The simplest business ideas are the best, which perhaps accounts for the success of Babyccino Kids
. The website was set up by four friends who met in London, although one has since dropped out.
The remaining three are Emilie Walmsley, an animation producer, who now lives in Paris, Courtney Adamo, a US journalist who lives in London, and Esther Van De Paal, an architect, in Amsterdam. All three are mums – Courtney and Esther have three children and are both expecting a fourth and Emilie has two.
The site came about when Esther and Courtney decided to start a blog after Esther moved back to the Netherlands. “It started as a conversation between mothers who wanted to keep in touch. We shared information about parenting, new products and recipes. We didn’t even know what we were doing when we started,” says Courtney.
The blog was not made public for around four months. “We started to tell friends and it went from there,” she adds. “The feedback was great. People enjoyed the different international perspective on parenting.” Americans in particular, who are more into blogging, were interested in a European take on parenting. “They saw it as a cool European thing,” says Courtney.
It got such a following that last year the site, which includes a collection of city guides for parents, launched a shopping portal on its home page. Babyccino Kids had noticed that more and more people were setting up their own businesses selling children’s products. “We felt they needed a platform where people could browse through them to find what they wanted,” says Courtney. “Since our readers are international they can widen their clientele. The shopping portal give them a bigger platform.”
She adds: "We had built up a good reputation and name for ourselves and a brand that people trusted so the shops who signed up had faith in what we do and in the fact that we offered something unique."
The portal, which focuses on boutiques rather than high street stores, launched with 100 shops and now has 275. All the shops stock children’s products and many are run by mothers. Most of the shops approach Babyccino Kids to join. They fill in an online form. Esther and Courtney, who do the everyday work on the site, go through the applications and accept new shops on a weekly basis. Courtney says they are quite selective about who they accept. “We turn down more shops than we accept,” she says. The decision is based on whether their products will appeal to their readership. Shops pay an annual subscription and extra for additional exposure, such as home page and newsletter positions.
Courtney and Esther do a top 10 weekly selection of products and a pick of the day product. They upload two blogs a day. Courtney and Esther do three blogs a week each and write shop profiles. They are also currently administering annual renewal subscriptions. And Courtney edits blog contributions from around the world. They are aided by a very efficient content management system which allows shops to log in and select what they want to purchase, for instance, if they want a home page position. They can upload their own images and see the number of click-throughs they get from the site to their own websites.
Courtney and Esther communicate by Skype. They have Skype connected all day so they can hear what each other is doing. “I can hear Esther typing and opening her front door. She feels so close and I can ask questions immediately. It’s a very efficient way of working. We don’t have to send emails and wait for a reply. We’re very much a team,” says Courtney.
The two work from home from 9.30am-3pm and Esther also squeezes in some architecture projects too. Courtney says she downs tools at 3pm to dedicate time to her children, aged seven, five and three (her three year old goes to nursery three mornings a week and Courtney also has a part-time nanny). She also logs on two nights a week, but keeps the weekends totally free from work.
The shopping portal has allowed the Babyccino creators to draw a small salary each. “Our biggest goal is to grow the readership,” says Courtney, “by growing our influence in the children’s products world.”