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Sharon Chim is a single mum to two boys - Mitchell, seven, and Koby, four - and the owner of online maternity wear store Queen Bee. She told EB her story and shared her tips about being a mum in business.
Queen Bee has been bringing Australian women great maternity wear for seven years now. Does it feel like that long?
It’s gone by really quickly, and every year has just been better and better. If you love what you do it makes all the difference. I’m so lucky to wake each morning and I can’t wait to start the day – I’m full of ideas and can’t wait to make them happen!
I work in the office two days per week and love it. The whole reason I started Queen Bee was so I could spend more time with my children, and I feel very fortunate that I’ve been able to do this.
You combined your pre-motherhood career in accounting with a love of graphic design to establish your online store. Did starting your own business live up to your expectations?
Definitely – I wouldn’t have it any other way. If you’re passionate about what you do and what you believe in, success will come naturally to anyone.
It was very important for me to stay home with my children in the early years of their life – they’re also my passion! Mitchell is now seven and Koby is four, and they’re such happy, confident boys. Koby just began two days a week in preschool this year, and those few extra hours has made all the difference for me to work on the company strategy this year.
Graphic design is still a hobby for me and I love to update the homepage each night – it’s like my canvas for creativity, and I love to change it as often as I can.
The whole reason I started Queen Bee was so I could spend more time with my children, and I feel very fortunate I’ve been able to do this
What have been the key changes in the business over the past seven years?
The advances in technology have made our procedures vastly more efficient – what used to take us hours to complete can now be done in much less than half the time. We’ve embraced technology to its fullest at Queen Bee, and are always striving to improve processes to become more efficient.
We’re also grateful to work with wonderful web developers who understand us and can make all our ideas happen – funnily enough we’ve never met, but there’s 100% trust between us. They believe in our business, which has made all the difference.
Have you had external mentoring help along the way?
Last weekend I was fortunate enough to go on a three-day mentoring retreat in the Blue Mountains with Naomi Simson, founder of Red Balloon. I’ll never forget it; it was life changing, definitely a turning point in my life.I’d come to a stage where I was unsure of which direction to go, and she was totally amazing and led a path for me where everything just fell into place. She challenged me and helped me understand my strengths as a person in order for me to find my own direction. It’s amazing that such a kind hearted, successful woman has gone out of her way to help others in business, determined to help them succeed. I feel extremely motivated and confident of what our company can achieve and am ever grateful to her. I lead such a busy life that it was perfect timing for me to take time out and stop and plan for the future.
By the way, I brought my mum and boys with me on the trip – I wouldn’t go anywhere without them!
Tell us about the challenges you faced starting a business with small children. How have you managed?
Family is so important and I’m grateful to live near my mother, who is just as passionate as me about her grandchildren. My mother looks after Koby two days per week and picks Mitchell up from school while I’m at work. Other times I’m home with them and work on the business after they’ve gone to sleep.
How has business changed your life?
Running my own company has made me stronger and more independent. I’ve had to work long hours and very hard, physically and emotionally, to get where we are today. Any setbacks along the way have just made me stronger and more determined.
Being able to spend more time with my boys has meant so much to me. Having my brother and sister in the business for the past few years has also been a great advantage – we have a great team that’s so reliable and trustworthy.
What plans have you got in the coming year for Queen Bee?
We’re looking to expand our range and also move to bigger premises. I have so many ideas that I can now develop and make happen thanks to Naomi’s guidance. There’s no doubt that we’ll remain market leaders in Australia, and with our continued strength and passion there’s nothing we can’t achieve. We're on a mission to dress every pregnant woman in Australia in Queen Bee!
What lessons you would pass on to anyone out there who may be thinking about starting their own business?
Complete a basic small business course. My accounting background has undeniably been a huge advantage to our success, as without proper costing of items and knowing where you stand financially every week it can be detrimental in the long run. I’m constantly watching cash flow and love budgets and forecasting!
And always put aside money to be able to pay for GST. It may be tempting to spend but it’s always best to transfer it out into a different savings account each week. I’m also very adamant on paying suppliers on time and work toward building trusting relationships with them. Good business ethics is important to me.
Lastly, keep the home and office very organised. I’m a strong believer in feng shui, and everything from our warehouse to office is neatly organised and labelled. All desks are free from clutter and paperwork, and at home I strive to keep everything organised and tidy as much as I can – toys and all! It makes for a more streamlined, smooth operation at work and more time to spend with the kids at home.
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