This is a follow up story for Go Mama. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published over 1 year ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
Hi I’m Natalie, Mama of 2 and founder of Go Mama! We run a successful e-commerce store selling maternity activewear, accessories, and fitness equipment designed to support women throughout their motherhood journeys.
Since we were last here on Starter Story we have more than doubled our monthly revenue and our e-commerce traffic is in the top 6% of stores that launched at the same time as us.
Tell us about what you’ve been up to. Has the business been growing?
Since our last story, we have continued to grow and invest more time into the business as we slowly transition from a side hustle to a more full-time business (although we probably all know a side hustle can be a full-time investment anyway!).
In February 2022, the agency created several Google Ads for Go Mama and the results have been instant and our most effective form of marketing to date.
Over the last 12 months, we have experienced several Covid-19 lockdowns (one lasting 4 months) so I was able to spend more time at home working on Go Mama. As a home-based business, I find Go Mama is family-friendly and much easier to fit around our young children than working from home with my full-time job in the Royal New Zealand Air Force without a support network.
In terms of sales growth, we have seen a steady increase with two noticeable trends.
#1: Identifying Best Sellers
We can now identify several core products (our ‘best-sellers’) that we are guaranteed to sell each week. We tend to rely on these sales for revenue and double down on other products that get less attention to ensure we are continuously shifting all stock.
#2: Return on Google Ads
Secondly, we get a tangible return on our Google Ads investment. As a back story, we were on our Christmas holidays in December 2021 and our Carry Me Belly Bands started taking off. Almost overnight we went from selling 3-4 a month to selling 3-4 a day. I still do not know what the catalyst was for this or where our customers were first seeing this product.
I have never taken a deep dive into our analytics so I approached a marketing agency to help out with how and where our customers were finding us.
The agency recommended setting up Google Ads (which I already had running but didn't know if they were effective or not). We had a limited amount of funding available for this so we started with the agency’s recommended minimum daily spend of $30.
In February 2022 the agency created several Google Ads for Go Mama and the results have been instant and our most effective form of marketing to date.
Over the past 12 months, we have also continued our range expansion with 17 new products added to Go Mama. These products have mostly been items that we had on our wishlist but were not in a financial position to include in our original launch, or items that customers have requested.
One product we are most proud of is our Flow nursing sports crop made from recycled fabric with a custom-designed Paua print unique to Aotearoa New Zealand.
We have also had to slightly modify several of our original products when ordering restocks. These modifications have mostly been a result of trending customer feedback around product features or sizing. We also use customer input to determine new product designs and colors although it is often difficult to identify trends, particularly in colors, because everyone’s taste is so different!
We have also noticed that the platforms we conduct our surveys on (Instagram story polls/questions) are not necessarily our primary customers and although they support our business through social media, statistics suggest customers who find our business through Google are more likely to follow through with an actual purchase.
We also surveyed Survey Monkey on our first anniversary to gauge public opinion of Go Mama and how well we were meeting customer needs.
This went to those who were on our email marketing list so were more likely to be paying customers (although the survey was open to anyone and we advertised this on our social platforms). We also used this as an opportunity to seek ideas and recommendations from our customers.
We have also recently shifted from Mailchimp to Klaviyo for our email marketing and find the new platform a lot more intuitive and user-friendly (even if it did take me a lot longer than it probably should have to figure out how to set it up in the first place!). I love that it links to our Shopify store and that all my automations for engaging with customers are in one place.
We also have created a loyalty rewards program with the Ekoma app that we use to reward customers for leaving reviews with us and for joining us on social platforms. We also have a discount code for those who sign up for our email marketing.
Sometimes I find great success with something the first time and think I've hit the jackpot but find it doesn't work when I try the same approach again. If you don't try you will never know - you have nothing to lose!
As a business whose primary customer is those who are pregnant or breastfeeding, our customer timeline can be reduced. Having said that, we are starting to notice an increase in returning customers and can deduct that:
- Customers have purchased pregnancy products from us and are now purchasing breastfeeding items;
- Customers may be on their next pregnancy journey;
- Introducing new products that are suitable for both pregnant/breastfeeding women and those outside of the maternity stage connects with a wider reach and is appealing to those who may have shopped with us for maternity and now continue to do so even if they are no longer pregnant or breastfeeding;
- Our transition to Klaviyo automations are more effective than Mailchimp;
- Building a business is a marathon and not a sprint! We highly value our customers and are starting to see the results of the relationships we are nurturing.
What have been your biggest challenges in the last year?
One of the biggest challenges from the last year has been the increased cost of shipping. We source the majority of our products from China, and sea freight in the last 12 months has increased more than 300%. Our first shipment of 18 cartons in August 2020 cost $740 and our most recent sea shipment of 24 cartons in September 2021 cost $3100.
We have started to use air freight more frequently because although the rates are higher than sea freight, we can source smaller deliveries more regularly with much, much faster delivery timeframes. We are reluctant to pass the increased costs on to our customers as one of our points of difference is our low price point but there have been several products that we have had to raise our prices which we feel was inevitable but still gutting!
The other main challenge faced was a personal one managing the work/life balance. My husband and I are both employed in the Royal New Zealand Air Force but at the beginning of 2021, my husband was posted unaccompanied to another location from our family’s bona fide address.
I was working full time, our two small children were in childcare all day and my husband was only able to be home on weekends. It was busy and the hustle started to feel like a grind. I was exhausted, I didn't feel like I was getting quality time with my family and I didn't feel like I was doing my best at work either. I was commuting over two hours each day and trying to run Go Mama at the same time. I also wasn't exercising which felt counterintuitive to the whole ethos behind Go Mama. I felt like there weren't enough hours in the day to accomplish everything and something had to give.
I decided to resign from the Royal New Zealand Air Force to focus more time and energy on my family and Go Mama. Although this was a difficult decision after working in the military for 21 years, the relief at lifting the mental load was immediate. I felt guilt and shame for not being able to manage all aspects of my life but now it was the right decision for our family and has allowed me to channel more time and energy into Go Mama.
I am so excited about the unlimited opportunities and directions we can take our small business from here!
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
I have had to be more careful with some of the financial decisions I am making. To date, I have had quite a scattergun approach to channeling expenditure and generally give anything a go, but with nearly 18 months of experience in Go Mama, I am getting more of a feel for what works for us and what doesn't.
For Go Mama, influencer marketing can be effective. We have been able to define success for influencer campaigns either by an increase in Instagram followers or an increase in sales (measured by the timing of the purchase or by the use of a unique discount code). On the flip side, I have invested in influencers and had no returns on them which I just accept and move on from.
I have also tried dabbling more in video content with reels and YouTube videos to showcase products. I find these fun to make but it is still very much a work in progress as I learn the technical side of producing videos and try to follow trends and create entertaining and educating content!
I still have no idea how to ‘work the algorithm’ of Facebook and Instagram so I just try to stay authentic to myself and our brand to attract our target audience. Check out our most popular reel so far (Comfort Zone) and my favorite transition to date (Breastfeeding Zips)!
An area of the progress we have made is through Google Ads. I tried to do this myself without really knowing what I was doing or how best to optimize the tools available. I created an ad but didn't know how to read the analytics to determine if the ad was performing the best it could.
I invested in a Google Ads specialist who built several ads for me and can offer monthly insights in a language I understand. He gives me tips on how to improve the attractiveness of a product and I have noticed a definite increase in sales. Based on particular products sold, the majority of our sales come through Google Ads and I would highly recommend this form of advertising. I felt a bit daunted by the minimum daily cost recommended by the specialist, but I now see returns that far outweigh this.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
We are constantly designing new samples and receiving requests from customers for different products (or new product colors) so we will continue to focus on growing our range and meeting our customers’ needs.
Finishing my full-time role in the Royal New Zealand Air Force in July 2022 will also allow me to commit further to growing Go Mama. We would like to increase our reach and become the preferred brand of maternity activewear in Australasia.
We are also looking to expand our range outside of maternity activewear to other niche activewear ranges but given that we are still nurturing the evolution of Go Mama, this is more of a long-term plan than a short-term goal.
What’s the best thing you read in the last year?
One of the more valuable tools I have been using to develop our social media and marketing is the online training and content provided by Australian-based SociallyEm - an empowering and supportive community of women in business. Their programs have offered tips and tricks for email marketing, launch strategies and content creation, and caption writing.
This has provided business education and helped the social workload. The community of women who are connected through SociallyEm also acts as peers and business mentors in what can be a somewhat lonely position as a small business owner.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
Find inspiration for new ideas on how to grow your business by following business mentoring forums, Instagram accounts, and Facebook business groups. Don't be afraid to ask for help if you find your business plateauing, there are so many support groups out there who are ready and willing to help others.
You may not get much out of them daily, but look for the gems that pop up here and there - you will know if they will work for your business or not. Also track similar businesses to yours, no matter how big or small, to keep up with trends and identify pockets that have not been met by others in the same industry.
Growing the business is still very much a work in progress for us too. The work is continuous, and the marketing never stops. Finding new windows of opportunity is an ongoing process. I tend to say yes to everything and quickly figure out if it works or not.
Sometimes I find great success with something the first time and think I've hit the jackpot but find it doesn't work when I try the same approach again. That’s fine too, it’s all about giving it a go. Why not try everything once? If you don't try you will never know - you have nothing to lose!
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We have just hired our first employee which we are super proud of and excited about! We are a home-based business and our new employee is helping to pack orders which gives me more flexibility, freedom, and time to focus more attention on our family or other Go Mama work instead.
If we were looking to hire additional staff, it would need to be someone who specializes in analytics and statistics - someone who could offer advice on the effectiveness of our marketing strategies, and ways to improve them. I am a rookie when it comes to Google Ads, Email Marketing, and SEO so that will be the areas we will be investing in next.
Where can we go to learn more?
We love interacting so come say hi on our social channels and feel free to give us a follow/like:
- Instagram go_mama_maternity
- Facebook Go Mama Maternity
- Or check our range at Go Mama – Go Mama (gomamamaternity.co.nz)
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below or email us at [email protected]!
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