With five children between them, Erica Stewart and Trudi Jenkins have their hands full. But that hasn’t stopped them from growing their website into a major player in the gifting category.
Their three-year-old site, titled hardtofind., features handcrafted and unique products – including homewares, gifts, children’s items and accessories – that are not easily sourced elsewhere.
“As working mothers with little time for shopping beyond the basics, we realised that there was a gap… for a quality website where you could rely on finding only the best available,” the founders say on the site.
“Having spent 35 years working on lifestyle magazines, we know the secrets of the stylists and importers – where to find those irresistible products. And we’ve brought them all together.”
Stewart talks to StartupSmart about how hardtofind. is standing out from the pack.
What prompted you to launch hardtofind? What convinced you there was a demand?
We started hardtofind. three years ago, following a conversation over lunch about how hard it was to find products for our homes that were uniquely gorgeous.
We wanted things that couldn’t be found anywhere else, like a beautiful hand-screen-printed lampshade for our living room or a tablecloth imported from France.
So we started sourcing the types of products we would want to buy for ourselves, and in the process we realised that there were literally hundreds of amazingly talented, creative Australian businesses producing, designing or importing unique, high quality, hard to find products.
During this time, we saw a gap in the Australian online market for a quality shopping experience that was not about discounting nor big brand, mass-produced products, so we began hardtofind. with two important goals:
- To create a website where you could rely on finding only the best products available.
- To create a website that supported creative Australian businesses who perhaps didn’t have the marketing knowledge or funds to promote their brands – a curated platform that enabled them to reach a much wider audience than they ever thought possible.
How did you fund the business?
We self-funded in the early days, and have recently secured investment, which is exciting.
How do you promote the business?
Across a broad spectrum of platforms including traditional media, PR, social media and Google pay-per-click.
How do you stand out in the market? What’s your point/s of difference?
We’re different to any other gifting site in the market in that our products are unique, hard to find, and have a certain design aesthetic and quality.
How many staff do you have?
We have 10 staff.
What are your revenue projections for 2012/13?
We’re on target to exceed our projections, which is really encouraging. The business is growing rapidly. We now have over 300 sellers, 8,000-plus products, and the business is growing 300% year on year.
We’ve gone from a million dollar turnover in 2011 to a target turnover of more than $4 million in 2012.
What has been your greatest challenge and how did you overcome it?
When we started hardtofind. we had no idea about setting up a business and no idea of what it would take to get a website off the ground.
We had to learn on the job and live through many mistakes, but it’s been worth it – the journey thus far has been incredibly fulfilling both professionally and personally.
What’s the biggest risk you face?
Like any eCommerce business, a massive downturn in online spending is always a threat. We’re lucky to be in this space at a time of rapid growth.
There’s also a lot more competition than when we started, but we’ve always had the attitude that if we stay true to our brand and focused on the end goal, we’ll stay in the running.
You both juggle business and motherhood. What tips would you give to mumpreneurs?
Whoever coined the phrase “work-life balance” had no idea what they were talking about!
It’s tough, but we both have amazingly supportive partners and always make sure we’re home to cook dinner and focus on the kids before they go to bed. The emailing starts again at 8pm.
What’s on the horizon for hardtofind? What are your plans for the future?
We’ve got some exciting new initiatives rolling out, which I’m not allowed to talk about yet, but watch this space.