Triumph of trial and error

Enterprise: Babyboo

What makes them so successful: Since the enterprise was launched with $1000 worth of savings, it has become a global fashion brand worth over $60 million that is growing 150 per cent, month on month.

In 2011, at the age of 17, Argylica Conditsis saved up $1000 from her Pizza Hut job and started selling shoes on Facebook. Through listening to her customers, she pivoted into apparel, and sales took off. Alongside her brother William, she has built that business – Babyboo – into a global fashion brand worth over $60 million that is growing 150 per cent month-on-month.

“Our customer is any woman who wants to be ‘best dressed’,” Argylica explains. “Our mission is ‘our products are not going to change the world, but the women who wear them will’. Babyboo is now a go to, ready-to-wear brand for all-occasion wear that is designed exclusively by our team using affordable, premium fabrics to make our customers look and feel incredible.”

Argylica and William both describe themselves as university drop-outs who have overcome the fact that they had neither financial backing nor experience running a business. They learned all the touch points across roles and departments that would be required to make Babyboo successful. “Once I had Identified this, I was able to grow the business by employing people,” Argylica says. “Our team is doubling year on year and continuing international expansion, and the US market is going absolutely crazy for the brand at the moment. I am grateful to have been able to work so closely with a sibling on what has been a unique journey.”

Making mistakes is great

The pair’s mantra is ‘keep evolving or fall behind’. “We are in competition with no one, we run our own race – we have no desire to play the game of being better than anyone, in any way shape or form, we just aim to improve, to be better than we were before. It’s us against us only!” she avers. “It is never doing one thing right, it is doing every single component of the business right. That delivers results. Taking one step back but two steps forward is better than no progress.”

“Every decision we make, we ask if it matches our brand values. If it doesn’t, then we don’t do it.”

They believe in trial and error, taking their time to ‘perfect’ the brand and develop a true understanding of it and their customers. “Making mistakes is great, it’s how you learn, and you shouldn’t be afraid of it,” Argylica says. “If we don’t try, then we won’t know!”

With the plethora of eCommerce brands popping up these days, Argylica and William have identified the fact that the ones that stand the test of time are those that build a strong brand and online community, and continue to evolve to keep up with demand. “Having a solid brand story is very important, ours has simply always been about women,” Argylica explains. “We always wanted to design clothes that highlight our customers both looking and feeling incredible, whilst making them best dressed!

“Every decision we make, we ask if it matches our brand values. If it doesn’t, then we don’t do it,” she adds. “Our style has evolved over 10 years, but our core has always been the same. It’s super important to evolve your product and still stay on brand, which can take some time to learn how to balance.”

By listening to her own intuition, making her own decisions and not being afraid to say no, Argylica has faced down sexism, from sources that range from landlords to bank managers. Alongside William, she kept pushing through, determined to prove those people wrong. “The great thing about having your own company is that, for the most part, you get to choose who you work with,” she enthuses. “So, find a great team that fits your values and work with people who understand your direction.”

Pandemic survival

With so many fashion businesses struggling during the pandemic and people confined to

their homes, Argylica and William had to change how they worked and create a new strategy very quickly. “During lockdown our sales took a hit, as we are predominantly an event-wear brand,” Argylica explains. “Needing to diversify our product immediately, we quickly introduced a lounge-wear collection, which saw site visits increase by 54 per cent and our revenue increase by 44 per cent in the 30 days after the campaign, compared with the 30 days before it.”

With the pandemic increasing screen time for people, Babyboo shifted the focus of its marketing from what had been its largest traffic-generating platform – Instagram – to TikTok, to leverage that platform’s billion-plus active users. Implementing their Instagram strategy and innovating, they reached 15 million new users on TikTok throughout lockdown, generating at least 10 per cent of the business’s monthly revenue.

“Since lockdown and restrictions have lifted, we have grown from strength to strength and invested in more formalwear collections to cater for the demand,” Argylica says. “We have also continued to sell loungewear and have some exciting new drops coming up in this area.”

The co-founders have a strong belief in the importance of representing diversity internally and externally, and work to ensure that they show this representation to their consumers through the models and influencers with whom they work. They also recently donated $270,000 worth of products to Thread Together, a charity dedicated to making a difference to the homeless, victims of domestic violence, asylum seekers, Indigenous communities, ex-inmates and other vulnerable groups in the community.

“We chose Thread Together, as their mission, values and purpose align very closely with ours,” Argylica says. “That mission is to empower people to protect the planet by helping redistribute end-of-line clothing that’s destined for landfill to people in need. We have made a total of $2.5 million in charity donations over the past two years.”

Goals on the horizon

Moving forward, Babyboo’s strategy will be to focus on its brand identity, rather than just chasing sales in the short term. The company’s priorities are: to continue expansion into the US – to that end, Babyboo just launched a redesigned website; to improve logistical capability through the acquisition of a second warehouse; to build the international team to support a 24/7 customer service operation that drives a customer experience resulting in many five-star reviews; and to continue to grow an already significant social media presence that is massive but still not close to where they foresee it ending up.

“We have massive growth plans,” Argylica says. “We want to build a strong community that embodies the Babyboo mission of empowering and uplifting women.”

This story first appeared in issue 41 of the Inside Small Business quarterly magazine