Three years ago, I’m sure that Caroline Africh wouldn’t have pictured herself being where she is today. Over the last couple of years, she has transitioned from a fast-paced life as a banker in London to life as a Mumpreneur back in Sydney. But I bet she’s pleased with her journey so far: valuable experience in the corporate world, a gorgeous son and a sensational business idea that will help her fulfill her dream of having a career and being a mum. This is Caroline’s story…
1. Tell us your story:
As a career focused, hardworking 20-something banker in London, I thought nothing of the fact that I was pregnant and worked right up until 40 weeks. Yes, I literally finished a conference call with the CFO of EMEA as I popped into the maternity unit and had my baby. Up until that point, the thought of NOT returning to work was out of the question. Why WOULDN’T I want to go back to my well-paying, highly demanding job at RBS? Surely I could blackberry AND breastfeed simultaneously? How hard could this baby stuff really be?
Well, rumour has it that having a baby is life-changing, and that I can now vouch for. The moment I returned home with a bundle in my arms, the thought of returning to work was NOT an option. It was out of the question. I didn’t want to be away from my baby for even a micro-second.
Time went by and before I knew it, a year had passed. In that space we had moved back to Sydney and I started thinking about returning to work. I had always loved working but the sad reality was I could not fathom returning to banking. That type of career does not cater well to the stay-at-home mum. It was at this point, as I was hanging washing on the line, the idea of Attipas Australia was born. A pair of shoes that I had casually purchased in Japan on a holiday had become the talk of the town. These shoe-socks, as I coined them, were unlike anything on the Australian market. Mothers were particularly in awe of how well my 14 month old was walking in them. I would start importing and selling those very shoes.As a banker in London, I had little knowledge of the retail market aside from fluttering away my hard-earned cash on shoes during lunch time. But my career HAD taught me to be confident, perseverant, and most importantly, had given me that ‘Fake it ‘til you make it’ attitude (a necessity when one is blonde in a male dominated industry). So I bit the bullet and emailed the manufacturer.
Within a day I had a response. No, they did not have an exclusive distributor for Australia as yet, and yes, they were interested in working with me so long as I could meet their buying criteria. A quick call to the bank and a few minor tweaks to some numbers and I was certain we could do it.
Within a week, I had signed the exclusive distribution agreement and we were up. Or so I thought. My to do list was now reading like a mini novel and not even close to the finale. A business plan, a business name, a bank account, shippers, a warehouse, a fulfilment centre. To name but a few. Sheer excitement kept the momentum going but I still had one very demanding one year old to look after. And THAT workload certainly wasn’t lessoning.
Drawing upon my banking experience, I again discovered the key to success is outsourcing. And outsource I did. I outsourced babysitting to family, graphic design work to Pakistan and web development to India. I approached old colleagues to do photo shoots and friends for PR. I even had the local Australia Post team running around for me, knowing I was a local mum with a very small car and yet a very big business idea.
Time went by and I gradually I took the role of a ‘mumpreneur’ into my stride. It has been a hard slog, considering being a mum alone is difficult enough. On average I now work 6-8 hours a day, on top of minding a toddler. But with passion, enthusiasm, and a loving family, I have been able to achieve my dream. Our first batch of functional toddler shoes are now available online via (www.attipas.com.au).
I now wake up in the morning and am driven by passion, rather than caffeine, blackberry messenger and a daily rate. Life is good.
2. How did you identify the goals you wanted to achieve?
My true goals are still a work in progress, however from the beginning I knew that I wanted my business to be a success. Success can be measured in many ways and is different for every person. As a ‘mumpreneuer’, success is measured by the ability to run a profitable, long-lasting business, as well as finding a balance with my family life.
3. How did you work towards achieving your goal – did you have a plan and a deadline to achieve your goals?
I didn’t have a plan per say; just an idea in my mind. I am still working towards achieving profitability (though having been operating only 6 months, our figures show we are on the right track). In terms of maintaining a balanced work and family life, this is something I am still working on but can definitely say that time with my son is never jeopardised, and it is only my personal time that gives way to work.
4. What was the biggest challenge you encountered along the way?
Running your own business is a fulltime job, as is being a mum, so having two fulltime jobs is rather challenging! Having said that, I have slowly managed to find balance between the both. I also have had negative encounters along the way with dishonest contractors, but am better at learning how to trust people.
5. What inspires you and keeps you going when you encounter obstacles?
When I encounter obstacles such as knockbacks, or a slow week, I try and not left self-doubt get the better of me. I have always been a high achiever and know that self-doubt is your biggest enemy. On ‘off’ days, I reassure myself of my successes to date, which gives me the confidence to keep going.
Attipas shoes are made from high-quality, durable materials and can be worn outdoors
6. What advice do you have for anyone wanting to achieve a goal?
Put your mind to it and you will achieve it. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. They do not know you like you do. Write a detailed plan, but don’t be afraid to deviate if required. Listen to knowledgeable mentors and utilise advice wisely. Don’t less self-doubt get the better of you, and most of all, be patient. Most successful entrepreneurs are years in the making.
7. What are the next goals you hope to achieve?
After Attipas toddler shoes become more known and business starts to take care of itself, my next goal is a sister site called ‘Things 4 Bubs’, which will showcase new and unique products from around the world.
Check out Caroline’s ‘second baby’, Attipas Australia: www.attipas.com.au