Small Business: Bear & Moo founder Hannah Porter on spotting a gap in the nappy industry

Hannah Porter, the founder of Bear & Moo, an online shop that sells nappies and other accessories for babies, talks to Rahul Bhattarai about her inspiration behind starting the business.

What does your business do?

Bear & Moo began as a reusable nappy company in June 2018. Since then we have grown to become one of the largest online baby and kids’ retailers in New Zealand.

We stock a range of toys, books, clothing, feeding products and more.

What was the motivation for starting it?

I’m a mum of three (Regan, 6, Hadley, 5 and Madeline 5 months) and live in Hamilton with my husband Richard.

We used cloth nappies with our eldest – I hated how much money I was spending on disposable nappies each week and would rather buy food, so we tried cloth.

At the time the options available were either expensive or not very cute. I saw a gap in the market for a middle ground to make it achievable for families to give cloth a go and realise how easy it can be to save money.

What’s your background?

Prior to starting Bear & Moo I worked as a marriage celebrant and wedding planner. My background is mostly in administration, event management, marketing and PR – mostly for The University of Waikato.

How big is the team today?

We have a team of three full-timers, including my husband and myself, three part-timers and around five casual staff.

How was your business affected by Covid-19?

We are really thankful to be able to say the pandemic was good for our business. During the first lockdown in 2020, many families used that time to try cloth nappies, and getting disposables from the supermarket was difficult, so our business expanded then.

This year, more families have taken to online shopping and now that we offer such a range of products, they’ve been doing lots of present and activity shopping through our store.

We’ve had a few issues with getting stock from some of our suppliers, and now the courier system is a touch flooded so some deliveries are taking longer than usual, but it’s been mostly positive.

How long has your business been around?

Three and a half years.

What’s your most popular nappy?

Our One Size Fits Most nappy range is the most popular. These fit from newborn to toilet training so will fit most babies for their whole nappy journey. They retail for $17.95 and we are currently selling about 4000 a month on average. We have new prints every two to three months so the colours and prints change regularly.

The nappies are absolutely our hero product. We then stock a range of NZ and international brands – we have thousands of products available online. We did $1 million in revenue last financial year and will likely double that this financial year.

What’s your focus for the remainder of the year?

This time of the year is incredibly exciting – we had Gumboot Friday last week and we sold over 300 nappies in just two hours. We also have a massive fundraiser to raise as much money as possible for youth mental health in NZ. We then lead into Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Christmas. It’s busy and fun and we love helping people out with their present shopping!

What are your long-term plans, and where do you see the brand in five years?

Growth is our key focus. We are constantly looking at expansion opportunities with new products and wholesale opportunities. Our focus until 2023 will be getting the product into more retailers both in NZ and internationally. In five years I hope we have a larger team, as one of the big benefits of running your own business is getting to employ others. I also hope that in five years we have the ability to give back to our community even more.

How does your business stand out in comparison to other businesses in the market?

We are often told by our customers that the reason they shop with us is customer service and relatability. I love showing up on social media, talking to my customers, getting to know them, and being authentic in that. We also pride ourselves on our customer service, getting products out to customers as quickly as possible, and taking on feedback.

How are you marketing it?

Primarily digital marketing – social media and Google. There’s a lot of word of mouth which is priceless, and when Covid-19 allows us to attend expos and shows to see our customers in person.

What does the competition look like in this market?

There’s a lot of competition in both the nappy industry and the baby/kids market, but I tend to keep a focus on what we’re doing and not look too much at the competition as I don’t see that as being helpful.

But I do have great relationships with some of our competitors which is great when you’re running your own business – having friends doing similar things is priceless.

What advice would you give to people who are thinking about starting their own business?

Do it! I think as long as you’re not taking too much of a financial risk, you’ve got nothing to lose. It will take a lot of time, energy and brainpower, but the rewards are absolutely worth it. Talk to people, ask questions, take on advice from others, and it’s so worth it.

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