For Kim Peirce, Founder and Director of Babe Australia, the move from being a management consultant in the oil, gas and mining industry to starting up her own beauty care and product business was a natural progression.
“I was turning 40, I was in corporate and it was going to be now or never. I had always wanted to do my own thing and made the decision to make that change,” said Kim.
Quitting her corporate job, and with the support of her family, Kim started four businesses – two in the tech space and two in personal care/wellness products.
“The beauty products stuck and the tech sucked,” said Kim.
“Babe was born out of a love for fragrance and essential oils, which I’d had since I was really young. The path is not too different, I guess, from mineral processing in a way. And essentially businesses are all the same, it’s about running cash and managing everything within an inch of its life like a project and not leaving anything to chance,” said Kim.
Manufacturing her beauty products started off simple – at the kitchen bench. Having undertaken a cosmetic and chemistry course to ensure she knew what she was doing, Kim launched a range of basic products that she could manage.
“We became so busy that I corralled in the family and had my mum, children and husband helping out. We had to continue doing that even when the orders starting coming in until we found a manufacturer that would give us a go.”
Kim says one of the biggest challenges she faced at the beginning was getting an Australian manufacturer to work with the business.
“In the end facing this challenge was the biggest stroke of luck we’d had as a business because the manufacturer we finally found has been more of a mentor to me than just a service provider,” said Kim.
Standing out from the crowd
In the beauty industry developing a brand that stands out is critical, say Kim. “Our brand was one of the advantages because it was a little cheeky with very clean white packaging that looked different to other products out there.”
Kim stresses that their success has also come from building strong relationships with Babe’s customers and buyers, “We get back to our customers really quickly, if ever there is a problem with anything we address it straightaway. We talk to our customers, and treat them as friends and part of the family. We’re the ones answering the emails. We’re like that with all of our buyers as well, and I think that’s been one of the biggest drivers of success for us with our export business. We’re real people and we’re really open.”
Export was always part of the equation for the business. With a limited market in Australia, Kim knew that overseas markets would factor into her business success.
With a strong Instagram presence and word of mouth it wasn’t long after launch that Babe was able to secure its first export contract with large US department store Urban Outfitters.
“Once you start partnering with brands like the Urban Group a lot of people pay attention and inspire other people to get in touch as well,” said Kim.
The business invested heavily in getting into the US market due to the export growth opportunities, including attending major tradeshows.
“We saw that the US market was resonating strongly with our product. It was the cheekiness, the freshness, the realness and the simplicity of the product, as well as being a natural and cruelty free brand, meant the US girls love that.
“We now have core relationships with Bloomingdales and are one of the only Australian candles they stock, and we have a great relationship with Nordstrom.”
Support for export growth
Today exports make up around 70 per cent of Babe revenue, with further growth in the business outlook.
Securing two ongoing orders from two large US stores and having received a significant purchase order from Mexico, Babe needed working capital to help with product production and delivery, and the continuing strong push to build the brand in existing and new markets.
“We have the most sensational EMDG consultant who we were talking to about our cashflow challenge. He said you’ve got all these purchase orders in the system, loan against them. And I didn’t even know you can do this! He said that Efic can help and made an introduction.”
Babe applied for an Efic Small Business Export Loan, an online loan process that provides funding from $20,000 up to $350,000 in as little as 9 business days. For small businesses, being able to access cash before you need to deliver on a purchase order means you have the financial support needed to deliver on your contract and continue to run and grow your business.
“I loved the online application process. I was amazed at the ease of it. At that time it was really helpful to help with the reality of long payment terms in our industry. I’m really glad that we’ve learned about Efic,” said Kim.
Going for it!
Kim’s biggest piece of advice for small businesses is to just go for it. “Don’t procrastinate, with any part of your business. Just go for it!”
Still running a lean business, Kim says Europe is on the horizon for the business with key department stores in Italy and France keen to get the Babe Scrub products on their shelves. “Our reinvestment into the business is focused on our existing markets but Europe is definitely in the pipeline.