International Women’s Day on March 08 will have the spotlight firmly focussed on Australian women in exports and their continued success on the international stage.
Kim Peirce, Founder and Director of Babe Australia, is among a growing band of mumpreneurs who have found fame and fortune by growing their business overseas.
A few years ago, Kim made a huge career change – moving from a management consultant in the oil, gas and mining industry – to starting up her own beauty care and product business.
“I was turning 40, I was in corporate and it was going to be now or never. I had always wanted to do my own thing and made the decision to make that change,” says Kim.
Quitting her corporate job, and with the support of her family, Kim started four businesses – two in the tech space and two in personal care/wellness products.
“The beauty products stuck and the tech sucked,” she says.
“Babe was born out of a love for fragrance and essential oils, which I’d had since I was really young.
“The path is not too different, I guess, from mineral processing in a way. And essentially businesses are all the same, it’s about running cash and managing everything within an inch of its life like a project and not leaving anything to chance.”
Manufacturing her beauty products started off simple – at the kitchen bench at her home in Victoria.
Having undertaken a cosmetic and chemistry course to ensure she knew what she was doing, Kim launched a range of basic products that she could manage.
“We became so busy that I corralled in the family and had my mum, children and husband helping out. We had to continue doing that even when the orders starting coming in until we found a manufacturer that would give us a go.”
In the beauty industry developing a brand that stands out is critical, she says.
“Our brand was one of the advantages because it was a little cheeky with very clean white packaging that looked different to other products out there.”
Strong relationships with customers and buyers
Kim stresses that their success has also come from building strong relationships with Babe’s customers and buyers.
“We talk to our customers and treat them as friends and part of the family. We’re the ones answering the emails. We’re like that with all of our buyers as well, and I think that’s been one of the biggest drivers of success for us with our export business.”
Export was always part of the equation for the business. With a limited market in Australia, Kim knew that overseas markets would factor into her business success.
With a strong Instagram presence and word of mouth it wasn’t long after launch that Babe was able to secure its first export contract with large US department store Urban Outfitters.
“Once you start partnering with brands like the Urban Group a lot of people pay attention and inspire other people to get in touch as well,” said Kim.
Focus on US market
The business invested heavily in getting into the US market due to the export growth opportunities, including attending major tradeshows.
“We saw that the US market was resonating strongly with our product. It was the cheekiness, the freshness, the realness and the simplicity of the product, as well as being a natural and cruelty free brand, meant the US girls love that.
“We now have core relationships with Bloomingdales and are one of the only Australian candles they stock, and we have a great relationship with Nordstrom.”
Today, exports make up around 70 per cent of Babe revenue, with further growth in the business outlook.
Securing two ongoing orders from two large US stores and having received a significant purchase order from Mexico, Babe needed working capital to help with product production and delivery, and the continuing strong push to build the brand in existing and new markets.
Finding finance to grow the business
To grow the business Babe applied for an Efic Small Business Export Loan, an online loan process that provides funding from $20,000 up to $350,000 in as little as 9 business days.
For small businesses, being able to access cash before you need to deliver on a purchase order means you have the financial support needed to deliver on your contract and continue to run and grow your business.
“I loved the online application process. I was amazed at the ease of it. At that time it was really helpful to help with the reality of long payment terms in our industry. I’m really glad that we’ve learned about Efic,” said Kim.
Kim’s biggest piece of advice for small businesses is to just go for it. “Don’t procrastinate, with any part of your business. Just go for it!”
Europe the next target for Babe
Still running a lean business, Kim says Europe is on the horizon for the business with key department stores in Italy and France keen to get the Babe Scrub products on their shelves.
Kim is one of many women in exports supported by Efic.
Through its loans, guarantees & bonds, Efic has have helped many Australian women exporters take advantage of new contract opportunities that may otherwise have been out of reach.
The specialist financier is also a strong supporter of International Women’s Day (IWD) – held on March 8 each year.
IWD is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.