Aussie serial entrepreneur Rebecca Lau Marsh has dressed Eva Longoria and Sophie Monk and launched a bridal business that was snapped up by an ASX-listed firm, but her latest ecommerce business is the closest to a labour of love yet.
Love My Baby was born when Lau Marsh’s first child, a son, was teething.
“It all started with me not being able to find the right teethers and toys for my first child. When he was six months old, he was putting everything in his mouth and we’d have plastic toys, painted wooden toys and he’d chew them and put them in his mouth,” Lau Marsh said.
“And I’d feel so bad each time he did it, even though I couldn’t stop it, because I thought, ‘I don’t know who has made that, I don’t know if the paints are toxic, they’re most likely made offshore and people cut costs in their factory where they can.’ So I was feeling quite guilty about letting him chew and teethe on things that I didn’t know how they were made.”
She wanted to find baby products that were made in Australia and possibly by parents who felt the same way she did.
The real business clincher was when a friend of hers in New York was having a child. Lau Marsh wanted to send over a hamper of Australian gifts for the baby, but swiftly discovered that every item she had chosen was made in China.
“I thought, ‘This is awful. This is meant to be an Australian brand, it’s meant to be an Australian hamper of goodies that I’m sending over, but they’re all made offshore.’”
It made her and her co-founders, sister Maree Venturini and her best friend dig deeper into the market. They discovered that it was hard to find companies that manufactured in Australia.
But they found enough to garner a list of suppliers and launch Love My Baby this year.
“Ever since the business launched and Covid-19 happened, the whole market has started embracing Australian-made. We’re really lucky in that something we thought might be very niche - but that still has its market - might become something more mainstream with the way the world is at the moment.”
Australian-made products have seen a huge spike in popularity this year with the Australian Made website seeing a 30 per cent increase in visits in March. Facebook likes also increased 450 per cent, Australian Small Business Ombudsman Kate Carnell said.
Love My Baby offers baby hampers and a subscription model, which sees products delivered to families to meet with their child’s developmental needs.
“The Australian market is so cluttered with baby stuff and… you just don’t know what to buy. Do you spend a lot of money? Do you not spend a lot of money? How long will a baby use it for? I was really confused and I was time poor as well,” Lau Marsh.
“I wish I’d had someone at the time who could give me those items as I needed them, without having to think about it.”
Since launching, Lau Marsh said many buyers have been interested in sending subscriptions as gifts.
But the best part is that as they grow, they’re finding more suppliers keen to get on board.
“It’s really lucky that the business is in this time, it’s worked out quite well.”
Rebecca’s business tips
Having a baby while launching a business is undeniably hard work, however Lau Marsh’s previous business experience helped her plan and prepare.
She had launched her first ecommerce business, GOSH Celebrity Fashion in 2007 when it was one of the first 10 female clothing sites in Australia. That business offered celebrity looks worn by Rihanna, Victoria Beckham and Nicole Richie for a fraction of the price.
Then, she launched bridal e-tailer White Runway in 2011 and put GOSH on the backburner. After the business achieved a 100 per cent revenue increase in 2015, she sold it to an ASX-listed company.
Lau Marsh said the secret to launching a business is to forget about perfection.
She saw a gap in the market for online fashion with GOSH, another gap in the market for affordable but beautiful bridesmaids gowns in 2011 and another gap for sustainable and locally made baby products in late 2019.
But, crucially, Lau Marsh said she would have struggled to launch them if she had waited until everything was perfect.
“People want to create something perfect, and obviously you want to start something perfect but it’s better to have launched it,” Lau Marsh said.
“You can never really launch something perfect - perfect is a work in progress.”
Instead, replace ‘perfection’ with ‘planning’.
Lau Marsh said Aussie mums considering launching a business while caring for children should not baulk at the job, but lay out a clear plan and put everything in writing. The simple act of writing a goal down increases the likelihood of achieving it by a whopping 42 per cent.
“It is really, really hard trying to juggle [a baby and a business],” Lau Marsh said, noting that she has a lot of support in her parents and her husband’s family.
“But I think for mums who want to start a business, there’s no time like the present. Put everything in writing and start working on a plan.”
Sleeping at day, working at night
She also suggested seeking out small productivity swaps.
For example: “That time that you might spend on Instagram while breastfeeding, why not spend that time writing out a plan or researching about the particular business you want to do? Really make use of that time where you’re not at work - per se - but you do have that bit of time to spend online researching.”
Then, understand the reality of running a business while caring for a newborn.
That means a different sleep schedule and commitments.
Lau Marsh has worked it so she generally sleeps in the day and is up at night when her daughter feeds.
But it’s also critical to communicate with your team and customers.
She sets up Facebook ads ahead of time and lets her co-founders know when she will be uncontactable.
“Leading up to the pregnancy and then having the baby and running the business, it’s all about having good support around you.”