What do you typically tell people when they ask you what you do?
When I was working full time in the Fashion industry I could always confidently and happily tell people I was a Fashion Designer. I had a proven track record of success so I was always assured of what my role was and where my strengths laid. Taking time out of the industry after having children; taking up the new role of being a ‘mum’ and having my world turned upside down, all the confidence I had in my abilities took a serious blow. I would be left stumped if anyone asked me the question “So what do you do?” “I was a Fashion Designer in my previous life” I would say. “Now I’m just a mum trying to cope”.
Starting this new business has been a way for me to reclaim a part of who I was before having children and reconnecting with what I love to do – working through the design process, creating a vision for the product and seeing it through to completion.
I now confidently and enthusiastically say that I am a designer and a small business owner.
Describe yourself in 5 words?
How did HELLO NIGHT come about?
The thing I loved the most about my role as a Fashion Designer was working with fabrics and prints and I always knew I wanted to revisit this again eventually. Having children was such an impactful event in my life, it made sense that I would somehow merge this in with my work.
In caring for my children and with my knowledge of fabrics, I was always careful about the types of clothing choices I bought for them. I preferred natural fibres that would be safe and comfortable for them to wear and steered away from anything synthetic. When my eldest daughter turned 1yr and started walking I encountered a problem with her bedding routine. She resisted wearing her sleeping sack because she couldn’t move in it and was constantly tripping over whilst in her cot. Without the sleeping sack, I struggled to keep her warm at night as she persistently kicked off her blanket. After enduring weeks of sleepless nights, I decided to take matters into my own hands and made a sleeping suit for her. It worked as a great solution to keeping her warm and she could move around in it comfortably.
I did the same for my son when he turned 1yr and thought not much of it. Whilst on holidays with some other families, a friend saw my kids in the sleep suits and asked me where I got it. I told her I had made these ones, but “I’m sure you can get them at a shop anywhere”. I quickly discovered this was not the case and I had tapped onto something that is a common dilemma for a lot of mums. Speaking with mothers who shared with me their concerns about their children’s sleepwear and the limited options available on the market (synthetic fibres, bulky, restrictive design), I started thinking about how I could build on from what I had made for my own children and turn it into a marketable collection for other mums access.
Based on the sleeping suit I had made for my children, I came up with the phrase “For kids who don’t like blankets, let them wear it”. The idea of the Wearable Blanket was born and Hello Night evolved from this simple concept.
What was a defining moment in your business?
My business is still very new, only in its infancy, but each time I receive positive review or feedback on the product, I consider it a defining moment because it re-affirms that what I am making is being used and appreciated by other people. This keeps me motivated and on track to grow the business further.
What do you love most about your business?
The thing I love the most about working on this business is that I am stepping back into a role that excites me; one that I am very passionate about –that is designing. This doesn’t just include how the range looks and is presented but how it is made. I love that I can make design decisions based on the values and objectives that are important to me as a mother and also what I believe is best for my children to wear. For my children, this means selecting high quality fabrics in natural fibres such as Merino wool, organic cottons and using water based inks for printing. I designed the garments with the children in mind, making sure the garment is comfortable and safe for them to move around in, encouraging their independence. For me, I wanted to make sure the garments are not only high quality but easy to care for and machine washable. It was also important to me to that the products are sourced and manufactured in Australia. I want to use my business to support other local businesses.
What do you do to PLAY/ unwind?
Down-time for me is to spend time outdoors with my children. One of my favorite things to do as a family is to go bushwalking or a short hike in the mountains. The kids love it and best of all, they are completely exhausted and sleep especially well afterwards!
What was a watershed moment in your business journey?
Coming from a design background, I naturally wanted to focus on the goal of making the range as appealing as possible from a visual and style perspective.
The light bulb moment for me was when I realised that my product could be seen as something that would provide a solution to a common problem. This helped me to look at the product from a whole different perspective and it helped to guide me in the way I would communicate and market my product. Recognizing this has helped me to differentiate myself from other children’s fashion labels, allowing me to create a range that is more aligned to the needs of end user.
How do you go about building a loyal client base?
With my strategy to be more solutions based – I find communicating with mums and speaking to them directly is very important. My eldest daughter is now 4yrs and starting school so I spend a lot of time outside the school gates chatting to other mums, hearing about their concerns and receiving feedback on the product. I also attend mothers groups from my younger son who’s now 2 yrs. I have found this process of direct engagement with mums hugely beneficial for me starting out, because it has helped me to gain trust and get better insight for my customer. I also find that once I can show someone the product and they feel how beautiful and soft the fabric is, they are sold on the quality and eager to own one. The people who own the product love it and usually talk about it with their friends and mothers groups. I also hope to build a greater presence on social media; within mothers groups and parenting forums, which I believe will play a big role in broadening my customer base.
How is running a successful business different to what you may have thought it would be?
I have found working solo to be very demanding and isolating at times. In my previous role as a designer, I worked for large companies (such as Sportscraft and Country Road) where I worked as part of a team with many colleagues. I could brainstorm ideas and seek advice from other team members. I was also well resourced with different support teams. I had access to in-house graphic designers, production manager and marketing teams. Working on this business I am having to take on all these roles myself and make a lot of decisions on my own. There are things that are new to me and I have to take time out to learn, such marketing, building the website, content writing. It’s been a big learning curve for me to adjust my working style and my expectation in terms of timelines and deadlines.
What continue to be some of the greatest challenges you face in your business?
My aim for the business is to wholesale the range into children’s boutiques in Australia and to eventually take it overseas where I think there is huge potential for Australian made clothing using quality Australian Merino wool. I see this as growth potential and challenge for the business ahead.
Who or what inspires you in your business and why?
Its corny to say, but my children are a big inspiration to me. The product came about because of them. It makes me immensely happy that I have found a way to merge the skillset of motherhood with my skills in designing. This has translated to making me more feel more fulfilled as a person so I can be a better mother and role model to my children.
How do you deal with moments of doubt?
There have been many times where I have been under heavy pressure or where I have had to make some big decisions that I felt uncertain about. I faced this early on when setting up the business. I had to make a clear decision with myself how I was going to drive this business. I had to ask myself “Is this going to be a hobby or a business?” Once that was clear, when faced with doubt, I would remind myself that ultimately I want to drive this as a serious business and this has helped me to be more clear and resolute in my decision making.
What advice would you give to other business owners trying to grow their business?
Decide how you want to view your business and therefore how you want others to view your business. Do you see it as a hobby or a business? If it can be both, that’s great, but you might need to take some level of risk when setting up and running a business which you may not need to if it is just a hobby.
Starting out is tough, especially if you have limited funds. If you can afford it, outsource the jobs that are outside your area of expertise to save you time to do the job that you are good at. The key to outsourcing is writing a well-detailed brief. Spend the time to write a good brief – it will give you a better result and save you time in the long run.
Find a way to differentiate your product/service from what is out there.
There is an overcrowding of products in the market, particularly with the influx of cheap items available from overseas. Try not to compete with price; establish a marketing angle that will separate your product to what is already out there and use it to speak to customer base.
You can connect with Tu Dang at: [email protected]