It's no secret that most start-ups don't make it past the three year mark. The chance of success for a start-up business launching an infant product is even lower. After four years of juggling motherhood, product approval processes and learning the tricks of the trade as a new entrepreneur, Lily Toma, founder of Giselle&I has discovered there are many challenges of starting a business that are sugar-coated and under-appreciated.
Lily Toma, mother of six, has recently transformed her family's secret recipe for infants with tummy troubles into an Australian Government Department of Health approved product, 'Soothe Me Baby' tea. Soothe Me Baby is an all-natural tea proven to provide relief from colic, stomach pains, nausea, bloating, wind, indigestion and any related gastrointestinal discomforts in babies and young children. Lily recounts the five unspoken truths she discovered in the four years it took to build her business, and launch Soothe Me Baby tea. She wants to share her five tips so other mothers wanting to start a business can learn from her experience.
Licenses and qualifications can make or break your business
"The key to successfully getting a product into the market is having a top down approach. Think of where you want your product to end up, which in my case was pharmacies and health food stores and work backwards from this goal. It is imperative to have all the required licenses and qualifications before moving forward with a product idea. Ensure you leave enough time for this as approval processes can take six months, if not longer. Research as much as possible, visit and speak to different organisations within the industry, have all the facts and only then, lay it out before licensing bodies. Don't give any licensing body the reason to say no."
Knowing who to trust is like a game of roulette
"When starting out, it is important to know who has your business' best interests at heart. While many people will use referrals to navigate their way through, I didn't know anyone and had to learn on the go. Speak to different manufacturers, network with them and begin to share a working relationship. Small businesses may be viewed as not being a priority. If you need to constantly follow up with manufacturers and contacts, this probably means they are not interested. When I met with my current manufacturer, I felt his sincerity and I was treated like any other accomplished, successful business person. My advice is to always trust your instincts."
It's not enough to think outside the box
"You might have the most mind blowing idea, but if it's not user friendly it just won't work. In today's society everyone is always looking for easy and simple solutions, including myself. Therefore, I made Soothe Me Baby tea a 100% dissolvable powder, packed and individually sealed for every parent's convenience, all you have to do is add boiling water. Find a way to create a product that is convenient, straight forward to use and makes life easier. Whether it's through its function, formula or packaging, make sure to patent an innovative idea straight away."
Quality and safety is costly
"When I started Giselle&I I knew I didn't want to just put herbs in a bag and sell it online, nor did I want to inject it with synthetic chemicals like other colic and wind relief products. I went to excessive lengths to ensure Soothe Me Baby tea is of the highest safety and quality to give mums that peace of mind. It is easy for businesses to cut corners, but the ones that will succeed are the ones that never compromise on safety and the wellbeing of others just to make a few dollars. Remember your purpose and stay truthful to your vision and responsibilities."
Distribution is everything
"I started selling Soothe Me Baby online, but I knew it wasn't enough to get it into pharmacies and health food stores. It wasn't until I worked with a distributor that I began to see progress. Find a distributor that is excited about your product, has the right industry networks and shares the same goals. Ensure you only agree to terms that you are happy with and remember to not sell yourself or your product short."
For more information, visit www.giselleandi.com
Question: What inspired the creation of Soothe Me Baby tea?
Lily Toma: This tea was taught to me by my mum to treat my sons pain of colic and wind 11 years ago, a traditional remedy widely used in our culture. I always wondered why there was nothing as natural as this on the market….It really was the birth of Giselle my 4th child who inspired me and pushed me to be the role model she needed in her life. Life is tough as a women but with passion and determination anything is possible, and I needed to lead by example and so I followed my passion and perused this dream of mine.
Question: What is Soothe Me Baby tea?
Lily Toma: Soothe Me Baby tea is a delightful, safe and simple approach to treating colic and wind in infants and children. Natural, organic and listed with TGA, the active ingredient Pimpinella anisum acts as a gastrointestinal relaxant helping to relieve and expel unwanted gases trapped in the stomach, it aids to promote digestion and relaxes the muscles promoting sleep. There are many amazing medicinal benefits from this tea which mainly focus on the digestive system.
Question: How did you go about juggling motherhood and starting a business?
Lily Toma: It has definitely not been an easy journey, nor did I expect it to be, It's extremely challenging especially when you do have a family that you need to take care of. Time management and multi-tasking is the answer, which all women are born to do! My children have really also all been a part of the whole journey and process and I have included them in many of my business decisions, whether it was the formulation of the tea, their opinions in designs and even them being there to pick me up when I felt like giving up. So if I needed them to fold the washing and pack everyone's clothes so I could take care of an important email they understood and did just that with no complaints. I am a very lucky mum.
Question: What advice do you have for working mothers about managing their workload?
Lily Toma: First and foremost I think it is really important we talk to our children and teach them of our struggles and insecurities, especially with the workload we carry. We are human after all. I am extremely close to all of my six children. When we have this closeness with our children everything changes, they want to help, they ask to help especially when they see you stressed and they have seen me like this on so many occasions.
My 4 sons and I, believe it or not do the washing, hang the washing, fold and pack the clothes, they vacuum the house as well as our car, clean outside, stack the dishwasher, pack it and can honestly do a lot more than I mention here and I have taught them all to be like this since the age of 5 even younger. My eldest being 12 now. I believe we should all contribute to the house load no matter how big or small.
Question: Can you tell us what a typical day is like, for you?
Lily Toma: Up by 7am, I make the children their sandwiches for school, however they each pack their own lunches, while they all prepare their breakfast and eat it I put a load of washing in, tidy all the rooms and fix the beds, I clean my bathroom every day and scrub the bath and toilet, take the kids to school by 8:30am, I am home with only my 2 little girls. I hang the washing, put another load in, I attend to emails and phone calls, usually have it all done by 11:30, vacuum the house, go grocery shopping, back home, attend to email and phone calls again, , my baby has a nap by 1pm, this is when I mop the house, have lunch, prepare dinner (I cook pretty much 6-7 days a week) checking and attending to emails, pick up the kids at 2:50, they are all home by 3:30 which is homework followed by dinner, they eat early, my sons have ju jitsu at 4:30 and boxing at 7:30pm if not on those days they train NRL footy. My husband takes them which is when I am able to clean up after dinner, attend to any last minute emails or phone calls for the working day ends, shower my babies, fold all the washing, another round of vacuuming they are home all by either 7:30 or 9pm to eat again (it never ends:) and all shower before bed. While they are all asleep is when I am able prepare orders to be shipped out for the following day along with courtesy emails advising delivery, respond to enquiries and follow up on any of my to do list with Giselle&I. It is very exhausting but extremely pleasurable and purposeful.
Question: What was the biggest challenge you overcome in the past four years.
Lily Toma: Being afraid and I still am, you put so much of your heart and soul into this and it's scary. This whole process is really like being on a roller coaster there are so many emotions you experience, tears, joy, self-doubt, failure, it really is hard work and you give so much of yourself and in return you are then afraid to fail. And that's has been challenging but I truly believe that 'All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them".
Question: How did you go about getting your product approved by the Australian Government Department of Health?
Lily Toma: This is an extremely lengthy and again challenging process. A lot of extensive research and many, many countless hours of reading and speaking to people in the industry, learning as much of possible. Also understanding truly what my product Soothe Me Baby is and the medicinal properties behind it.
Question: What's next for your business?
Lily Toma: Soothe Me Baby will be available in health food stores and selected pharmacies nationwide. A new project is in the works and I will be focusing on expanding not only my business distribution but my also my product line.
Interview by Brooke Hunter