Mentoring helps Kozy Koala expand from small business to global player
When Joanne Kennard started her business, she knew she had great products, and her market research confirmed that these were in demand. However, she had no idea how to get her products out into the market place and really sell them.
“Our business was operated on a small scale with a shoestring budget,” says Joanne. “We had one employee (me), sold 1,500 units a year and turnover was less than $50k per year. That amounted to a lot of work done without many sales.”
“At the time, I also worked in and not on the business seven days a week and put in very long hours selling to the obvious market (small boutique markets, cold calling at childcare centres, etc) but we didn’t have the knowledge of how to get into the bigger retailers.”
As a finalist in the 2008 QLD Premier Smart State Awards, in the Rising Star section, Joanne experienced some growth in her business, but, without the proper guidance Kozy Koala floundered slightly as it tried to expand. That was when she decided to seek business help and approached Business Advisor Network. A move that has literally changed the course of her business.
Key challenges of growth
One of the challenges many small business owners face is that they don’t have anyone to show them the ropes when the time comes to expand. They know they have to grow, but they are overwhelmed by the many factors to consider and measures to be put in place. This is where mentorship plays a vital role.
An effective, workable business plan
“Every business owner knows they need a business plan, but often it’s just too hard to devise a plan that REALLY works,” says Joanne. “My mentor, helped me to break my business down into manageable areas and come up with a workable strategy for growth.”
“When it comes to finance, being proactive is important,” says Joanne. “It was a challenge to go off in search of solutions BEFORE financial issues became a problem and inhibit or stopped our growth!”
Joanne plans to expand Kozy Koala globally, which would mean selling one million units per annum. The financial administration involved in such a big venture is daunting and, despite her knowledge of bookkeeping, Joanne felt overwhelmed by the many new considerations.
The implications for production
“One of the issues we faced as we grew, was that we needed a reliable manufacturer to produce our products to OUR specifications and not what they thought might be OK!” says Joanne. “This meant meeting and negotiating with various manufacturers until we found someone we could depend on.”“Building a relationship with your manufacturer is paramount. Without them you don’t have a business!” she adds.
Policies and Procedures
“Another important challenge we had to face was the development of proper Policies and Procedures,” says Joanne. “These are very important, and spending the time and getting them in place has helped us set a clear direction for the business and follow through. This also enables others to run your business when you are away or unable to work.”
Benefits of mentorship
1. Achieving key milestones
“The mentorship taught us the value of THINKING BIG!” says Joanne. “It gave us the opportunity to discuss the problems we were facing as we grew — things like bigger business not taking us seriously for example. We got valuable, practical advice to help us change things (for example, a simple shift from talking about supplying our products in terms of container loads rather than units).”
“By applying our mentor’s advice, we gained the respect of other players in the industry and bigger companies started to take more notice of us. We went from being perceived as a small back yard operation to a real player!” she added.
2. Assistance with complex financial matters
Joanne’s mentor helped her to ask the right questions and assisted her in writing letters of credit and the like.
3. An advisor you can rely on
“Having a mentor means there is always someone there I can rely on,” says Joanne. “Someone with the right advice at the right time to help me not only deal with the current issues of running my business, but also to help me put my plans into action.”
4. Measurable growth
“Our mentorship has taught us to look beyond the current situation towards the future and act on this vision of our business,” says Joanne. “Originally, our target market consisted of parents with smaller children that went to day-care. Our retailers were small boutique stores that took 5 units at a time.”
“Through the guidance of our mentor, we discovered how to tap into other potential markets for our products. We now sell to one of the largest camping chain stores in Australia, two other major chain store and over 200 smaller retailers.”
Kozy Koala is currently starting to export its products and has engaged distributors in two countries with the hope that this will expand in the future.
The company has expanded to offer its products to Emergency / Disaster Relief supply with major agencies both in Australia and overseas.
“This seemed a natural progression for us,” Joanne explained. “We have held talks with a number of agencies and we are looking at supplying them in the near future. This is a very big market and we feel that our products can certainly make a difference to the general life and wellbeing of disaster-affected people.”
The business now has two full-time employees and employs a large number of contractors both in Australia and overseas. The number of units sold have increased dramatically and continues to increase every the month.
The future looks bright
“I don’t believe that I will ever know everything about business,” Joanne concludes. “But I certainly knew a lot less before approaching Business Advisor Network and getting to know my mentor than I do now.”
“The help I received from my mentor (a patient man!) was so valuable. I believe that without his advice, we would still be in the small struggling company. But today, our future looks bright as we keep learning and growing.”
Do you want help like Kozy Koala?