.
I was working ridiculous hours and went, you know what? I need to take a break from this.
It takes a special kind of person to start your own business.
You need to be hungry, a fighter and not give up.
I’ve always known I wanted to do something for myself and that was always in the back of my head.
Initially, I started my own business to have a better lifestyle and have a more balanced life. Obviously it doesn’t work out like that!
I quit my job and stayed there for four months until they replaced me.
So I had a four-month build-up, then my husband said ‘for God’s sake just do it’. I needed that push and validation.
I thought I would give it a go and if it failed, it failed. But I never thought for a second it would fail.
My corporate background was really helpful. I had never worked for anyone but a corporate, so I was used to working on strategy.
I also put together a little group of my marketing friends who I knew were my target audience.
When developing names or brands, I just sent an email out to everyone and said answer this question if you can, but if you’re busy I won’t be offended.
By the time I launched I had 30 people who were total brand advocates and I got that feedback all the way through.
I made it simple for them – this is what I’m thinking, do you like it?
My advice for others is just start. Once you start, you have to keep going.
If you think it’s worthwhile, do the numbers. Make sure you’re not wasting your time and money. If it looks like it’s going to be successful, just start.
One of the best things for the business was my marketing background.
I went out to all the media and said I’d like to do a 12-month advertising plan with you. None of the blogs or baby industry had done anything like that before.
So I negotiated great rates, plans and bonuses.
If you’re committing to a 12-month marketing plan, people are more interested in supporting you.
The day we launched we got approached by three stores asking to stock our products.
Within two weeks I had to employ someone to manage our wholesale business.
Because I was good at marketing, I was good at getting people’s attention.
We had rapid growth for the first two years. In our first year, we turned over between $600,000 and $700,000.
By year three, I said we really need to get our fundamentals right.
We had issues with manufacturing, with warehousing. It was great to grow that quickly, but we grew too quickly in terms of our processes.
My favourite quote is ‘work hard, stay humble’.
I think it’s very easy to grow really quickly and, when everything’s going well, to become too full of yourself.
The nicer you are to people and the more human you are, the further you’re going to go.
You get so much further by being nice to people than by throwing your weight around.
If you’ve got a smaller number of really motivated and energetic people, you’re much better off than more people that do less.
Obviously cash flow keeps me up at night.
Some months you’re like, ‘wow, this is awesome’ – and some months you’re like, ‘how are we going to pay the bills?’
My other piece of advice is ‘be different’.
We have an online store, a physical store and 170 stockists. We get an email every day or multiple times a day saying “I’m launching a website” and they sell all the same products.
Pick your niche and be different, but make sure that niche group of customers you’re going after is big enough to make your business feasible.