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23 lessons learnt from starting a startup with kids

Well, we are now over the first 90 days of start-up, I can hear you say “that’s not long” but I am here to tell you, OH it is my friend!

These 90 days have flown by and all in all, it has been a magical run for Téa&Belle. In saying that there have been lessons learnt and here are our 21 Lessons learnt from starting a start up with kids.

1. Just do it

How many of us have great ideas for a business and never do anything to bring it to life, man we have all been there! If it wasn’t for Téa and Belle this product would have sat on the shelf of unfulfilled dreams. Kids do not have the same fears that adults have, where will the money come from? how will I find the time? What if no one buys it? I have come to learn that kids are intuitive and if they fall in love with an idea or concept they do not see fears they just see opportunities. If I can give any advice to someone looking to start a business, put aside fears and just get it to market!

2. Solving a real issue

Starting Téa&Belle was in response to a survey that asked two main questions:

• Have you ever bought a product or service from an Indigenous person?

• What stops you from buying from an Indigenous Business?

This survey garnered 4,500 responses from across Australia and over 46.5% said they had never bought from an Indigenous Business. And the reasons they didn’t purchase were:

• They did not want to offend by misappropriating Indigenous culture

• They wanted to know the story and the people behind the product

• And the hardest to hear was that people felt that Indigenous Businesses were not producing products other than for the tourist market.

With this Information gathered we now had to solve the problem of non-Indigenous people buying Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander products and services, but we also wanted to make our product for everyone no matter what their background.

3. Building a team

Now as cute and enthusiastic as the two-budding entrepreneur’s Téa and Belle are, it was very apparent that this would need a team to help get this off the ground. People have such a generosity of spirit; human nature is to help. These do not have to be paid positions at the start just people who have the willingness to help you see your vision through the first stage. Surround yourself with positive people and ask for help. That’s what we did.

4. Market Research

Again, the survey was a valuable tool in understanding what people wanted to purchase and how much would they pay for it. We also looked at current Indigenous products on the market and asked these businesses what advice they would give an Indigenous Start up? Ask as many questions as you can? And ask the hard questions, you will be surprised at how open people will be so that you don’t make the same mistakes. Our Favorite questions:

1. What was your biggest mistake in business?

2. Do you wish you had started a business?

3. What keeps you up at night about your business?

5. Budget

What budget? We didn’t have a budget! And this is the one thing we want people thinking of starting a business to know. Just do it and no budget are the two crucial pieces of our success. If you don’t have money, you have to think outside the box, you become scrappy, you find your inner mongrel and you think smarter. The reason we didn’t have money has been documented in other blogs but a quick run-down on costs to start up Téa&Belle was as follows:

Total Budget: $500

Product Samples: $100

Facebook Ads: $300

Wix website and domain: $50

Mailchimp and survey monkey: $20

Plus $10 for 5 icy poles for our first business meeting

6. A New Business Model

We just told you we didn’t have any capital but what we did have was:

  1. a product that had been validated

  2. two people willing to think outside the box, who are scrappy and could summon their inner mongrel

  3. 4,500 emails from the survey

  4. time

With the above points, we devised a new model for our business. We knew that the concept was something that people were willing to support through the survey as so many of them handed over their emails to hear more about our start-up.

We validated the product by posting pictures in Facebook groups and received a really positive response.

So, without a budget, we launched the product to our email list and through Facebook ads. The online store was opened for two weeks and after this customers would need to give us a grace period to have the products manufactured.

Think outside the box but always validate your product, just because you think your product or service is great doesn’t mean others will.

7. Build a network

The only thing we had was time (and that was limited). We are in no better position to network then NOW. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Qoura, the person sitting next to you in the coffee shop. Start engaging. I like the funny cat video on YouTube as much as the next but if you are serious about your business start reaching out and having conversations. This includes the kids as well, who knows who that kid's parent is? Life is there to be lived. Become part of your community and it might just benefit your business

When online, join groups, answer questions that you have skills in or product knowledge on, high five people’s successes, ask questions that you would like answers to.

8. Build your avatar

We all have our perfect customer. The girls drew a pic of a man and a woman that would be the perfect Téa&Belle customer, they then had to think of all the things that this person likes or would buy that would also like and buy Téa&Belle.

9. Becoming a salesperson

The dread and fear of asking people to buy your product fills us all with fear, what if it sounds sleazy, annoying or too forward. We have no advice on this other than if you love and believe in your product and its power to solve an issue then there’s no need to be nervous to ask for a sale.

10. Managing our time

Both Sally and I are shit at this. We both have our own businesses and running a third has put time constraints on us both. You may have seen the Facebook live post from Belle explaining that Mum was yelling at Dion. Having time to do this is an area we need to improve on, in the end we decided to make Téa&Belle a priority especially and work smarter (and harder).

11. Becoming a boss

Dominant personalities reign supreme in both families. We needed to decide who was the boss, who had the final say, who was top DAWG.

Well the girls came up with a novel idea that is working a treat so far, they engaged a trusted Aunt, A Tidda Queen and she has final say and as she is trusted by all and has the best interest of the brand, the girls and Sally and my ego, we won’t be changing this model anytime soon.

12. Breaking the mould

Two girls one 8, one 10.

One girl Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and one with a multi-cultural heritage.

One Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Man and one single mum.

No Budget!

Have a crack at breaking the mould.

“Be the change you want to see”, you might be surprised at how many people will support you.

13. The green-eyed monster

This is one of the sour parts of dealing with a business that is doing well and especially hard for two young girls.

What to do when haters, hate?

When people who you thought were friends show no support?

When kids and adults alike make snide comments about something you are proud of?

It’s sad but true, but people who get jealous of our success are often our closest relatives, friends and colleagues. What we are trying to teach the girls are lessons in being gracious and not being up-town. We sometimes want people to praise us for how top-dawg we are, how brilliant we are for thinking of an idea or model that becomes successful, but not to let it go to our heads.

This is a gradual process for all involved and we just need to keep moving forward let the haters hate and know we are doing the best we can.

14. You are the average of the five people you hang around

Renowned businessman Jim Rohn once said, “You’re the average of the five people you spend most of your time with.” But it’s common for people to underestimate the importance of the company they keep. Bottom line: The people around you matter, and it’s mattered a whole heap in getting Téa and Belle off the ground.

15. Jack of all trades

Accountant, Mentor, Social media guru, manufacturer, copy writer, sales person, counsellor, courier, spokesperson, trainer, manager etc etc

You have to do the lot. tough but true. Be prepared.

16. Sometimes people tell you what you want to hear and that can include your inner voice

This is in two points.

i. Manufacturer and suppliers – when we started Téa&Belle we engaged with a number of manufacturers and suppliers, on the whole most have been fantastic but some, some tell you what you want to hear. Yes, we can have that product made in four weeks. Yes, we have that fabric in stock and ready to be shipped to you. Do not believe everything you hear (heads up do some due diligence, check their reviews, ask for reference etc).

ii. “This business going to fail”, “we are never going to get all these orders out on time”, “people are waiting for us to fail”, “we’re going to let people down”. That critical voice in your head is the voice that stops us achieving the best, tell that voice to bugger off!

17. Managing expectation and averting disaster

Using the new model mentioned above still meant we need to manage expectations. To alleviate this pain point in the business we have tried to be in constant contact with our customers through email, Facebook and phone. Our customers have been fantastic at embracing our model and supporting us through the manufacturing phase.

Which leads us to how to avert disaster. We had issues with two of our suppliers who had promised that they could have the goods to us in time and another who had printed a design in the wrong colour. OH CRAP! What do we do? Being a startup we needed to think quickly and not wallow in the mud of blame. We rang around other suppliers and thankfully found another manufacturer who could make the product and we spoke to customers and explained the dilemma as soon as we could.

18. Not burying your head in the sand

With the above disaster, we could have easily buried our head in the sand, put our hands over our ears and chanted “la, la, la not listening” and to be honest we did do that for a day.

But we then put our big boy’s pants on and rang and emailed each customer and explained. The scenario that played out in our head was nothing like the reality. Our customers understood, they empathised with us and complimented us on the work we had already done and were continuing to do. We are blessed with having each and every one of our customers and their continuing support.

19. Look at everything as an experiment

There were over 15 products in the first collection and some of the products we loved more than others. The girls loved the cropped tops, I loved the Yarnin pants and Sally loved the journals. Throughout the sales period, we silently wished that our product would be the biggest seller. Well, I can tell you that one product didn’t sell at all! But that’s ok this is an experiment and a valuable lesson that what you may love others might not.

P.S. the product that didn't sell had not been validated (remember to validate, validate, validate)

20. Patience is a virtue

This is not a virtue in either household. From waiting for vectors to be made, to suppliers not calling you back and the kids not doing what they say, would lead to frustration and irritation.

On various occasions Dion and I had to be reminded of having patience, this is still a work in progress for both of us.

21. Being open to criticism

Nobody likes to be criticised especially when it is about something you have put your heart and soul into. What we have taught the kids in this period is that as long as it is not done with malice, to be open to criticism as it might just mean that we learn something (sometimes we are far too close to the product/problem to see the issue).

And we are loving this quote by Aristotle:

“There is only one way to avoid criticism; do nothing, say nothing, try nothing”

22. Saying no

“I want a teddy bear in the next collection”

“I want to sell directly into shops”

“I want my friends to all to get something from the collection”


23. It has been great fun and bring on the next collection

What a ride, 90 days down and it has been so much fun! I have an ache in my ribs from the amount of laughing Sally & I have done. To have people who support you 100% and encourage the girls each and every day makes us blessed and is providing the girls with an education they would never get at school. This is life and we are loving it!

Dion and Sally Xx

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