Mandi Gunsberger is the managing editor of Sydney-based business Babyology, a parent and baby lifestyle website updated daily with news and reviews, enabling parents to compare the latest and greatest baby products.
The website just turned four and receives around 85,000 unique visitors and 350,000 page views each month. With writers in several Australian cities, Gunsberger is now looking to expand into Asia.
Gunsberger is also a mother of two young children. She talks to StartupSmart about mixing motherhood with business.
What inspired the idea for Babyology?
It’s the old story – you have a baby and you don’t want to go back to the full-time corporate world. I had actually started to research all this baby stuff for myself like prams and cots and highchairs.
I thought there might have been a gap in the market there because other parents might be wanting this information, so Babyology actually started with a product comparison section rather than a blog.
I probably had about 80 prams that I was trying to compare side-by-side, so we did that feature first and then I started to write articles.
We lived in San Francisco for four years so I was following a lot of blogs when I got back to Australia and there really wasn’t a lot of blogging and that style of writing going on here at that time.
I started it when I had a nine month old and was pregnant with another one, so I had them back to back, and it’s been busy ever since.
We decided to register the name and start writing articles. We didn’t really have a plan set out from the beginning about where we needed to be and what we wanted to be in one, two or five years – we’ve just been going with the flow probably for the first three years and then we kind of realised it could be something more.
One of the reasons for starting an online business was that it didn’t require a large initial investment. With one young child at the time and another on the way, I didn’t want to have to take a big financial risk.
What were your start-up costs?
The start-up costs were $5,000, which was spent on building the website and registering a business name. We only put on other staff six months after the business launched.
How many staff do you have?
I now have 12 staff, all based at home in various states across the country.
We generally hire fans of the website and train them on blogging, image editing and our style of writing. We tried using volunteer writers early on but very quickly only used paid writers as they could be held to deadlines and style guides, etc.
How is the site structured?
Babyology is not a retail shop and we do not sell anything from this website. We direct you to a website with every post, so that you can inquire directly.
You can do comparative searches on major baby items; figure out what nursery essentials you can and can’t live without and keep up to date with what trends are making waiting lists around the globe.
Almost all the products showcased on Babyology are available in Australia or can be shipped here.
Occasionally, we feature super cool products that aren’t available in Australia but we promise to keep users updated on when they will be available in Australia.
We also invite users to become a part of our community where they can post questions and answers about anything to do with baby products.
How do you generate income?
I generate the income to pay myself and the writers by selling advertising on the website. All advertisers have approached us from the very beginning. We’ve always had solid growth since the launch.
Babyology is very crisp and clean compared to a lot of other blogs out there. We don’t have a lot of ads and we don’t have a lot of extra things, which can confuse a visitor to the website.
It’s quite a hard compromise because you want the website to stay uncluttered with advertising whilst still giving your advertisers as much exposure as they want.
We decided that we don’t want to make as much money as we possibly could – I could have ads everywhere if I want to but that would compromise the editorial and the readers.
One thing we don’t do is sell editorial, so we don’t make any money through the editorial. The editorial is decided by me, the writers and my sub-editor.
We really just sell advertising banners and if advertisers have good products and meet all our prerequisites, then we’re more than happy to help them. But we’ve really stayed away from, and we intend on staying away from, selling editorial in our advertising packages.
How do you juggle motherhood with a business?
I run the website from home, and every night from 8pm until 11pm is when I work on Babyology. My husband is also heavily involved in the business [as creative director], which is a huge help.
I am a firm believer in work/life balance and I’ve tried to carry that philosophy through to the website where all the staff are working mums.
It’s the ideal job for mums who are trying to be with their children and also do something that keeps their brain going.
We work on a triage basis; we decide what needs to be done on a daily basis, and everything else just falls to the side.
What’s your point of difference?
We try to stick to our niche of reviewing products and try not to do any other type of parenting topics on the site. To my knowledge, there is no other website in Australia that is doing exactly what we are doing.
Do you have any advice for other start-ups?
Research your idea thoroughly and work out your point of difference. Look at your prospective competition and make sure you know where you are heading with your business concept.
The hours are very, very long as it’s generally not a nine to five job, so be prepared to work. The rewards are worth the effort and eventually you find a balance between work and personal life.