Annika Coulson

  • Week Twenty Nine!

    The Northern Beaches Kids Guide grew out of my frustration at not being able to source local services and activities for parents and young children.  Having grown up on the Northern Beaches I was familiar with everything I needed – where to shop, where to eat, where to go for a night out. But then I became a mum and suddenly I was thrown into a whole new world I knew nothing about.  I knew there was a lot going on, I just didn’t know how to tap into it all of it. Information about local services, activities and entertainment for children was scattered and scarce.

    Of course like most mums I joined a great mothers’ group, and we relied on each other to share and swap information.  I took it upon myself to have my finger on the pulse, scanning websites, pouring through the local paper and reading community noticeboards to collect useful snippets. Soon I became the mum everyone turned to for advice on what was happening, where and when around our area.

    I’ve been a graphic designer for over 12 years and worked in the newspaper industry during that time designing advertisements. I took maternity leave when I had my eldest daughter Hayley and when she was very young I went back to work part-time doing three days a week which was great, and then went on maternity leave again three years later when I had Lexi. When Lexi was 6 months old and I had two little girls at home, I was looking for activities in the local area and for information on the local play centres in the Northern Beaches area – and I found it difficult to find details on what was available.  There was a lot going on, but the information wasn’t getting out to mothers. I did some research and found there was no website dedicated to the local area. I found a website with a daily calendar in the Eastern Suburbs and thought that was exactly what we needed in my area, so I decided to do it!  At that time Facebook was really starting to grow and there were a lot of buy, swap and sell groups around - so I started to spread the word. I invested in a website and Northern Beaches Kids was launched in 2011.

    I constantly update what’s on in the local area. I have about 4000 on my weekly newsletter which goes out every Sunday night.  A lot of parents tell me they find that invaluable because it gives them a rundown on what’s on for the week. I have about 12,000 followers on my Facebook page and I also run the local Northern Beaches Mums Group online which has around 8000 members. We often to the local Kidspot Baby & Kids market, handing out around 200 goodie bags each time with special offers and  information from local businesses.

    The business really started as a hobby and to fill a void in the local area, but about two years ago I was made redundant so I took that as an opportunity to grow the website.  Northern Beaches Kids has now become a business for me and my family – and whilst I know it can grow so much more, it is working really well for us.  I have started to expand into other areas now.  I recently opened up a Central Coast Kids Guide on Facebook and that has quickly grown to a 1000 members.  Advertising on the website, Facebook and the newsletter generates funds, and I have a repeat clientele now.  Fortunately with my newspaper background I had a good understanding about media kits and had a good feel for setting up a pricing structure.  Expanding into other local areas is definitely part of the plan.  

    Learning about business in general was my greatest challenge.  Studying marketing and also web design would really enhance what I am doing. Luckily there’s a great ‘Mums in Business’ group nearby so I meet up with them every month and we share our concerns and issues and help each other out.   Social media is a really hot topic at the moment – how best to engage your customers on the various platforms that are available.  Having a background in media helped me adapt to new forms of marketing quite smoothly – and going to workshops on social media certainly helped.  Launching Northern Beaches Kids and raising two little girls was complicated at times, but I work in an around school and preschool hours – and fortunately I can work on a website at any time of day or night!  It’s so wonderful to be able to work my own hours, drop the kids off where they need to be and be there for them if they’re sick.

    For mums wanting to start their own business, just go for it.  Do a lot of research, make sure you have something unique to offer and plan well.  Set aside time for your business – get yourself dressed for work even if you’re only working from your desk at home, it helps create the right mindset.  Set aside time for your kids – mixing the two can prove difficult!  And remember to set aside time just for you. I encourage mums in local areas all around Australia – you can achieve whatever you set your mind to.

    Parents needed just one source to rely on for keeping up-to-date with all the services, activities and entertainment available for young children in their area.  The Northern Beaches Kids Guide is that one source.

    Being creative and having wonderful ideas is exciting – but there is so much more to making a successful business. Contact Business Mamas to get on the right road to making your business dream a reality!

    Copy: Melanie Quirk      Photography: SomedaySomehowStudios 

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