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Nathalie Brouard started GardenWare with Nick 15 years ago. Since then, GardenWare has grown leaps and bounds. Mothers who have started or want to start an ecommerce business can pick up a thing or two in our interview with Nat. She shares some tips on how to manage your time between your ecommerce business while tending to the kids.
Today, she continues to manage GardeWare while Nick has moved on to his other WooCommerce businesses. She writes regularly on the GardenWare blog and her posts are always a pleasure to read. GardenWare has now grown to be a leading provider of garden tools, footwear and apparel in Australia.
So let’s get started.
How did GardenWare start?
We moved to Queensland from Victoria 15 years ago. We were working remotely for the employer we had in Victoria. They were a garden footwear wholesaler selling Sloggers.
There would be customers that would like to buy Sloggers but they would be in locations where there wasn’t a Slogger retailer close by. Many of these customers would be used to buying from mail order catalogues as they were in remote locations. So the opportunity to sell direct to them arose.
What are some of the major challenges for the GardenWare?
In the beginning, trying to get our name out there was a challenge. We did a lot of garden shows as a solution and we were happy if we just broke even. Having young kids at the time meant we would have to organise care for them.
I got a second job to keep income coming in. That involved working nights and weekends. My son was eight months old when I started the second job so there was the juggle between work, feeding him and spending time with my family.
Although these may seem like personal challenges they also were intertwined with our company growth.
Being in a rural area saw us have some issues with couriers picking up some of our products. Long handled tools that Australia Post won’t send. We eventually found a courier company that does – yay.
What has been the biggest challenge in your career?
My work ethic has always been strong. Working from home can sometimes test this though. There are times when you want to extend your lunch break just a little bit longer to watch a bit more Netflix.
I can also miss working in a team. Sometimes the first time I talk to someone all day is when I drop off the orders at the post office.
Working for yourself means total responsibility, sometimes that can be scary and financial insecurity pops up, more so than when I was working for someone else and had a known wage coming in.
What are your tips on how to make a business startup a successful one?
Create a routine in your work week. The best strategy I use is having a strong morning routine. I wake up, go for a walk which centres me for the day, have breakfast with my kids. Then I’m in the office by 7.15am. This allows me to check my emails, get the orders ready for me to pack and set up a rough plan for the day. I check on the kids at roughly 8 o’clock to make sure they are getting ready for school! By nine o’clock I’m back in the office and ready to pick my work day back up with a clear idea of what to do.
A routine also gives me discipline and structure in my work day. I make sure I have a lunch break as well J
What works for me may not work for you – so create your own unique work routine.
Take time out where you can – I’ve had busy work times where I’ve juggled newborns or been pregnant. I’ve been no good to anyone when I’m burnt out. My garden has been my chill out at times like these. Even just five minutes away from my desk is helpful.
How has ecommerce changed over the past 10 years?
There is so much more competition out there. And with Google it is easy to compare and shop around – I do this myself. There is also more product transparency with most sites having product reviews. I see this as valuable information not only for your customer but for you as a company. If a negative review is left on your site, this is an opportunity to engage with your customer and offer a solution.
Improved technology has made it easier to shop online. Great websites offers a great customer experience, equivalent to being in a bricks and mortar store.
What do you think is the future of ecommerce?
It will only get better. Technology improvements have seen this happen. Our mindsets and comfortability have also changed over the years around online shopping. This will see it here to stay.
Do you have any advice for aspiring ecommerce entrepreneurs?
Be different. Provide great customer service. Companies that have websites with all the bells and whistles but suck at customer service are common. I’ve lost track of the number of times customers are grateful that I have responded to their email in timely way or returned their phone calls. Two basic things that you would think would be a given. We all remember when a company goes that extra mile to help us out – be that company. My customers love that we attach a couple of lollies to their invoices – I feel it is a touch that adds to the positive experience of them opening their order.
Be honest if you aren’t sure about something. Customers will pick up insincerity and pretty much all of the times I’ve been honest with a customer they have appreciated it.
What do you like about ecommerce?
Ecommerce has given me flexibility in my life. I can help out at my kids school which I love doing. If I need to go to an appointment during a work day I can. If I want to start early and finish early I can. This work/ life balance works for me.
Having orders come in at any time of the day or night is also a bonus – income coming in while I’m sleeping –why not J
We have also been able to involve our kids in our ecommerce adventures. They have benefited from learning life skills like a strong work ethic, dealing with customers, responsibility, time management, budgeting as well as some basic website backend skills.
And lastly being an online shopper myself, I love that I can browse and buy online any time. Even though I now live in a rural area I can still have access to all stores as if I still lived in the city.