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Launching a business at the best of times is tough, but imagine doing it in the middle of COVID-19?
For mum-of-one, Karen Entwistle, going ahead with her plans to launch her baby bags business, Arrived, a global pandemic was not going to stand in her way.
“I was supposed to launch earlier and then COVID hit but I still made the decision to launch when I did,” Karen tells Bounty Parents.
“So yes, right in the middle of the pandemic! Online shopping is having amazing success while everyone is at home. It’s definitely changing a lot of people’s shopping habits.”
Karen has spent the last 20 years in the fashion accessories market, for large companies both in London and Australia.
Two years ago, after the birth of her son, Oscar, Karen saw a gap in the market when she was looking for a baby bag that was stylish, practical and one which her husband would also happily use.
“I’m fussy about hand bags, I just didn’t like any of them,” says Karen. “I really struggled to find one that didn’t look like a baby bag and everything was quite targeted towards mums too, so there was a niche to target bags to both parents.”
And with this idea sparked, Karen decided to go for it and set her sights on launching, Arrived.
“I’ve always had a dream of being my own boss and starting my own business but I’ve always been too scared. Last year I made a decision to try something different, so I quit my job and I managed to get some consultancy work to subsidise me working on Arrived,” she explains.
“I’m very fortunate that I have really amazing factory that I’ve worked with for many, many years who has made me a small order quantity for each bag to test the market.”
During isolation, like many families, Karen and her husband juggled working from home with parenting their son, Oscar.
“It’s a balancing act. We have a smallish apartment, so my husband’s working in the dining room and on conference calls while I’m in the spare room doing stuff like packing orders,” explains Karen
“My son’s two-and-a-half, so he runs around the joint as well but thankfully he still sleeps in the afternoons, so I’ve got that respite. But I work in the evenings, once he’s gone to bed and wake up early and do more.”
After the birth of her son, Karen struggled to find the perfect baby bag. So she made her own collection.
For any mums out there who are also looking to kick-start their own business, Karen has some key learnings and pearls of wisdom that she’s only too happy to share.
“In the beginning I put too much expectation and pressure on myself, I expected to be selling out of handbags straight away. A friend of mine gave me some really good advice. He said, ‘celebrate the small wins’ and ‘it’s a marathon, not a sprint’. Setting up a small business does take time. So it’s managing your expectation levels about what you’re going to achieve initially and not giving up,” she says.
“You’re going to have sleepless nights, as it’s not easy. It’s a big learning curve as you’re literally managing everything when you’re starting a business but when you get your first order, it’s the best feeling in the world and the day that I see someone walking down the street with my handbag, I will be over the moon.”
The baby bag brand has also been created with charity in mind. It’s for a cause close to Karen’s heart and part of the inspiration behind starting Arrived.
“It took me quite a few years to get pregnant with Oscar,” Karen explains. “I had three rounds of IVF and when I actually discovered I was pregnant it really shocked me as I had resigned myself to the fact that I was never going to have children.
“With that came a lot of prenatal anxiety and depression, like I was anxious if I was going to be a good parent and if he going to love me. I wasn’t sleeping and it was awful. I went to my doctor and she put me in contact with Gidget Foundation Australia and it was phenomenal for me. I had six sessions before I had my son and by the end of it I felt a lot more in control.”
With support and guidance from The Gidget Foundation, Karen was also able to enjoy motherhood.
“Once I had my son, sleepless nights came and I started to get depressed again, I was very anxious and worried I was doing a terrible job,” she says.
“I went back to Gidget and did postnatal therapy with them too. It’s a remarkable service in a really safe environment and they don’t just focus on mums, they focus on dads as well, so my husband came to a few sessions with me too.”
With a desire to give back to Gidget Foundation Australia, $2 of every Arrived sale goes to the not for profit organisation to continue supporting the emotional wellbeing of expectant and new parents.