Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hi, I’m Emma Lovell mum of two small children and founder of CoziGo - Sleep on the Go. I’m originally from England and live in Sydney Australia.
My lightbulb moment was the outcome of flying and using an in-flight bassinet with a very distracted and overtired baby. My solution to help babies sleep as well as they do at home whilst out and about is called CoziGo. It’s a pop-up sleep & sun cover that fits all strollers on the market as well as airline cots, moses baskets, and car seats. CoziGo is lightweight, protects from the harsh sun (UVP50+), fully breathable and protects your bundle from surrounding germs. It’s been heralded as “The Miracle Cover” for mums that value their babies all-important sleep routine whilst maintaining a healthy outdoor lifestyle.
I appeared on the Australian version of Shark Tank and won over investor Janine Allis from Boost Juice. This helped launch CoziGo into the Australian market and I now have my eyes set on bringing CoziGo to the US market.
My mission is to ensure that outings and travel with a baby or toddler enhance peace for families all over the world. I know first hand that a sleeping baby is a happy baby and that when a baby sleeps, parents are relaxed and happy too!
Since launching, we have sold thousands of CoziGo’s all over the world and have won many awards and accolades in areas such as innovation, best buy for baby, start-up, and wholesaler of the year.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
Five years ago, my mum was diagnosed with cancer and given just nine months to live. My baby girl was just five months old at the time, and I made the difficult decision to relocate to the UK to help care for my mum during her final year.
I left my husband behind, so during that time, we flew back and forth from Sydney to London four times in 9 months. Flying with a baby is difficult and I was no exception. The airline bassinets are in the main thoroughfare of the plane and there’s so much going on. This over-stimulates your baby and makes it near to impossible to get them to sleep when they need to – which in turn it leads to overtiredness and this is the worst problem to fix.
Lesson learned – even if you’re using an agent and they say they’ll carry out Quality Control….external, independent Quality Control is an absolute must.
I found myself rigging up all kinds of sheets and tape to cover my daughter but none of them were effective. I looked everywhere on the market for something that might help but found nothing. Months after my mum passed away, I found myself still thinking about the fact that there was nothing out there to help traveling with babies easier. With a little encouragement from my husband, I set about designing something and that’s when Fly Babee (later rebranded to CoziGo) was born.
It took a lot of positive self-talk to get the idea up and running. I am originally a high school teacher so I have no design, retail, manufacturing or warehousing experience. I was a busy mum with very little time and was convinced my nearest and dearest would think I’m crazy. (Actually, I’m pretty sure of that one). Once I start something though, there’s no stopping me.
Describe the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing the product.
The initial prototype of CoziGo would make you laugh.
I asked my hubby to make a box the size of an average airline bassinet. Then I went to a hardware store… the prototype was made up of plumbers tubing, black fabric, and double sided sticky tape as I can’t sew to save myself.
It was the ugliest thing ever, but it gave me something to photograph so I could start liaising with potential manufacturers. The first manufactured prototype was 80% there the first time…. It took a further 18 months to nail the other 20%!
In business, it’s not the mistakes you make that are important – it’s how you fix them and learn from them that’s the most imperative thing!
So I finally get a prototype I’m happy with so I was confident to order 1000 units as my first shipment. My business almost fell over before I sold a single unit! Can you imagine the excitement of taking delivery of your first shipment FINALLY arriving in Australia, only to find that 90% of them were completely unfit for sale.
Eighty percent of the units were twisted and the incorrect shape and the quality of workmanship was nowhere near that of the samples that had been previously made for me. The factory refused to take them back and said it was our problem! That cost my business $25,000 and the most heartbreaking thing was having to pay $1000 to have them taken away to be shredded and put into the landfill!
I could have given up that day and cut my losses – I thought about it, but somehow, I found the strength to dust myself off and start again! Lesson learned – even if you’re using an agent and they say they’ll carry out Quality Control….external, independent Quality Control is an absolute must. You can’t rely on your factory doing it for you. In business, it’s not the mistakes you make that are important – it’s how you fix them and learn from them that’s the most imperative thing!
Once I stopped crying over that, I set about finding an alternative manufacturer and started the whole process again. I made the unusual decision to stay with the same agent - I felt like his experience should have protected me from these issues, but he took responsibility and agreed to forgo commissions on a number of future orders so we could move forward.
This time, it was somewhat easier as we had a prototype that we were happy with and simply needed to find a factory that was confident they could make them. New molds had to be paid for, but I knew the right questions to ask this time around and we kept moving forward.
Describe the process of launching the online store/business.
I initially decided to self-fund the start-up however, I had underestimated how much money I would need.
Costs such as website design, product development, patent applications, trademarks, and design registrations were all mounting and I was aware that a “build it, they will come” attitude would not be enough so it was essential to earmark funds to market the product once we were ready.
It was just before our planned launch that I secured a coveted position on Shark Tank Australia. Here I secured funding in exchange for 35% of my business which allowed me to launch the product successfully. I’m very proud to say that I was able to buy out my investor 18 months later and I now hold a 100% stake in the business.
When we pressed GO on a new website, it was absolutely nerve-wracking - you have no idea if people are going to want to buy your product and you are literally laying your heart on the line.
The sales slowly started coming in and I would celebrate every single one of them. We are on the Shopify platform and that makes it really easy to see what’s working and where your sales are coming from.
At the same time, we were building our social media followings and working out our targeted ads. We also worked very strategically with a PR consultant - this had us in all magazines and websites as the “what’s hot” product and we also positioned me as a “Travelling with babies and kids” expert to allow me to get the brand new out there without paying lots of money for marketing.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
We only have one product to sell right now so marketing for us it’s all about constantly winning new customers….
Once we’ve won them, they have no reason to come back and I’m aware that this is the most expensive type of marketing! It’s important for us to start working on a new product that will keep our hard earned customers coming back.
When you bring a new product to the market, people don’t necessarily know that they need what you are offering.
You are sometimes fixing a problem they don’t even realize they are going to have. We knew it was very important to ensure we had lots of visual footage of CoziGo working for families so they can see how it will help change their parenting journey.
So, our first step is to spell out the problem(s) that we’re fixing -- is your baby not sleeping well? Are you planning to fly with a baby? Are you worried about protecting your baby from the sun whilst out and about.
CoziGo has many uses, which means we have a multitude of messages and different groups to target. Our customers are not only those flying with babies, but any parent that owns a stroller, values their babies sleep routine and enjoy getting out and about.
The rise of the internet, social media and youtube channels really helps us pump out our videos and pictures to really show potential customers how CoziGo can help change their life for the better.
We realize that positive word of mouth is invaluable so, at every stage of contact with our customers, we encourage them to share their thoughts on CoziGo with us and their friends. We ask for photographs that we then use in our marketing and occasionally run photographic competitions where best photos win prizes. It gives us so much new content and we have so much fun doing it.
Facebook & Instagram
For now, we generate lots of content on Facebook and Instagram. We gather lots of testimonials and encourage our customers to sing our praises which helps with word of mouth.
We have a solid retargeting campaign that tailors messages for parents that travel with children.
We have had a lot of success with our Referral Program. Word of mouth is so valuable - happy customers will shout from the rooftops about your product if they love what you’ve done. So why not reward them?
We use a program called Referral Candy where our existing customers get cold hard cash paid directly into their Paypal account for every referral purchase they’re responsible for. Their friends get a discount on the product so everyone is a winner.
A word of warning - make sure you have enough margin in your product to allow for this. The discount, the cash and then the percentage to the referral program can add up to a big cost of sale!
We have had a lot of success using Travel Bloggers with large followers reviewing CoziGo and not so much success with celebrity seeding. (Apparently, you need to kiss a lot of frogs before you get your queen blogging about you!)
The first step in getting bloggers to mention you is to research who’s out there. Start a spreadsheet and start collecting relevant information. We get sooooo many “bloggers” asking for free product in return for a blog, but you must be careful to qualify them as a valuable blogger for you. There are a lot of freeloaders out there that will not give you return for your investment. Once you’ve found out who blogs in your industry, do some research as to how many followers they have and how active/loyal those followers are.
Once you’ve identified who you want to work with, make sure you’re very clear about what your expectations are. We have developed a framework that we send to our partners to ensure that our key points are covered. If they’re professionals and proud about their work, they will want to make sure they deliver a quality blog that benefits both parties.
We spent A LOT of money on dodgy SEO experts - those reading this and considering using an agency… please make sure you do your research and get recommendations. There are a lot of horror stories surrounding this industry.
We use a third party that helps us with Google Adwords and this is slowly building which is nice.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
At the beginning we were bleeding cash on Trademarks, Patents, rebrands, packaging etc. so it was hard to see how we would ever become profitable. However, by midway through year two we started to become profitable as a business. I invest a lot of it back into the business and take a modest income.
We launched the business in 2015 - we had a 250% increase in sales in 2016 followed by an increase of 420% increase in 2017. Our gross profit margin sits at a healthy 57% with a net profit margin of 25%.
Through consistent effort we continue to see our social media following grow on both Facebook and Instagram and our biggest win was being able to reduce our production cost by 30% without compromising on quality at all - this finally made the distribution model possible as before this, we would have to sell to a distributor at below cost - which is of course, pointless!
We have done really well getting into the major retailers here in Australia and I have really enjoyed building these relationships. Our main focus now is to go global. Our most recent distributor to come on board is the United Kingdom. My next focus is to find a distribution partner for the United States and Canada - feel free to contact me with suggestions :-)
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
I have had so many challenges with this business and I think each challenge and mistake leads to an advantage!!
As mentioned earlier, my first production of stock ended up in the landfill and cost me $25k. This almost ended the business before it began – I now ensure this will never happen again by paying for independent Quality Control and flying to China to keep my factory honest.
I then suffered formal bans of my product from major airlines. This only came after I gained confidence in sales and ramped up production, so my exposure was huge. This was overcome with hundreds of hours of research trying to find the right contacts, going through appeals and meetings all around the world to get the airlines to simply take the time to assess CoziGo for use. Once this is achieved, no airline has failed CoziGo on its assessment.
Then we had another huge challenge of rolling out our rebrand – the name Fly Babee which I originally launched on National TV via Shark Tank infringed a US trademark preventing me from launching properly in the USA. This was despite paying a Trademark Lawyer in the early days to do worldwide trademark searches.
Whilst the decision to rebrand undoubtedly held my business back to a degree by losing SEO content, backlinks and much of the brand positioning that was created by our appearance on Shark Tank – I have no doubt that the rebrand has been a great success.
The biggest challenge this year has been coming back to my WHY – the reason I started this business was to provide a good work/life balance for me and for my family! Somehow, the business started to eat away at all of that. We realize that the business can only survive if it survives alongside a thriving, happy family and it’s essential to work out that balance.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Shopify - hands down, this is the easiest platform for a product based business to help launch a beautifully curated website with an easy to use back end.
Mailchimp - I use MailChimp to communicate with our existing and potential customers. It can get expensive as your list builds but it’s an invaluable tool for marketing automation and used properly increases your bottom line.
Referral Candy- I use Referral Candy as our referral program for our customers and brand ambassadors. It’s awesome to help spread the CoziGo word and helps people tell your story to potential customers.
Yotpo - I use Yotpo as my review platform - it’s essential for social proof.
Xero - Having used MYOB in previous jobs, I love how easy Xero is to keep across my business and know exactly where we are on a financial level. It easily integrates with the Shopify platform and my banking system.
NP Fulfilment - I wanted to get the stock out of my garage as soon as I possibly could. I found a fulfillment center invaluable and very cost effective to get everything automated when the orders come rolling in.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Mmm, am I allowed to say that I haven’t ever listened to any podcasts and I don’t read business books. I’m more likely to thoroughly be researching whatever it is I’m trying to learn that day/week/month!
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
- Be brave and go for it, but do it with your eyes wide open.
- Set yourself a time limit and be prepared to double it.
- Set yourself a budget and be prepared to triple it!
- Stick to what you’re good at and outsource the rest as soon as you can afford it. It’s a false economy to constantly work in your business at the expense of working on your business.
- Do your research and make calculated risks – but rest assured, no matter how careful you are… you will have hiccups. They are totally unavoidable, and if you have none, you’re probably being too conservative to be a true entrepreneur!
- Be kind to yourself - to be a successful entrepreneur you need a lot of patience, focus, tenacity and a huge amount of belief in yourself.
- End every day with a to-do list so you can stop work and enjoy other things without a cluttered mind.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We are not currently hiring out any full-time positions but are looking for brand ambassadors to help us launch within the US market. Interested parties should email [email protected]
Where can we go to learn more?
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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