This week we chat with Vanouhi Nazarian, founder of peer-to-peer online platform Kindershare that provides an alternative to buying costly baby equipment by allowing parents to rent quality baby equipment from other families.
ISB: What was the inspiration behind Kindershare?
VN: I was required to come up with a business idea for a university assignment, and we were encouraged to look for inspiration from our own personal experiences. We have two young children, and our tiny house was filled with baby equipment, some of which we no longer needed. We wanted to declutter and make our baby equipment available to help other families and reduce waste, but there was no easy way. Kindershare was born to solve this problem, by bringing the sharing economy to baby goods.
ISB: You’ve said that starting your own business was the furthest thing from your mind – what prompted the decision to go for it?
VN: I had just started a master’s degree while I was on maternity leave. Having to write 3000 words justifying a business idea for an assignment forced me to critically analyse the business concept and viability. Seeing it laid out on a page, with a pathway to launch, made it seem more tangible.
My husband convinced me to give Kindershare a go, instead of just returning to work after maternity leave. I was even offered my dream job – a senior role at a not-for-profit – but realised the decision was either to take the job or launch Kindershare. It took a lot of soul-searching, but I feel I made the right choice.
ISB: How did you balance being both an entrepreneur and a mother?
VN: It is certainly tough. Being resilient and organised is the key. I find the easiest way is to have set times dedicated to each. We are also lucky to have grandparents, preschool and a nanny to help with the children, and on my “days off” I try to minimise the amount of time I spend on Kindershare while the children are awake.
ISB: What challenges did you face in making the shift from employee to entrepreneur?
VN: The hardest part is building a lean start-up – and to learn to focus on our customers. I had spent a lot of time trying to anticipate customer needs and building feature upon feature without really understanding what our customers wanted. We were also being too risk averse – managing risk is a big part of doing work for large corporates but is extremely unhelpful when building a start-up! Having a great range of mentors to help me with the mindset shift was invaluable.
ISB: How did your postgraduate education help you in your start-up journey?
VN: I used the electives in my master’s degree to help focus on entrepreneurial subjects. In one subject I had pitch to my classmates, most of them in their early 20s, the idea that access to baby equipment was a real issue faced by parents and for them to join me in a group assignment. Having to explain Kindershare to a wider audience also forced me to really work on how we presented our business idea and the problem we were seeking to solve.
I was also lucky enough to be involved in the pilot of UTS Launchpad – an accelerator adapted from D-School at Stanford University. We spent an entire semester working on our business, learning each week. This really pushed me out of my comfort zone and grew my entrepreneurial skills.
ISB: And finally, what was the best piece of advice you would pass on to others with an idea they’d like to turn into a business?
“Get out of the building” – it’s the number one advice that everyone gave to me. Then, before investing any time in planning the business, go and talk to potential customers and see if you’re offering an actual solution to a problem they have. Convincing strangers to part with their cash is what you’ll need to do every day you’re running a business, so you need to find out if people will pay for your idea before you spend too much time and money on it!