You CAN launch a business during lockdown: Friends who started an online marketplace for baby gifts reveal they turned over £20,000 in the first two weeks – and are on course to generate £300,000 in sales in a year
- Laura McBride, 29, and Laura Boswell, 30, from Essex, founded BabyChum
- The friends borrowed £4,000 to launch the online marketplace for baby gifts
- They prepared to launch this April and decided to go ahead despite lockdown
- Entrepreneurs revealed they turned over £20,000 in the first two weeks
- Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19
A pair of friends who started their online business during the coronavirus crisis revealed how they still managed to turnover £20,000 in the first two weeks.
Entrepreneurs Laura McBride, 29, and Laura Boswell, 30, of Essex, took the plunge and launched BabyChum, an online marketplace for mother and baby gifts, on 12 April, three weeks into the government lockdown.
Despite concerns restrictions would hamper the launch, the company sold hundreds of products in the first week and Laura and Laura are now working around the clock from home to keep up with demand and fulfill orders.
Speaking to FEMAIL, the business partners, who each borrowed £2,000 from family to start the venture, said they already have their sights set on the future and estimate they could generate £300,000 in sales by the end of the first year.
Entrepreneurs Laura McBride, 29, and Laura Boswell, 30, of Essex, took the plunge and launched BabyChum, an online marketplace for mother and baby gifts, on 12 April, three weeks into the government lockdown. Pictured, Laura Boswell (left) and Laura McBride
Speaking about their decision to launch, they said: ‘We were a bit wary about launching during the pandemic, wondering if people were going to be trying to look after the pennies during this really uncertain time.
‘But then we’d heard that [Canadian e-commerce giant] Shopify was seeing the same amount of website traffic daily as their Black Friday traffic, and thought, “okay now is the time”.
‘We also felt a bit of a duty to help support the small businesses, crafters and sole traders on our site, we couldn’t let them down, so we took the plunge.’
The website immediately attracted customers as people turned to online outlets while bricks-and-mortar shops were hit by social distancing restrictions.
‘With the closure of physical stores, people are relying more and more on online shopping – even just to buy things like greeting cards,’ explained Laura McBride, who has a two-year-old daughter Rosie.
Laura and Laura, who met through friends 10 years ago, started discussing the idea for BabyChum in May 2019 after realising there was demand for an online marketplace that focused solely on mother and baby gifts.
Laura McBride said: ‘A couple of my friends had babies around the same time so I was looking for some special gifts online.
‘I usually shop on marketplaces [like Etsy or Not On The High Street] because I like how you can always find something unique or handmade, which always feels more special, and like you’ve actually considered what the receiver might like.
Laura McBride (left) and Laura Boswell (right), who met through friends 10 years ago, started discussing the idea for BabyChum in May 2019 after realising there was demand for an online marketplace that focused solely on mother and baby gifts.
The pair, who have seen particular interest in rainbow-themed products in light of the support the NHS campaign, said the biggest challenge is keeping communication channels open. Pictured left, Personalised Rainbow Print from the Little Design Room (£10). Right, Luna & Folly Personalised Organic Cotton Rainbow Hot Air Balloon Newborn T-shirt (£15)
‘After hours of browsing on other marketplaces to finally find what I was looking for, I thought “there has to be any easier way to find baby and family related gifts online, without having to filter through lots of other products”. Then it came to me, there is a gap in the market for something like this – I’m going to create it!’
The pair both invested £2,000 into the company, which went towards building the website, gifting and digital advertising.
It took six months to develop the website due to the complex functionality needed to host hundreds of sellers.
Laura Boswell continued: ‘We had to think about individual shipping options for each seller, and had to code that into the site to make it an option.
‘There was also the need to make the marketplace as seamless as possible in terms of personalisation and customisation, which meant coding product pages to allow people to add a name or date of birth of their choice to their purchase as easily as possible.’
The pair started to approach sellers in December last year before testing the website with friends and loved ones. Laura and Laura had decided they would officially launch the BabyChum once they had at least 300 products available to buy.
Laura McBride (left) and Laura Boswell (right) are now working independently from their respective homes and are relying on family members to help them keep up with demand.
Revenue is generated through sales on the website, with products promoted via collaborations, gifting and digital advertising.
Laura Boswell continued: ‘Around the beginning of April time we had hit our 300 product milestone but were weary of launching due to the pandemic; we very much believed in BabyChum but it was consumer spending behaviour that left doubt in our mind. Were people actually buying non-essential items?’
However their fears did not materialise and the website sold hundreds of products in the first week.
‘We were quite lucky, our friend [Frankie Bridge’s sister] Tor Sandford and then [TOWIE star] Chloe Lewis promoted the brand for us which built some traction, that combined with digital advertising and social media, meant we started making sales pretty much straight away,’ she continued. ‘We’re up to our eyeballs now with admin and following up on orders.’
The pair are now working independently from their respective homes and are relying on family members to help them keep up with demand.
‘At the moment it is just us two, we are lucky enough to have family and friends around at the moment who are able to help us reply to emails, contact sellers and help with social media,’ Laura said.
‘We will definitely be looking for another pair of hands soon as there are not enough hours in the day at the moment – we don’t actually sleep anymore.’
The pair, who have seen particular interest in rainbow-themed products in light of the support the NHS campaign, said the biggest challenge is keeping communication channels open.
Laura said: ‘The biggest challenge really is us not being able to see each other. We spend the whole day on the phone talking through projects and tasks for the week, deciding who is going to work on what aspects of the business.
‘Being together makes planning and organising a whole lot easier, so it’s definitely taken some adjustment being apart.’
BabyChum now hosts 180 sellers and the business partners have already have their sights set on expansion. They estimate they could turnover £300,000 in the first year.
Laura McBride added: ‘If we carry on the path we have been, we could be looking at a £300,000 turnover in our first year of business, and with that we’d also be supporting hundreds, potentially thousands of other small business owners. We’d be pretty happy and proud if that was the case.
‘The current situation means sales are up, so we’ve really got to strike whilst the iron’s hot. We’ve already achieved overseas sales, so that will be another big focus for us later on in the year.’
Speaking to other would-be entrepreneurs who want to start a business, Laura Boswell said: ‘There is never a ‘right time’ to start a business, so if you believe in your business model and your abilities don’t be afraid to take the plunge.
‘It will take a lot of hard work, consistency, patience and resilience but if you’ve got passion and determination you will make it happen no matter what the circumstances.’
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