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Finding her business groove
A lack of quality dance wear for boys became a business opportunity for Sandra Jason.
Frustrated by the limited range of suitable clothing when her young son became a professional performer, Sandra decided to start her own business.
The performer, drama teacher and now celebrant, who also knew about retail through her parent’s womenswear business, developed a range of quality Australian designed and made dance wear for boys.
Watoosi sells leotards, leggings, dance shorts, dance pants, T-shirts, leg-warmers, singlets, warm-up pants, hoodies, dance bags, beanies, towels and drink bottles. Unlike competitors, Watoosi stock is made from moisture-wicking and environmentally friendly fabrics.
Customers include individuals and local and interstate retailers. Sandra would eventually love to wholesale as well.
The concept was excellent, but starting a business from scratch is not easy so Sandra needed advice from someone who had been there.
While surfing the internet for small business grants, Sandra discovered the Small Business Mentoring Service and was matched with mentor Katya Ellis.
SBMS is a non-government, non-profit organisation of volunteer expert mentors who give their time and experience to help small business. It is supported by Small Business Victoria, which refers clients to it.
As a talented retail and marketing all-rounder, Katya has held many marketing and business management roles with an emphasis on project, event, staff and partnership management, both locally and internationally.
Sandra and Katya had three sessions over seven months, and remain in email contact. The mentoring was comprehensive and covered all aspects of establishing and running an ethical operation.
They discussed business structure, GST implications and manufacturing options. It made sense to start small in Australia and test the market, then move offshore to improve margins as volume rose.
Katya’s extensive experience helped Sandra to focus, prioritise and act. Other topics covered included:
- The importance of proper bookkeeping systems from the start
- Knowledge and understanding of the industry and competitors, including price analysis of competing products
- Financial review and modelling
- Turn-over and unit volumes required to achieve financial goals
- Production costs
- The importance of factoring in a salary
- Marketing, including a launch and general promotion
- Distribution channels and the benefits of direct distribution due to initial low margins
- Considering a target customer focus group to test and review product samples
- Using external digital marketing services
- The benefits of Small Business Victoria seminars on building online strategy and marketing basics
Sandra and Katya agreed to maximise word of mouth and affiliate marketing as it was cost effective and Sandra had the confidence to call dance schools and establish partnerships.
Sandra also approached social media companies and decided to go with the pay-per-click platform Google Adword.
Due to manufacturing issues, other options were raised including moving offshore, which Sandra would only do if the factories were ethical. Katya gave her the tools to do this.
They also covered brand awareness strategies such as sponsoring concerts, branded water giveaways, industry blogs and dance magazine advertorial. Timing was important given the nature of the school year.
“We discussed Facebook marketing/ads and options around testing targeted campaigns using various images, headings and calls to action,” Katya says. “We also covered the importance of building a relevant database, and techniques to do this, such as competitions/prize packs.”
Katya says Sandra approached her at the concept stage and has since developed her products and website, launched them and tested her marketing campaigns, which she continues to develop.
Sandra has also developed marketing ideas, studied social media and followed up relevant leads and contacts. This leaves her well placed to grow her business if she can achieve her sales goals.
Sandra is grateful for Katya’s help, which has given her the skills and confidence needed to succeed. “Without Katya I’d be lost,” she says. “Her expertise has been instrumental in getting Watoosi up and running.”
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