We are now in the last part of my series on telling you more about the first 9 months building Cherieswood. In the previous two articles we talked about the initial idea and how I got started in part 1 and about the challenges of selling a new product and find new customers in part 2. In both I’ve added a lot of details and lessons learned that hopefully will be useful to other entrepreneurs or will simply make our readers understand more about the challenges in building a news business like this one.
While in the first 6 months a lot of my focus went into building the fundamentals of the business, in the last few months I’ve been working a lot on distribution, or as we usually call it, on sales and marketing. Today I will tell you a bit more about the new challenges I faced in the last months and what I am currently working on. At the end I did a recap of everything I’ve learned so far in this journey!
I love writing about Cherieswood and share with you how and what, so expect more articles in the future that talk about these aspects.
Launching new products: the Busy Board
The idea of Cherieswood has always been to create a series of wooden toys for different ages, designed to let babies move from one toy to another as time passes: our vision is to help our clients buy toys that teach their babies different things at different ages while keeping the same quality and approach in all of them.
After spending 6+ months selling our Baby Gym, in March 2022 we launched a new wooden toy called Busy Board. I was looking for something that could have been complementary to the baby gym and that would have had a strong educational focus: you can use the baby gym for the first 12 months but then, your baby will need to experience new toys and she will be ready for something more interactive. I’ve created the busy board thinking about year 2 and 3 when kids start talking and become much more active.I’ve imagined it as a way to learn multiple things with one single toy.
Similar to the baby gym, I had to do quite a lot of research of existing products and brands before finding the right approach. The busy board is fully built with wood and it has a set of small toys that allow kids to play and learn with shapes, numbers, colours, animals and more. Compared to other solutions, I wanted to make this toy much more interactive, so I’ve spent a ton of time trying to “animate” things on the board using wood and making sure kids would feel stimulated to play with them.
Building a new product has been challenging but also very refreshing after 6 months where the baby gym was our only focus: after the initial design we started working on prototypes and therefore on vendors to find the right wood (we use a different type of wood compared to the baby gym), paints and objects to use on top of the panel. This is a slightly different product compared to the baby gym, it’s more complex and it has many more details that needs to be properly designed: I’ve spent a considerable amount of time in the design phase and even more prototyping it to make sure it could be really built with high quality.
I’ve written quite a lot about the busy board and we just launched 2 new series for it. Thank to this product we also started working on a new one, but I can’t tell you much yet! With this new product we will be able to add an additional choice for kids that 3+ year old and therefore completing our initial idea of having 3 products to cover the first 4-5 years of your kids: the baby gym for the first 12 months, the busy board for the second and third year and this new product to accelerate development on year 4th and 5th.
Cherieswood on Amazon
Back in January 2022 we started working on an additional channel to accelerate sales: Amazon Italy. Landing on one of the largest marketplace in the world has pros and cons and we ultimately decided to do it to get access to millions of potential customers in Italy and at the same time, to start promoting our brand and add another potential revenue stream for Cherieswood. Amazon is full of competitors and also of low-quality products in our category, but it needs to be a long-term investment similar to other channels and it requires focus and work to emerge among thousands of products.
We quickly collected a few orders of our baby gym and things improved month over month, especially starting from March. We are currently working on a set of improvements for our Amazon store, including the registration of our trademark to protect us but also to get access to new functionalities to promote our brand. Fun fact: most of our customers on Amazon have been buying the baby gym Savana series together with its play mat and so far that is our best seller!
Today you can buy our baby gym on Amazon Italy and get free 2-day shipping thank to Amazon Prime. All our prices are exactly the same you can find on cherieswood.com. Later this year we will likely start selling on more international Amazon stores, starting with the US.
Scaling sales month over month
I told you about all the challenges we had in the last 9 months, from idea to production to first customer. The reality is that, for most businesses, sales are the never ending challenge and especially in the first year there are never enough customers! I am happy to say that Cherieswood is growing sales month over month and I am extremely proud of it, but we still spend most of our time working on accelerating them and thinking of new ways to acquire customers.
Since May 2022 we have noticed a growing number of visits, proving that our work on content marketing and social networks is producing results, but we need to keep working on the core activities of our marketing strategy to increase sales. In addition to this, we are trying to understand if this business has seasonality or not, summer might be a slow period for sales and we don’t know yet. Our target audience is not changing and we think we know who is our perfect customers but month over month we still get “surprises”, customers that are not in our bucket that are buying products or bundles we did not think we would have sold that easily. This is encouraging of course but it also shows that we still have lots to learn about our business and our customers!
In the next months we are launching a set of new campaigns on Facebook and Instagram to specifically promote our baby gym and for the first time we are going to spend a bigger budget with the intention of learning more about the cost of each sale and experiment with our potential audience. As we start seeing results, I will definitely share more with you on these pages.
My 3 top learnings in the first 9 months of Cherieswood
Alright, we are at the end of this mini-series on what happened in the first 9 months of Cherieswood! As I told you before, I love the idea of building in public and sharing with our readers what’s working and not working, I think it’s a way to make a brand more human and bring it closer to its customers, but also a potential way for other entrepreneurs to get inspiration and understand that building a new brand is possible!
Let me close this series with a recap of my 3 biggest learnings after almost a year of Cherieswood. Some of them might be specific to this venture, but I am sure that you can apply them to other businesses and experiences.
1. Everything will take longer than you expect
This is probably true for a variety of businesses but it still felt quite a thing in our case. Launching the website, publishing the first articles and promoting Cherieswood felt like a lot of work and somehow we expected to be ready to sell tons of products just after a few months. It takes longer than that, and while it can be frustrating, it’s absolutely normal and something every business experiences. My suggestion is to keep working day by day (do the work as Americans say!) and stay focused on what really matters. SEO, content promotion, paid advertising and visits require months to get off the ground and constant work.
2. Word of mouth is still the best marketing tool out there
In the early days I still had a few orders every month mostly thank to word of mouth. People and friends in my network were not only buying our baby gym for their friends, but they were also suggesting it to their network. While you might feel this is like cheating in the early days because these people know you and sometimes are buying because of you, it’s actually a very serious channel and an important one. Word of mouth is still the best channel for us today and something we want to develop further: happy customers bring more happy customers for your product and it costs you little to nothing to acquire them.
3. Focus on what matters
There are way too many things to be done in the early days while starting a business. It doesn’t get better at month 2 or 3, it gets worse! That’s why you need to say NO more than YES to new things and new activities and try to focus on just a handful of key things. A good example is expansion on too many channels: launching Etsy, Amazon and doing everything else has been quite challenging for us and we are not at the point where we can take care of all of them the right way. Looking back I could have prioritized just one of them while focusing on developing our e-commerce website. You will do mistakes and that’s ok, but every month you should dedicated a few hours to analyze what’s working and what’s not working. Once you have done it, open a new doc and write down a list of priorities that matter for your business in the next months (mostly thinking backward about what you need to do. Example, more sales is your goal, what are the priorities that bring you there?) and try to constantly check them to see if you are executing your plan.
Thank you for following me in this mini-series! I am always happy to receive questions and comments!