This week’s Ambassador Feature is with Eleanor Cullen, We Might Be Tiny
2018 AusMumpreneur Global Brand Award (bronze winner)
Tell us the story behind why you love what you do and why you’re so passionate about sharing your message?
When I had my son, I honestly dreaded the thought of all the clutter and children’s stuff that was going to be in my house. I really wanted to keep my own style in the house, so that’s why I decided to design my own range of tableware. I wanted products that didn’t need to be hidden away when the adults came over to play. After sharing my designs with other mums, I realised that so many other people feel the same way!
It has been almost 4 years since I launched my business and have been running it as a side-hustle up until now. I’ve just recently resigned from my full-time job and I’m now working solely on We Might Be Tiny. I have never been so excited to get up every morning and “go to work” [in my home office]. I just love knowing that everything I do, is having a direct impact on my business and my customers.
Tell us a story about a challenging time you faced, how you overcame it and what lesson/lessons/wisdom this experience has taught you about life and business.
Before I had even launched my first product, one of my designs were stolen. I was so excited to have produced a sample of my first place mats that I shared them widely on social media. I gained so much interest from around the world – it didn’t occur to me that anyone could simply lift my design and produce it.
I had already been in contact with retailers who had agreed to stock my place mats, when I was alerted that another company was producing something almost identical. They were an established business with a large social media following. My immediate thought was “OMG, everyone is going to think that I stole their design”.
I had already invested in my first production and bootstrapped $15K of my family’s money. I burst into tears immediately, and thought that my dream of running my own business was over.
After some pep-talking from my husband and sister, I was finally convinced that I could still do this, and do it better. With a bit of determination, I did do it better and sold all of them within a month.
The reality is, copycats gonna copy. My lessons learned are:
- never release photos of my products until I have design patent certificates to protect my work
- have all my ducks-in-a-row and be ready to launch
- focus on what I can control – including my brand positioning, product quality and testing
Image credit: Alex Anderson, Jam on your Collar
What are 3 pieces of advice you would give someone starting out in business?
1. Invest in great photography. Whether you have a service-based or product-based business, I think spending money (or time, if you are a great photographer yourself) in photography will pay off 500% and then some. When you’re starting out, it may seem like so much money to part with – but I believe that creating amazing assets that truly represent your brand and who you are, will attract the clientele or customers that you want and therefore build momentum for you in your business.
2. Know what you stand for, and stick with it. Identify 3-4 key words that represent yourself or your brand and refer to them often. It will help you with everything you do, from deciding what products or services to offer, to what types of content to create, to who you want to work with. Each time you have a tough decision to make – ask yourself: does it align with my brand?
3. Think big. Even if your ambitions are to just launch your business and get it going, it’s important to think about the future possibilities for where you want to take it. This will enable you to set your structures and processes up properly in the first place. That’s not to say you need to do EVERYTHING right now, but at least have a vision for the future to save yourself a lot of re-work down the track. A really good example of this is your pricing structure: if you’re a product-based business do you have visions for wholesaling, distribution? If so, you need to factor this into your price now.
What is your proudest business achievement? Why does this mean so much to you?
I have so many proud moments, and that’s what I love about running my own business. However I absolutely love when my customers take photos of their children using my products and share them on social media. I honestly have to pinch myself that not only are my products being purchased by people around the world, that they love them so much that they’re willing to fill their instagram feeds with photos of the products and essentially “recommend” the products to their friends and family. It just speaks volumes to me, and also makes my job that much easier!
Finally, what do you believe is the secret to success?
The secret is just putting one foot in front of the other and getting sh*t done. Each day, I try to tackle a couple of hard things and a couple of easy things. I write a list and then focus on what I need to do. If I’m ever struggling to make progress on something, I will break it down into smaller tasks and then focus on those tasks – but at least just keep moving forward!
About our AusMumpreneur Ambassador
Eleanor is the founder & designer at We Might Be Tiny – a children’s tableware brand with a focus on minimalist and functional design. With a background in digital user experience research and design, she has been working in the corporate sector for the last 20 years. It was during her maternity leave that the ideas started bubbling… and so the brand was born.
We Might Be Tiny is now stocked in over 500 retail stores and 37 countries around the world, and has won several design awards including the UK’s Junior Design Award in 2017 and 2018. Eleanor was also awarded Bronze in the Ausmumpreneur’s Global Brand Award in 2018.
Eleanor loves travelling and once lived in rural China, teaching conversational English to middle school students.