Monique Filer and Dannielle Michaels. Source: b.box for kids website

Inspiration
Nikki Stefanoff

How b.box for kids turned a single product into a global brand

Authors
Nikki Stefanoff
6 minute Read

Monique Filer and Dannielle Michaels started b.box for kids as a solution to a parent’s worst nightmare — having to change a nappy on a plane. What started as a one-product offering has, over the last 12 years, grown into a multimillion-dollar international business with almost 300 products.

The long game

Filer and Michaels first met in London in the early noughties. Both from Australia, and with mutual friends in common, they instantly hit it off. Filer was working in finance and Michaels in sales and marketing, so it wasn’t long before they started talking about working together. They just didn’t know what they would do. 

The duo looked into importing kids shoes but didn’t follow the idea through. “I’m so pleased we didn’t do that,” says Filer. “It was a good process to go through, however, because we got to see how well we worked together and how we could bring our different skill sets to the table. We kept coming up with other ideas but would always end up thinking ‘nah, no one’s going to pay us to do that!’” 

The ‘a-ha moment’ that would eventually lead them to b.box for kids came after Michaels took a flight from Sydney to New Zealand.

“She came back talking about how impossible it was to change a nappy in-flight,” says Filer. “We were saying how good it would be if there was a product that had space for nappies, wet wipes on one side and disinfectant wipes on the other. That conversation was how we came up with the idea for our first product — the nappy wallet.” 

Neither Filer or Michaels had any experience in product design, so they created a makeshift prototype from an old Huggies nappies cardboard box. They would eventually take that prototype to an industrial designer who designed them the real thing.

While industrial design skills weren’t on their collective CVs, marketing certainly was, and with both Filer and Michaels deep in the world of parenting young kids, finding focus groups to test their ideas out on was easy. 

“My daughter was six months old and so I had a mother’s group to bounce ideas off,” says Filer. 

“One of the first things we did was a survey of around 200 parents and that gave us so many insights. From what size wipes people used to how many nappies needed to fit in the wallet. It was so helpful.” 

After launching the nappy wallet in five colourways and successfully selling at trade shows, Filer and Michaels started to think about how to expand the range. 

Five key takeaways

1

If you’re going to go into business with friends or family, make sure your skill sets are different and complement each other.

2

When designing products, find solutions to problems rather than just bringing out something for the sake of it. 

3

Use your own experience and that of friends and family to test your ideas.

4

Never underestimate the power of a good business relationship.

5

Inviting the whole company to brainstorming sessions can be a powerful experience.

Be your own target market and price wisely

“When we launched, we weren’t a business, we were really just a product. And a lot of the big retailers, like Baby Bunting, prefer to work with a brand that has lots of products,” says Filer. 

“At the time we were both living and breathing babies and so we were our target market. So we looked around and thought ‘what else would make our lives easier’ and started to build the range from there.”

After starting to expand their offering, Filer and Michaels turned their attention to b.box for kids’ price points, and made a couple of decisions early on. 

They researched how much people were willing to pay for a baby shower gift, and priced accordingly. They also decided not to compete on price with their retailers — a call that’s meant the b.box for kids e-commerce store has never been a top priority. 

“We made a conscious effort to wholesale and to focus on supporting our retailers 100%,” says Filer. 

“And as the product range grew we decided that we would never undercut our retailers, other than if we were having a promotion. Even today you can probably find our products cheaper in a Chemist Warehouse than on our website. We’re not an e-commerce brand.”

Growth through innovation

The baby product marketplace is saturated with ideas to help parents navigate the sleep deprived bedlam of early parenthood — B.box for kids launch three or four new products every year, which means something is always in development.


When coming up with ideas for new offerings, Filer says the whole company is involved. She tells the story of how they once gave $50 to each staff member, asked them to buy something they liked, and then bring it to an all-hands meeting to talk about why. 

“They could buy anything, didn’t have to be related to babies, because sometimes it might just be the texture or material of something that catches the eye,” she says. “All these things became talking points and helped to spark ideas.”

As the company has grown so has the number of employees, which makes for perfect in-house product testing. 

“When we’re designing new products, people will see things they like and pass them onto the design team. It works the other way, too. We’ve recently completed a new prototype for a product and it’s been given to our business systems manager to test on her daughter,” says Filer. 

“It’s a powerful way to see if things work because we have a big staff who can take out samples to their mothers groups or pass on to friends. Product testing is a huge part of the process we go through.” 

Surprisingly big in Poland

As with most businesses over the last 18 months, b.box for kids had to put a lot of plans on hold. Instead of attending international trade shows to build new relationships and find new distributors, the team made the decision to focus on supporting the ones they already had. 

Over the last few years, the organisation has been growing its footprint in Asia; however, one of the biggest surprises to both Filer and Michaels has been its popularity in Poland. It’s something Filer puts down to their relationship with the distributor.

“If you’d asked me over six years ago what would be our biggest market outside of Asia, I would never have guessed Poland,” she laughs. 

“I think the success over there has been because we found a distributor who is really great and as passionate about the brand as we are.

“Our distributors in Europe are two women, two friends with kids who started a business together. I would say they’re probably three or four years behind where we are now, so their journey has been very similar to ours, and they’re very passionate about the brand and have done an amazing job with the marketing and promotion. 

“We find that the markets we are most successful in are the ones where we have really good relationships with the distributor. Never underestimate the power of relationships.”

What the future holds

Despite rumours abound that the company is making arrangements for capital raising and a partial selldown, when asked what’s next for b.box for kids, Filer says it’s all about building out Europe and making a push into the US.

“We’ve only ever dabbled in the States so we’re looking to make more of a concerted effort over there and looking into [selling on] Amazon.” 

As the company continues to grow Filer is aware that hiring talent will be on the 2022 agenda, which is why she says both her and Michaels are grateful to have won Top Exporter in the 2017 Smart50 Awards.

“Winning a Smart50 award gives us business credibility and helps us to recruit better talent,” Filer says. 

“It shows that we’re recognised not just for our product but for the business. It also helps internationally because people want to know who they’re dealing with and that we’re going to be around for a while.”

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