Kamilah Wong, founder of Little Bup Bup, spoke to Wandsworth Enterprise Hub about how they found a gap in the baby market and created a one-stop shop for baby products.
Where in the borough do you live?
Describe your business in one sentence?
An online maternity, postpartum and baby retailer.
When did you launch and who is behind it?
March 2020 by me Kamilah Wong
When did your ‘lightbulb happen’?
I think this was a couple of months after I started the business. I actually thought my business would be centred around me inventing something for new babies. But while doing the research I felt like I was having to skip from website to website to find those gaps in the baby market.
There wasn’t one place that really stocked everything for a baby’s needs. Boots carry baby toiletries, there are so many different baby clothes stores, but they don’t carry the toiletries – and Mothercare folded a couple of years ago.
What did you do prior to starting your business?
I worked as a Java programmer developing software for investment banks.
What inspired you to launch the business when you did?
In June 2019 was made redundant by the investment bank I had worked with for more than 10 years. I had no idea what I was going to do for work and soon realised that I had become institutionalised. I was a pretty good Java developer, but had worked on the same product, with the same team, for over a decade. The thought of having to go through the demoralising interview process, prove myself and be the new girl again was just too scary.
I’d toyed with the idea of starting my own business for some time, but the institutionalised part of my brain kept me sitting at the same comfy desk, taking home my comfy paycheck. But I had to choose my next move. So, my business wasn’t born out of passion but out of fear. I asked myself what was the worst that could happen… and on 20th March 2020 Little Bup Bup Ltd was born! Three days later, the country went into lockdown.
What type of support have you received since starting your business?
To get me started I received a Start-up loan which helped me to buy my initial stock. After that I found out about the NEA government scheme, where I was connected with a mentor to help guide me the ups and downs of running a business. I wasn’t eligible for the financial help they offered, but the advice my mentor has given me has been invaluable. They also gave me access to a number of training courses which has really helped me in the marketing and social media area.
What would you say were three of the most challenging aspects of setting up the business?
- How to approach people to ask for their services. I had never worked in a position where I had to go out and ask for services (suppliers, marketers etc), or even try and sell something. As a developer you don’t have much contact with the client – my closest service provider was my computer! You build up such an insecurity about talking to other humans for the fear of sounding stupid.
- Knowing which products your clients want. As a mother I know what I needed when I was having a baby. But the latest must-haves and medical advice changes over the years. You need to learn it all over again and constantly stay informed. When I had my son the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended you breastfeed up to 6 months. Now they say it’s up to 2 years and beyond?
- Convincing other businesses to work with you. As a new business you’re likely to have very little social media presence and hardly any experience, so you need to know what can you offer other businesses, so that they want to work with you. You soon learn that the skill of selling is not just about trading products online. It’s also about selling yourself to other service providers you may want to work with and convincing them that working with you is going to be beneficial for them too.
What happened to your business during the lockdown?
The business started in lockdown so we’ve have never known anything else. I think we have been fighting the perfect storm from day one, with Covid, Brexit, fuel shortages, it’s been one problem after the other. But I would rather experience all these things now as opposed to later on. We had delays in shipping because courier companies were so overwhelmed and our supplies were stuck at ports for weeks. Lately we’ve had to navigate price rises without impacting our customers. I try to see every problem as a lesson…
What business lessons have you learned from Covid?
Mental health trumps all, be patient and considerate with your co-workers.
If you had the opportunity to do it all again, what would you do differently?
Don’t buy hundreds of boxes of nappy cream that only have a year left before it expires just because they’re cheaper. You’ll just be left with tons of items gathering dust in the warehouse.
What three tips would you offer to aspiring entrepreneurs?
- Don’t be scared! If you want to do something just go for it.
- Do not let the thought that you may not be good enough hold you back. Not everyone will believe in your dream, but that’s okay – as long as you do, go along with the vision and drive to make it work. Don’t be concerned with the naysayers.
- Help is out there – you just need to go and find it. The government and your local council are crying out to help new businesses and there are so many free courses. Learn as much as possible and soak up all the information given.
Tell us about your latest venture
We are currently working on a new Little Bup Bup clothing range for babies. Babies grow so fast and there are always essentials they will need in the first couple of years. Baby grows, vests, sleepsuits, muslin squares etc. We are working on developing a range that will be soft, comfortable, while still being great quality and most importantly affordable.
Finish this sentence. I like being based in Wandsworth because…
We genuinely have a great community who are supporting local businesses. Wandsworth Council offers much needed support for anyone wanting to start out on their own. They definitely were the crutch that I needed when moving from an idea written in my notebook, to a viable fully fledged company.
How can people find you?