Importing can be a tall order for an SME, especially when trying to juggle demand, locality and cash flow. However, Courtney Williams of children’s balance bike retailer Kiddimoto Australia believes she has found the winning formula to keep her business firmly in the black.
As Courtney (pictured below) explains, the business has been initially funded, like so many others, from her own pocket. Yet, of course, there are limitations on how far this can take a business.
“Initially, [Kiddimoto Australia] was funded by myself to a point where we grew incredibly quick, and I know this happens to a lot of businesses – you grow too quick, too fast, and you're scrambling to get enough stock to meet the demand, which is exactly what has happened to me,” Courtney says.
However, after being introduced to trade finance, Courtney says she's able to consolidate Kiddimoto Australia into a viable long-term business. Here’s how she did it:
The birth of the business
With Kiddimoto Australia’s main demographic being young children, it is no surprise young children have a large input into the business.
“I was pregnant at the time and starting a business degree, and my husband and I quite enjoyed the motorbike world. We were quite avid MotoGP fans,” explains Courtney.
After watching the MotoGP, Courtney’s husband said they needed a balance bike to share their love of motorbikes with their then future child.
“At the time, we couldn't find anything, apart from a stock standard balance bike,” Courtney says.
“We searched around, and we came across the Kiddimoto UK which had some really fun kids’ balance bikes that look like real motorbikes.
“There was no one here in Australia that distributed them. So, we have a history going back and forth to the UK, they've given me distribution rights, and I've grown the brand in Australia ever since. It's been five years now.”
Designing a point of difference
Courtney’s take on the Kiddimoto brand allows her to create a product specifically tailored to Australian consumers, which she sees as a point of difference between her and her competitors as well as the main brand from the UK.
“The main difference between myself and a lot of my competitors are that we design here in Australia for Australian kids, where our competitors are buying in from their parent companies, so they're buying from the States, or they're buying from Europe, and it is taking those designs and just throwing them out into the Australian public,” she explains.
“We try to personalise [the balance bikes]. Even though the brand is from the UK, we have Australian bikes, bikes with the Australian flag on them; we have helmets with the Australian flag on them. We're about to release a TeamVortex Craig Lowndes edition because that's what the Australian public want.
“They don't necessarily want something that has got little poppy flowers on it from the UK. They want something that's Australian and that their kids can resonate with.”
Trials and tribulations of red tape
A major pain point within her business, says Courtney, is that she cannot have all of her operations in one place.
“The thing I struggle with the most, I located my business in Cairns, and we run our head office from Cairns, but we run our distribution from Melbourne,” she says.
“We're able to cloud compute everything. So all our systems, inventory, everything runs on cloud, and that's pretty stock standard in this day and age. It's more of having hands on the product...that's an issue.
“I would really love to run my business completely from Cairns, but unfortunately the business structure up there won't allow it.”
The problem, says Courtney, is a range of government red tape.
Moving everything down to Melbourne is not an option for her either as Courtney has strong ties to her family and the local community, ties she feel are not worth severing.
“I have a family set up in Cairns...life's pretty good up there,” she says.
“I have three children. We live a beautiful life in far north Queensland, so we have to work with what we've got. But my, I would love to be able to change the way logistics and red tape works to be able to operate out of Cairns.”
Finding the funds
While Kiddimoto Australia has been initially funded out of Courtney’s own pocket, keeping things afloat when demand is high is a huge strain.
“I was self-funded, and then it got to the point where I started to get bigger brands on board, like Suzuki and Kawasaki and those sorts of companies who needed more stock quicker,” she says.
About 18 months into operations, Courtney sought out alternative financing options. As a young mother looking to finance a growing start-up, she found the options were extremely limited.
“Being so young in business, a lot of people wouldn't even look at what I had or couldn't look to the future, so they were looking at the business and saying, ‘No, no, no.’
“The banks are looking for two years’ worth of bank statements to be able to help you with anything, whether you've got security or not, it doesn't really matter.
“They didn't really want to look at you until you had two years’ worth of financials.”
“[Scottish Pacific] looked and said, ‘Look, we see you've got a future,’ and they helped me out,”says Courtney.
“Five years later, I'm still growing.”
By moving to trade financing, Courtney is able to secure more importing and distribution rights, while also being able to better forecast her cash flows and spend more wisely.
“At the moment, we’re designing for John Deere. I know that at certain times throughout the year, looking at my cash flow, I'm going to have money freed up where I can say to John Deere, ‘Right, let's get stuck into production now’,” she says.
“You obviously have to forecast and be in total control of your cash flow all year, but it certainly does take a lot of the strain from thinking, ‘Where am I going to get the funds to get that stuck into production to get it rolling for the bigger company?’”
Fast facts: Kiddimoto Australia
Location: Cairns, Queensland
No. of employees: Three
Customer base: Australia-wide