This week’s Ambassador Feature is with Elisa Reeves, ONE.CHEW.TREE
2017 Gold Winner of AusMumpreneur Handmade Business category
Tell us about yourself and your business?
I’m a mum of 2 crazy boys and found my business stride with ONE.CHEW.THREE while I was on maternity leave in 2016. My career background is marketing and like most new mums, I struggled to find that balance between a fulfilling career and being a hands-on mum to my two boys. We live on the beautiful Sunshine Coast and I run ONE.CHEW.THREE from our new commercial premises we have just leased from January this year! It was a big step but one that I’m loving with the small commute to work and a dedicated place for the biz. It’s also quite refreshing to have our house back – which was slowly being overrun with silicone beads. We finished 2017 with over 220 stockist and are getting close to 10,000 retail orders, which we are totally amazed by.
What was your inspiration for your business?
I fell in love with silicone jewellery when I was nursing my own little boy, as I loved the way it helped his distracted feeds and occupied him when we were out and about. I struggled to find the designs I really loved, and being on maternity leave at the time, thought it would be great to start a business and get my brain back into career mode – I was a marketing manager so online retail was the perfect fit for me. To say I found a niche and something I truly loved to do is an understatement! I’ve since given up the corporate career and now focus on ONE.CHEW.THREE full time, with the help from one casual staff member (and my mum!).
Did you have any experience in running a business or in this industry before?
NO! I’d spend over 15 years in corporate marketing, mostly in education, so I certainly had the marketing behind me but I am completely new to business, manufacturing and retail! It’s been quite a ride and I have learned so much about business and myself these passed two years. I never imaged I’d quit my career to focus on this full time, but I just find the drive and passion you get from running your own business is second to none. There’s a lot of challenges along the way, but I find the mumpreneur networks so supportive and there are always people to reach out to for information and advice. I also work with a business coach to ensure we keep moving the business forward.
What’s your point of difference that makes your business special or unique?
I think our uniqueness is our uniqueness – we really focus on offering something similar business don’t and have a strong vision of where we’ll take our product range. We also specialise in personalisation and we were the founding business offering laser engraving on our teethers. This was a huge point of difference for us and while many have followed suite, we are continuing to develop our range and products to be a step ahead. It’s a frustration of small business but also one that motivates and challenges us to continue to evolve.
What have you learnt about yourself since becoming an entrepreneur?
For me, I think I’ve learned a lot about my drive and dedication to balance everything. Between the business and family, there really isn’t too much time to spare so making the most of every minute is so important. Small business really is demanding and sometimes the to-do list seems impossible. I’ve learned to really focus on prioritising what needs to be done rather than trying to do it all. It’s true that in your own business, there is always something that CAN be done but at some stage, you have to take a breather and focus on life and family too. Personally, it also keeps me on track to prioritise the time I do dedicate to the boys. I think with the visual age of social media, it’s easy to compare yourself and your life to seemingly perfect families and while I don’t spend as much time as I’d like to chilling as a family, I know we’re doing the best we can for us.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced and how have you overcome them?
My biggest challenge has always been time – and I know almost all mumpreneurs would totally back that! I don’t have previous small business experience and to be honest, I don’t think I realised the amount of time that went in behind the scenes to run a successful one. So between trying to manage all of the admin, production of a mostly handmade product line and shipping orders out to customers while juggling being a mum of two little boys – just turned 5 and 2 – it’s hectic to say the least. And we’ve just thrown primary school and those extra short days into the mix this year too! I definitely don’t have the answers for this one yet!
What lessons have your business taught you about life?
Do the best you can with what you have – and prioritise what’s most important! It’s not always easy to live by, especially those days when everything feels like it’s the most important thing that needs to be done. But in business I always focus on fulfilling customer orders as I feel like once that order is placed, that’s the most important thing I need to do. The rest needs to be done, but I can manage when and how we get to that. I think personally, this also applies to setting realistic expectations based your own circumstances. I look at other successful business women with young kids and often wonder how they dedicate equal time to family and business when it seems a constant struggle for us, but the truth is we have no idea what’s going on in their life. Sometimes I feel like I suck at being a mum and sometimes I feel like I suck as running a business, but that’s OK. I make the best decision I can at the time for our family and that’s the best any of us can do.
If you could go back to when you were starting your business and give your younger self some advice what would you tell her?
Gosh! I often wonder if I knew what I was in for, whether I would do it again (of course I would)! My advice would probably be to do the research first and plan, plan, plan. In the early days, I was very much an ‘all-in / cross each bridge as I came to it’ kinda person. There was, and still is, a lot I didn’t know about small business and while it’s worked out in the long run for me, sometimes I wish I could slow everything down and take some time to get better prepared. Despite my best intentions, I still don’t have any formal, written business plans although I do a lot of planning that just stays in my head. I’m also a huge advocate for calling in the professionals when needed – I suck at finance and accounts and while I do have professional help now, I wish I had of started that sooner. It also gives me time to focus on what I’m best at – like marketing to grow the business.
What’s next for your business?
2018 is very much a time for us to grow our brand identity and customer base – in both wholesale and retail. Last year we were committed to new products and while we will continue to innovate and introduce new products and ideas, it won’t be to the same extent as I am really happy with our offering now. We hope to spend a little more time getting to know our customers and what they want, so we can continue to evolve the business in line with customer’s need. We’ve always wanted to be a recognised brand in boutique teethers in Australia, so we’ll be chasing that title!
If you could change the world, and money was no object, what would you do?
The one thing that really hits a nerve with me as a mum is sickness in children and the struggles of families going through any experience like that – it really is something I cannot even begin to fathom or comprehend how I’d deal with it emotionally and physically, or the toll it would take on the family. We try to support as many causes as we can that supports families dealing with hardship so in lieu of being able to get rid of sickness all together, I’d love to be able to provide unlimited financial and emotional support for families to access things like counselling, financial assistance for bills and help with basic house cleaning, gardening, etc. Anything that provides the best possible opportunity to focus on their child and their health.
To learn more about Elisa and ONE.CHEW.THREE , please visit