This week ISB chats to Laura Furiosi, Founder of babies’ and toddlers’ sun-safe swimwear brand Rashoodz. In August Laura’s efforts in taking Rashoodz from being a Queensland start-up to an international brand were recognised through her anointment as 2017 AusMumpreneur of the Year.
ISB: When and how did the idea for Rashoodz come about?
LF: Eight years ago I was a teacher and had just had a baby. My daughter was constantly pulling her hat off so I started playing around with attachable swimwear designs that would keep her hat on her head and protecting her from the sun. I sent the design I liked best to a pattern maker – it took about eight prototypes and a similar number of months to come up with the perfect solution. Other mums I encountered in Brisbane commented on what a great product it was so I got my circle of friends to come up with other designs, I had them made up and started selling them at markets around Brisbane.
ISB: How did you turn the concept into a viable business venture?
LF: I got tired of spending all my weekends at markets so I got some help in creating a website and attended a number of trade shows. Initially retail buyers didn’t see the benefits of the products to the extent that other mums did. So, we decided to focus on the online sales and developed a passionate following who bought products from the new range we released each year with new patterns and designs.
We then went to a trade show in Japan and a buyer who was a parent took us on for their stores, and, buoyed by this success, we went to London where marquee retailers House of Fraser and Liberty of London took us on.
ISB: How have you funded the development of Rashoodz?
LF: Until we broke through in China, which happened in the last year, we were able to fund our growth from our revenue. However, the sheer volume of stock demanded by the Chinese market has meant big, expensive orders, and I have remortgaged the house to fund those orders.
ISB: And what about marketing?
LF: In the last couple of years we have focused on social media. I also set up a “baby flash mob”, involving 110 babies in our gear on the city beach in Southbank on the Brisbane river in the CBD. That event went viral online and attracted a lot of media coverage.
ISB: What is the biggest challenge you have faced to date?
Estimating stock. Every year I have to try and forecast how successful I think that year’s design will be. One year I might think something will go really well, order heaps of stock and it takes a long time to move it. Other designs I have been more circumspect about and ordered in lower volumes, only to see them fly out within days and struggling to meet demand.
ISB: You started the business from home, but how is Rashoodz structured today?
LF: We now have an office with four of us: my second-in-command Rachel; Jenna and Chris doing picking and packing; and my husband, who has put his career on hold to helped us get set up in the new base. This move is the result of deciding to stop outsourcing our picking and packing, and as well as doing our own we now have the capacity to do it for other local businesses which gives us an additional revenue stream.
ISB: Finally, what was the best piece of advice you have received you could pass on to others with an idea they’d like to turn into a business?
LF: The best piece of advice I was given was to think and act big from the start – get a great logo and website, set up different email addresses – [email protected]…, [email protected]…, [email protected]… And so on – even if you’re the only person managing them all! Fake it ‘til you make it, basically.
I have also learnt that you should just trust your instincts – ignore all the “that’ll never work”s you hear, otherwise you’ll never get your idea off the ground.