When Catherine Freemantle said goodbye to a successful accounting career in Melbourne to concentrate on her new role as a farmer’s wife in Central Victoria she never thought that a couple of years down the track she would be running her own web-based business.
Catherine studied Commerce at Melbourne University before spending several years working as an accountant. However, she had already decided this wasn’t her preferred career choice before meeting husband Alastair – online.
“About a year before meeting Alastair, I left accounting to go back to Melbourne Uni – this time as an employee. I worked with Student Administration, and while my role was still financially focused, I got to work the customer service desk, help out during graduations and enrolment times… I really needed the day to day contact with people in a customer service role – I found it incredibly rewarding. The customer service part of Bump, Baby & Beyond is by far my favourite – I love getting a lovely thank you email from a customer who you’ve done that little bit extra for. And I guess I find it really quite easy – you just need to think of how you would like to be treated, of the outcome you would like to see.”
The idea for Bump, Baby and Beyond was born after Catherine, mother to Cameron, 3, and Jack, 1, could not find reasonably priced maternity wear in her rural area.
“Finding anything at all was hard enough, but affordable maternity wear? It just wasn’t happening!” Catherine said.
“It was then that I realised how much I missed city shopping, with it’s access to factory outlets, and warehouse sales. I thought, there has to be a way that people like me can access what they need, more cheaply than what we are now.”
Launched in November 2006, Bump, Baby & Beyond sell affordable and stylish baby wear, children’s wear and maternity wear from well known, quality manufacturers like Ripe Maternity, Ninth Moon, Maternity Plus, Belabumbum and Ka-Boosh. The idea of combining clothes for mums, babies and older kids came from Catherine’s own love of convenience, as well as from her own frustrations with online shopping.
“You find a great site, with the perfect top – but the perfect maternity jeans are on a different site and you’ll need to go to another two for clothes for Master Four and some bodysuits for Miss One – the postage builds up, the convenience factor decreases and sometimes you just can’t be bothered.”
After approaching the manufacturers in whose stock she was interested, Catherine started off with a small amount of stock to sell on eBay.
“I just wanted to give some of the items a try out first – to see what sort of response we might get to the products and their pricing.”
With success came confidence, and now Bump, Baby & Beyond has large amounts of stock on hand at all times.
“That was one of our major selling points with the manufacturers – we had the storage space to be able to take huge quantities, taking it off their hands completely.”
Catherine says the products themselves make the customer service side a lot easier. “We have great quality products. They are priced incredibly well. This really speaks for itself. And it’s working for us… although only just starting out we already have a huge number of return customers.”
With a background in accounting, some of the aspects of business came quite easily – but not all.
“Trying to get a grasp of the various marketing options and how to spend your marketing dollars has been a massive learning curve – and I still have a long, long way to go. And the logistics of inventorying and storing products in an effective, efficient manner were completely new to me – after a bit of trial and error, we have a system that is working really well. There really is an enormous amount of information and support out there for anyone interested in starting a business – I started with our state governments business website and went from there.”
“Alastair is incredibly supportive. Despite the stress of nearly ten years of drought, he is always there to cheer me on, come up with a new idea, discuss one of mine – he really is amazing. I am also lucky enough to have an enormous amount of help from both my parents (who bought a house on land that backs on to our farm) and from Alastair’s mum and dad.”
And meeting online? “We did. Seriously! I was just a bit over the social scene in Melbourne… tried out one of the online dating sites for a bit of a laugh and met this incredible man! These country boys are well worth a go, girls!”
For more information visit www.bumpbabyandbeyond.com.au