Becoming a dad inspired me to start my own business.
So now I’m a dadpreneur!
This time of my life is like no other and if having children was not enough, I took the opportunity to take the plunge into a start-up. I have become my own boss and one of the biggest incentives for me was to allow me to spend more time with my own kids and see them grow up.
Business gurus will always tell you – plan, plan, and plan. However, I will be honest, if I had planned properly, I would probably not have gone ahead with my business. Lots of the costs are foreseeable and can be budgeted for, but a lot of costs just did not even cross my radar.
My biggest cost has been time.
I totally underestimated how long it takes to start and build a business. I was convinced that everyone would share my enthusiasm for my brilliant toy idea. I assumed that retailers would flock to me and that sales would take care of themselves. I did not grasp the time it would take to develop my first toys, nor how to market them and certainly not how long it would take to get paid by my customers.
I did not grasp the time it would take to develop my first toys, nor how to market them and certainly not how long it would take to get paid by my customers.
In my case I make toys, so I had to make time to design and develop the early prototypes. I remember I was dealing with a factory in China, so I was able to speak to the factory early before I left the house for my day job. It took just over a year for me to design and develop the first batch of toys, in time for one of the UKs biggest baby trade shows.
Then when I launched at the trade show, I remember the advice of an experienced hand in the industry. He told me that I had a great product but he warned me not to expect overnight success. He continued – retailers will come to the show, and in the first year they spot your toys. In the second year, they check you are still in business and in the third year, they might place an order! Despite this excellent advice, I doggedly went on.
He told me that I had a great product but he warned me not to expect overnight success. He continued – retailers will come to the show, and in the first year they spot your toys. In the second year, they check you are still in business and in the third year, they might place an order! Despite this excellent advice, I doggedly went on.
I am a Stay-At-Home-Dad and so the next unforeseen expense I wish to flag up is childcare.
Yes, I work from home and for much of the time, my toddler is kicking around so actual work time comes at a premium. I feel that I work in three-minute intervals as after three minutes, because after three minutes my son will want my attention. The easy option is to turn on the iPad or TV, but like many parents, I try to limit screen time.
Of course, there are days when I need to go to meetings or that I just need time to myself so that I can sort out the accounts, so my wife and I pay for child care.
At the moment, my son goes to childcare on a Wednesday only. We drop him off early and we pick him up late, and in between drop off and pick up, I try to do as much work as I can. When we started the business, my wife and I agreed that the children would go to day nursery for three days a week, but as time ticked by and we realised that the business would take longer to get off the ground than expected, we cut this back to one day a week.
I still find it incredibly hard to accept that child care costs are a business expense and I understand this is the same issue that any working family. It just seems cruel to measure how I choose to raise my children in terms of business expenses. However, for a start-up business, I now recognise that I am making a commercial decision whether to spend money on my business or on my child. For this reason, every time I pay for child care, it is a reminder that I have to make my business a success.
The third cost that I want to flag up is the cost of growth.
When I started with Little Sport Star four years ago, I sat down with my wife and discussed my entrepreneurial ambitions. I made some bold assumptions that I would get my toys into some pretty big department stores with rates of sales that would give us a nice little income. Except, it didn’t quite work like that because I totally underestimated the cost of growth.
I have learnt that growing a business costs money, more than starting a business. Ideally, growth doesn’t stop so funding growth is a constant challenge and it seems that each stage of growth is more expensive than the last. It’s a bit like raising children. We start off with little babies and the cost of buggies and cots seems extortionate, but as these little ones grow into little people, the costs keep on coming, right up until they get to University!
So in the case of Little Sport Star, I started with four toys, and when I tasted success with those, I decided to expand the range, new toys. Not only was it expensive to develop the new toys, I had to manufacture much greater quantities than I was really comfortable with, I had to ensure that all the toys met the highest quality standards and I also had to ship the toys in a bigger container to the UK and then find a bigger warehouses to store them in. It is a nice dilemma but it is quite scary. At every stage of the business, I could feel yourself getting sucked in more and more.
So, there you have it. Plan your business, but expect the unexpected. For me, I totally missed the cost of time, childcare, and growth. As a start-up business, I appreciate you have to be flexible and I would like to think that we have found financial solutions for each problem. That’s maybe just parenthood, it’s a financial struggle, full of unexpected costs but we somehow make it through.
If you have any questions about this article or being a dadpreneur, do not hesitate to contact me. I would love to hear your stories too. Next time, I am going to talk about breaking into the US toy market.