This week’s Q&A is with Perth-based sibling entrepreneurs James and Lauren Billingham, founders of NoteCube. The idea came to James and Lauren when they wanted to get their friends and family to tell their mother how much she meant to them all on the occasion of her 60th birthday, and they have developed the concept into a successful business deliver keepsafe boxes with messages of love and appreciation to customers in the UK, the US and Canada as well as across Australia.
ISB: How did you come up with the concept for NoteCube?
J&L B: We asked 60 of our mum’s friends and family to write a memory each for her 60th birthday – we then printed them out and gave them to her on the big day. She LOVED it but the process and design kind of sucked, so we decided to create NoteCube. A lot of people struggle to write and put their feelings on paper, let alone 60 notes, so we have worked tirelessly to get this perfect and convenient for our customers.
ISB: What goes into the process of creating a NoteCube gift?
J&L B: It’s really simple, and we made sure of this from the beginning as most people are time-poor these days – everyone wants things instantly! Step one: enter 10-20 of the best qualities of the person you are gifting. Step two: preview your note suggestions. Step Three: purchase your unique NoteCube. Step four: edit your notes, add photos (optional) and then mark it as ready to ship.
ISB: What was the biggest challenges you faced in the business’s start-up phase, and how did you overcome it?
J&L B: In a word, sales. It took us over a year to even get one sale a day. Just trying to get NoteCube out there was by far our biggest challenge. After that phase it was making sure we had enough stock – we’re self-funded, so making sure we ordered enough stock in advance could be hard and expensive as we weren’t sure how much we were going to grow in that three months until the boxes arrived. We’ve only just got on top of this!
ISB: I understand approx half your sales are in the US – why did you target that market and how, as a WA-based business, have you achieved that overseas reach?
J&L B: We knew the Americans would love this and the market is more than 10 times the size of Australia. We wanted to be the first in and establish our brand ASAP. It’s easy these days with social media and its amazing (and slightly creepy) targeting. It also helps that we negotiated a great shipping contract with AusPost.
ISB: What do you consider the highlight of the NoteCube journey so far?
J&L B: Reaching $1m in sales! Sounds a bit basic but it felt amazing. Also passing the two-year mark and still growing fast felt awesome.
ISB: Lastly, what is the #1 lesson you’ve learnt to date that you’d share with others who are thinking of turning their idea into a business?
J&L B: At the point where you want to quit, just push through that extra bit and you’ll be competing with a lot fewer people! They would have all dropped off by then, and that’s where the magic happens. We’d say that’s why anything else we started before NoteCube failed – we just quit too early.