Kylie Watson, owner of La Bella Creations.
Tell us about your business?
La Bella Creations is an independent Australian design label that provides women with the opportunity to wear beautifully strong fashion jewellery, that is also affordable and reliable.
Product lines include Tiny Tot Tug Proof™, Durable Jewellery for all Women and Cute Kids. The La Bella range includes strong and sassy necklaces, bangles and rings that suit the lifestyle of mothers, and busy women who welcome unique, lasting, fashion jewellery. Most of it is made in Australia by Australian mums and grandmas.
La Bella has a collection of mums, grandmas and aunties that all test new designs before they go on the market. Testing involves wearing the jewellery around children, seeing how tough the jewellery is when children touch it (under supervision), doing every day tasks and providing feedback on what improvements might need to be made on the designs.
Why did you start your business?
I saw a gap in the market and I thought I might be able to fill the gap and eventually be able to use the opportunity to spend more time at home with my children. I hated feeling torn between attending business meetings and pre-school events and having to make up excuses to people that I was in a meeting when I was actually sneaking off to Gymbaroo or swimming lessons.’
I love fashion and jewellery but I didn't have much time to scour the shops looking for suitable pieces that were lead free, nickel free, and tug-proof. The few pieces I did find were very expensive and it wasn't clear just how tough they were.
After speaking with other busy mums at kids' parties, playgroup and Gymbaroo, I realised that there was a need for jewellery that was fashionable, but also reliable, well labelled and strong; so I created Tiny Tot Tug Proof (TM) jewellery specifically for women who spend their time around little ones. Demand was so strong from people that don’t have young children that I also designed the Durable Jewellery range for all women.
Has starting your own business lived up to expectations?
I love it but it’s been harder than I thought. I think about the business a lot. Before I had staff I lugged a 25 kg bag full of 4 types of each necklace, bangles and rings on holiday and had a packing area in the Hotel room. I then lugged the orders to the post office every day before I went to the beach with the kids. I certainly never expected from the beginning that I’d be doing stuff like that!
However, the flexibility is great, my children get to see me more and even the cat gets to have more freedom with people at home during the day. I’ve been asked to do quite a bit of MC’ing at fashion parades and public speaking which I enjoy.
What have you enjoyed most about running your own business?
The ability to be flexible around the children. I get to go to school assemblies, swimming lessons and organise play-dates. I might have to get up at 5.30am some mornings to fit it all in, but it’s for the benefit of my family and the families of my staff and distributors – so it feels good.
I never forget when I was trying to make a decision on something and I was finding it hard as I’ve had to deal with strict government approval processes in my decisions in my previous career. My best friend just said the simple words “yes but you can do what you want” and I loved it. Of course it’s not entirely true for everything but if I want pink folders in my office –then I can have them!
What is the biggest challenge?
Having a micro budget and tracking every marketing opportunity to see what works. I feel like we only really hit our ‘groove’ 6 month’s ago and before this it was hit and miss. We now have a formula that works.
It’s hard as the money we invest is my family’s money and mortgage and not some bucket of public money allocated to me given to spend wisely. I’ve become even better at wiser spending and in haggling printers, sales people and graphic designer costs down.
Do you have any children – what are their names/ages?
My business is named after my girls. Lakeisha is 5yrs old, Bella is 2 yrs old and we have 1 on the way.
How do you manage to juggle the running of your business with family?
I have a routine. I pay my Mum to look after my 2 year old in our home 2 days a week and we have a home office so I still see her when she pops in to have a chat. The 5 year old is at school and I finish at 2.30pm most days to pick her up. I get up at 5.30am 2-3 mornings a week before they are up.
Otherwise I work around sleep times, independent play times, and I share some play-dates with friends so we can take it in turns to work. In my old job I only ever saw my children, during the week, at 6pm which at that age is bed-time and mornings were chaos in getting them to care.
I still do about 45 hours + a week but it’s less stressful and doesn’t involve commuting.
What is the hardest thing about being a working mother?
Feeling guilty about working but liking having to work. It’s a real Catch 22!
What do you think about ‘me’ time? And do you manage to fit some in?
I have to structure it or it doesn’t happen. My husband and I have a fortnightly date night and I get my nails done every 3-4 weeks. I try to combine sneaking off to get my nails done with shopping but I always end up buying stuff for the kids and not me.
I like to go to Charity Balls as you can feel good about your contribution activity, someone else cooks, you can dance, dress up and catch up with friends. Problem is I’m finding I’m MC more and more for charity events, so the ability to relax has gone!
Have you ever thought about giving it up?
Yes. I tried to give up work when I was pregnant with the 5 year old. I went mad. I’m an extrovert that has lots and lots of energy and I went from a 70 hour working week as the General Manager of a large international company to sitting on the couch. I probably should have transitioned instead of going Cold Turkey.
I like the buzz of being in business and I want to help other women to be able to balance everything better – I can do this by running La Bella.
Do you have a favourite networking opportunity or event?
I like going to business networking events in general as it’s a chance to get out and about. I suppose I like training programs the best as I love to learn – it’s even better if they’re free.
Do you have any advice for someone starting their own business?
I have so much advice on this. I hit lots of brick walls and challenges, so I’ve written an e-book on how to avoid them and set up an online business. It covers a lot of the basics like getting a .com from the start (which I didn’t do but had to move over to), the reality of balancing everything and tips on Search Engine Optimisation etc. I’ve made it very affordable so I can help as many women starting out as possible.
The book is only $16.50 incl GST and is called Mumpreneur Online.
Interested in starting your own business? Chat with other entrepreneurial mums in the My Business Forums.