Sarah Novati, co-founder of FLATOUTbear

Tell us about your business?
We have a product called the FLATOUTbear and FLATOUTbear baby.  Soft, cuddly & flat, the FLATOUTbear is made of 100% Australian sheepskin shaped like a teddy bear, the sweetest teddy for that special new arrival. The FLATOUTbear becomes every baby’s best friend, their take everywhere comforter, a home away from home.

Available in 7 yummy colours, a “please phone home” stitched in label & meeting baby safe international standards makes the FLATOUTbear the perfect choice for every little or big person.

Why did you start your business?  
My sister Prue and I started the business in 2001.  We have recently celebrated FLATOUT’s 8th birthday.  When we first started we had our bears in 6 colours and we now have 2 sizes in 7 colours. We started it because we had grown up with a similar product and we thought there would be a market for it. Plus we loved the product so we knew that other people would love it too.

Has starting your own business lived up to expectations?  
It has been a lot of hard work, at first we were even cutting the skins ourselves on our kitchen tables. However all the hard work has been worth it as we are now selling the FLATOUTbears to shops all over Australia and we now also export to the USA, UK, Europe and some of the Asian countries.

What have you enjoyed most about running your own business?   
Watching the company grow has been amazing and all the stories we now hear from people everywhere about their kids who love their FLATOUTbears and won’t go anywhere without them.  We also have 2 great girls who help us out with the business – Mary doing our admin and Maria packing up the bears to send them out.  We used to do all the packing and administration as well as running the business for 6 years but we now have more time to concentrate on growing the business.

What is the biggest challenge?   
The biggest challenges would be fitting it all in and also letting go.  As I said we used to do it all ourselves so would take orders, put them in the computer, pack them, even take them to the post office but we are now more experienced and have let go of some of those things.  We are always happy to get in and pack the bears and do anything that helps in the business and we still help unpack the huge deliveries but we also get others in to help us.

Do you have any children – what are their names/ages?  
I have 2 kids – Mia who is 7 and Dominic who is 5.  They are both now at school so it gives me a little more time to work but also enjoy the kids.

How do you manage to juggle the running of your business with family?  
I am really lucky I don’t have to work full time.  I am in the office 3 days per week as of this year now that Dominic has started Kindergarten but am lucky that I can work school hours when I need to or spend a longer day if someone picks up the kids.  I also log in to emails and do some work from home.

What is the hardest thing about being a working mother?  
he juggling – a busy husband, kids, work, after school activities but the benefits are fabulous and I enjoy going to work.

What do you think about ‘me’ time? And do you manage to fit some in?  
I love “me” time – I have the odd facial, massage or pedicure.  I love getting gift certificates for these type of things and then using them up throughout the year.  I have also taken up running and am about to enter my first half marathon which is exciting and a big challenge as I have only started running in the second half of last year.  I am not out to get a record I just want to be able to complete the course.

Have you ever thought about giving it up?  
Sometimes it would be lovely to not have to think about it for a month or even to not go in to work to try and organise my life on the outside but I really wouldn’t want to give it up.  I am lucky that working with Prue if one of us is away or needs a break we are able to do it.  Prue also has a fabulous retail shop, Prue Trollope, in Balmain so she travels quite a bit so I can help her out with her business as well.

Do you have a favourite networking opportunity or event?  
My best friend has started a networking group and we get together every 8 weeks.  She started it about 3 years ago when it was getting close to Christmas and she didn’t have a work Christmas party to attend.  She works in PR for the cosmetics industry so had always been to gorgeous, glamorous parties.  So, a few of us who had their own businesses got together and organised a lovely Christmas dinner for girls who didn’t have any employees.  There are about 8 of us now – in graphic design, PR, marketing services, online businesses - and we love all getting together and hearing about what we are all up too, helping solve problems, nutting out an issue, giving advice on equipment, computers or something one knows more about, even helping find employees.

Do you have any advice for someone starting their own business?  
Go for it – it is a lot of hard work but if you don’t try you will never know.  Be passionate about what you do and love doing it.

Take a look at Prue and Sarah's FLATOUTbears and see what all the celebs are going crazy for!

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The biggest challenges would be fitting it all in and also letting go.