There must be something in the water surrounding Sydney's picturesque Northern Beaches which sparks the entrepreneurial spirit.
Emma's light bulb moment was the outcome of flying and using an in-flight bassinet with a very distracted and overtired baby. She used masking tape and a sheet to try and create an in-flight canopy for her baby. Emma also grew frustrated when the blanket covering her daughter's pram would fly off, fall off or get pulled off. CoziGo is the solution to trying to get a tired baby to sleep on a plane or when out and about with one's pram.
Emma appeared on Shark Tank and courageously won over investor Janine Allis from Boost Juice. Emma's dream of making life easier for families has been realized - CoziGo ensures that outings and travel with a baby or toddler enhances peace for your family. She knows first-hand that a sleeping baby is a happy baby and that when a baby sleeps, parents are relaxed and happy too!
Question: Can you tell us about your business?
Emma Lovell: My light-bulb moment was the outcome of flying and using an in-flight bassinet with a very distracted and overtired baby. I used masking tape and a sheet to try and create an in-flight canopy for Aimee. The other frustration I had was that the blanket covering my daughter's pram would fly off, fall off or get pulled off. I couldn't find anything on the market to fix my issues, so I set about designing and manufacturing CoziGo. CoziGo is a pop-up sleep and sun cover that fits over both airline bassinets and strollers – it blocks lights, protects from the sun and is 100% air permeable and breathable. It's the solution to trying to get a tired baby to sleep on a plane or when out and about with one's pram without distraction.
I appeared on Shark Tank and despite being crazy nervous, I managed to win over investor Janine Allis from Boost Juice. My dream of making life easier for families has been realized - CoziGo ensures that outings and travel with a baby or toddler enhances peace for families. I know firsthand that a sleeping baby is a happy baby and that when a baby sleeps, parents are relaxed and happy too!
The product has gone on to win 10 awards so far and we are stocked worldwide.
Question: What originally inspired you to begin working for yourself?
Emma Lovell: I wasn't really looking at working for myself – my first baby was very young. However, the multiple flights I was taking to look after my terminally ill mum were awful … Aimee never slept due to the constant distraction. So, it was more out of necessity that I set about inventing CoziGo. It took a lot of positive self-talk to get the idea up and running. I am originally a high school teacher so I have no design, retail, manufacturing or warehousing experience. I was a busy mum with very little time and was convinced my nearest and dearest would think I'm crazy. (Actually, I'm pretty sure of that one). Once I start something though, there's no stopping me.
Now I work for myself, what I love most is the flexibility…. It's certainly not an easy road as you work many, many hours however, you can choose when you work and how you work. I make my business fit in with my life, my family, my friends. Both my husband and I are big on work-life balance. Having had three out of our four parents die at relatively young ages, we have a very clear idea that life is not for wasting. Life shouldn't be about work, work, work…. so we're always trying to work smarter to make sure we've got ample times for play, our kids, holidays and friends!
Question: Can you talk us through the creation of the product?
Emma Lovell: The initial prototype of CoziGo would make you laugh. I asked my hubby to make a box the size of an average airline bassinet. Then I went to Spotlight and Bunnings… the prototype was made up of plumbers tubing, black fabric and double-sided sticky tape. It was the ugliest thing ever, but it gave me something to photograph so I could start liaising with potential manufacturers. The first manufactured prototype was 80% there first time…. It took a further 18 months to nail the other 20%!
Question: Where do you source your materials?
Emma Lovell: All our products are made in China and tested by an International testing authority. We also use an independent Quality Control company to check everything is being made to our high standards.
Question: Overall, what has been the biggest lesson you've learnt since starting your own business?
Emma Lovell: I finally got my final prototype that I was happy with and went on to order my first 1000 units as my first shipment. My business almost fell over before I sold a single unit! Can you imagine the excitement of taking delivery of your first shipment FINALLY arriving in Australia, only to find that 90% of them were completely unfit for sale?
Eighty percent of the units were twisted and the incorrect shape and the quality of workmanship was nowhere near that of the samples that had been previously made for me. The factory refused to take them back and said it was our problem! That cost my business $25,000 and the most heartbreaking thing was having to pay $1000 to have them taken away to be shredded and put into the landfill!
I could have given up that day and cut my losses – I thought about it, but somehow, I found the strength to dust myself off and start again! Lesson learned – even if you're using an agent and they say they'll carry out Quality Control….external, independent Quality Control is an absolute must. You can't rely on your factory doing it for you. In business, it's not the mistakes you make that are important – it's how you fix them and learn from them that's the most imperative thing!
Once I stopped crying over that, I set about finding an alternative manufacturer and started the whole process again. I made the unusual decision to stay with the same agent - I felt like his experience should have protected me from these issues, but he took responsibility and agreed to forgo commissions on a number of future orders so we could move forward.
This time, it was somewhat easier as we had a prototype that we were happy with and simply needed to find a factory that was confident they could make them. New moulds had to be paid for, but I knew the right questions to ask this time around and we kept moving forward.
Question: What systems have you put in place to juggle work and family life?
Emma Lovell: I learned how to juggle! (laughs)
In all serious, you can have as many systems in place but when you're a mum to small children, the best systems can fail! I just try and do my best, roll with the punches and stay flexible!
Question: Can you talk us through a typical day for you?
Emma Lovell: I wake at 5.30am and go to the gym. If I don't exercise early, it doesn't get done. Back by 7am where the kids and I get ready for the day. We all eat a cooked breakfast… eggs, pancakes, omelettes etc. Homework is done in the mornings.
We walk to school via the doggie park so Frankie gets her exercise and I'm usually back in the office aby 8.45. Work states – customer enquiries, blog posts, accounts, social media, PR opportunities, invoicing, retail orders, stock control.
I work from home so every time I need to stretch, I run upstairs and pop a wash on or do something to start prepping dinner. By 2.45pm, I'm back for school pick up, take the kids to their activities, walk the dog, cook dinner, play with the kids and either watch Netflix or finish any work that needs doing. I have Fridays off – that's the day I'll meet friends for coffee, take a long walk or do any shopping that needs doing.
Of course… it can all change if one of the kids wakes up sick!
Question: Do you have any advice for others hoping to start a thriving business?
Emma Lovell: Be brave and go for it but do it with your eyes wide open.
Set yourself a time limit and be prepared to double it.
Set yourself a budget and be prepared to triple it!
Stick to what you're good at and outsource the rest as soon as you can afford it. It's a false economy to constantly work in your business at the expense of working on your business.
Do your research and make calculated risks – but rest assured, no matter how careful you are… you will have hiccups. They are totally unavoidable, and if you have none, you're probably being too conservative to be a true entrepreneur!
Be kind to yourself - to be a successful entrepreneur you need a lot of patience, focus, tenacity and a huge amount of belief in yourself.
End every day with a to-do list so you can stop work and enjoy other things without a cluttered mind.
Question: How can we find out more about you and your brand?
Emma Lovell: https://cozigo.com/
Interview by Brooke Hunter