It’s been a rollercoaster, there’s no doubt. I’ve been working on starting my own business since 2006, I was pregnant with my first boy and the inspiration for it hit me like a freight train.
I nearly left my full-time work back then and thank god I didn’t. I was nowhere near ready, the idea needed to develop and was I mad? I was about to have a baby which I think most successful entrepreneurs would agree, is no time to start your own business. I’m sure there are those who have but if it could be avoided, it’s probably best. I worked with a friend and business partner for almost 12 months at writing a business plan, talking to potential investors, registering the name, getting a logo designed, having focus groups. Exciting times, I could see us on the front of BRW magazine and taking it global.
On a business trip to Sydney in July 2007, a very timely discussion with my boss saw me grind to a halt. He got a sniff of my plans and a couple of days later I was offered an exciting and challenging new role and it was too good to turn down. I pulled out. I shelved the idea.
After the initial disappointment of feeling that the 12 months had been a waste of time and I’d really disappointed my friend and to be business partner, I also felt like I had just missed being hit by that freight train that was very quickly barreling down on me. I wasn’t nearly ready and neither was the idea.
Five years on and the idea never waned. It had certainly changed and morphed into something new but the essence of it still remained. I suppose my desire also never waned. I craved the independence of running my own show, being my own boss, having more flexibility, proving I could do it. My more mature, better educated self (I’ve done a lot of reading over the last 5 years!) realised that it’s not all late morning starts, flexible hours and happy times when running your own business. If anything, at times, it can be the opposite.
As part of my research, I spoke to many other successful and not-so-successful business owners to get the good, the bad and the ugly which has been an amazing reality-check. My urge and desire to get my ‘baby’ off the ground still existed though. I got more excited to find time to work on it, to be creative, network, build, design and create what I thought was a fabulous idea in a market that was screaming out for it.
I finally made the decision to leave my full-time job in advertising in Feb 2014, to bring Habitots to life. From the website our customers have loved, the next phase was bringing the brand into the retail space I'd envisioned. The community-oriented, fun-filled space I imagined was ideally created in a community I knew. Where a ready-made network existed. My own neighbourhood of Albert Park had the target audience I was after and a shop across the school became vacant at exactly the right time! WIthin 4 weeks, I'd signed a lease, was painting, buying more product, buying fruit & veg for the juice bar, getting a point-of-sale system in place (that's a whole other story), hiring staff and opening our doors. Yikes, a #$% load of work but so satisfying to do it all myself (with the help of many good friends and hubby Rob who've cleaned, unpacked, packed, put endless things together from Ikea).
We're 1 month into the first Habitots retail space (launched as a Pop-up shop to further trial the concept) and I'm loving every minute. I've been working more and longer hours than ever before but the passion for the business makes every minute enjoyable. I've grown to love sourcing the products we have and liaising with the artists and designers around the world. Equally, I love selling their wares and telling their stories. I love making a juice for customers and having a chat. I love greeting kids who come in the store and helping them with their creations in our activity space. I love hearing from parents that 'this is just what the neighbourhood needed'. I love hearing kids laugh and giggle as they paint themselves from head to toe. I love reading reviews from bloggers, newspapers and magazines who've heard about us. This is what I'd envisioned and letting the idea morph into what it is now and what it will be is so fun, so scary and so exciting.
Phase 3 is coming when the pop-up becomes permanent and the scary part takes over for a while, before the fun sets in again. I can't wait to keeping you in the loop on all things at Habitots and to have you join me on the ride. Stay tuned!