Mandi Gunsberger

  • Week Seventeen!

    We lived in the Bay area of San Francisco for about five years prior to moving back to Sydney to get married and start a family. My husband Ben was a computer animator in the film industry and was working with Dreamworks on some major projects. I had a working visa so with my background in PR, sales and marketing predominantly in the hotel industry and event management, I was able to secure work with the Hyatt Hotel and the Hilton Hotel. I would have gone crazy if I hadn’t been able to work while we were there.

    Blogging was all the rage in the US back then, around 2000 to 2004, but it hadn’t quite hit Australia as yet. So we knew blogging would be big moving forward. We moved back to Sydney in 2004 and got married and I continued working in event management until I went on maternity leave. When I was pregnant I started researching everything! Prams, cots, high chairs, toys, I researched it all (around 300 prams!) and put it all on a spreadsheet – and then we thought other mums would want to know all this information too. So Babyology, which started as a blog, really came about by me over-researching – I’m a Virgo, a bit of a spreadsheet fan and I’m super organised. We brainstormed lots of different business names and we loved the play on the science of all things baby, so Babyology was born. We launched the business when Hayley had just turned one, and she’s now 9 years old and I found out I was pregnant with Polly (who’s now 8 years old) around the same time. Have two babies and start a business – why not?

    My husband Ben has always been a part of the business, but he was still working in computer animation and had a full time job. I would work on the business during the day for a few hours and we would both work on it at night. Finally 18 months ago we took the plunge and thought ‘let’s do this!’, so now he’s full time with Babyology. We should have done it years ago, it really would have helped to scale and build the business sooner. But we just didn’t have the guts really – a family of five relying on just one business? We didn’t want to lose his salary, but it is fantastic now that he’s come on board.

    Babyology is about providing information to parents. It used to be predominantly product based – different toys, cots, prams, highchairs – and we still do a lot of that but we also do lots of newsy items and give our opinions. We conduct all sorts of research studies and research papers so we have really sound information for parents. We have a large team on board now – we have 32 people working with us and we’re hiring six more at the moment so we’re heading towards 40 staff. We have an editorial department and I have a fantastic Editor, sub editors and a whole team of feature writers and other writers. And then we have a sales team with a Head of Sales, sales staff and a sales co-ordinator, a production team with a Production Manager, a Project Manager to help on our new projects, a Social Media Manager, an events team, a reporting and traffic management team and an HR manager as well who handles all the hiring and the staff reviews.   And then Ben and myself. Everyone works remotely. That’s one of the most special things. We just make it work. So many people say that you need to have an office, and ask ‘how can you trust people’ and ‘how do you get any work done’, but most of us are mums and we just want to do something that we enjoy. I completely trust who we hire and they always get the job done. It is an amazing way of working, there’s only so many hours available in a day and they all have to fit work in around family commitments – school drop off and pick up – so you don’t faff around the office, having a coffee or having a chat. You’ve only got five hours available and you have to do eight hours work so you just get the job done. I remember when Hayley and Polly were little and I knew I only had two hours to work while they were having a nap, I wouldn’t even drink water so that I didn’t have to leave my desk for those two hours.

    There are so many challenges, having your own business and having small children. So many people think it is really easy but it’s very difficult to keep everything running smoothly because kids are so unpredictable. I didn’t use nannies or daycare with Hayley or Polly – I finally learnt with Audrey (who’s just turned three) that maybe I should do that – but with the older two they were with me all the time until they went to preschool when they were three. So in the early years Babyology was very much a night-time business. I always worked nights and I was very lucky because all my girls always had a two hour sleep during the day which is when I would return phone calls. If they hadn’t done that it would have been a different story but they had their two hour naps without fail until they went to school when they were five. I think the key is separating when you’re at work from when you’re with the kids. I find it gets so muddled and when you do spend a day with the kids you feel like you constantly need to be on your phone when you’re at the park rather than spending quality time with them. So I’ve always been quite good at separating it out – and deciding ‘you know what for the next three hours I am going to focus on Audrey’ and we’ll go to the zoo and I won’t pick up my phone, and then when we get home I put her to bed and do my work. When you try and do both you’re not working properly or with your child properly. I used to find it really hard but now I’ve given into black and white, one or the other.

    I think the current atmosphere in the business world is really helpful for women. I’m not sure what it’s like for men but for women there’s a lot of networking and support. You can find mentors who will listen to you if you have questions or you need advice. Right from the beginning when I started Babyology I found amazing women who have mentored me over the years and now I mentor others and I’ve become involved with a lot of different networking groups. Many of these women have become really good friends of mine. Of course I have school mum friends and my high school groups of friends but it’s really different to be running your own business and having kids instead of being in a job and having kids. So I really rely on this special group of women and really look forward to our dinners or lunches with my entrepreneurial and CEO friends because we have the same issues –we might have to travel on a kid’s birthday and face those dilemmas, or we’re just working through the same kind of stuff and we can bounce ideas off each other. So I do find it’s a positive climate for women and there are definitely places to look for help and support. The Commonwealth ‘Women in Business’ is a fantastic service and that’s all free. You can join up and attend some amazing events that they put on. When you’re running your own business finding $150 for a breakfast is an extraordinary amount of money so you want to go to events that are free or cost $20 or $40, and even if you meet two or three people they can turn into a whole networking group for you.

    If you want to start your own business you need to be clear about what you want to do and make sure it’s different to what everyone else is doing. The market is really quite flooded so if you want to open up a store or design a  product range and sell it into retail, you want to make sure it fills a niche and there is a market for it. I’ve seen a lot of people start up businesses and they’re not in business any more, it hasn’t worked out for them. So you want to make sure you’ve done your research.   I also think the key is to not let the business take over your life. It can take up seven days a week because you have a laptop and a phone and you can be online all the time and keep working, so sometimes you need to just relax, and watch some trashy tv on the couch with your husband or partner. In the early years I really fell into the trap of working until 11pm at night, falling asleep on the couch in front of my laptop, and then you’re exhausted for the next day. For a while my husband felt my priorities were the kids, then Babyology, then him – I recognised it wasn’t ideal so I made an effort to make sure he was at least number two!

    Babyology is part of an industry where we meet new people every day and new opportunities present themselves. We haven’t plateaued at all over the last seven or eight years which is fantastic. We get new followers every day – at the moment we’re attracting about 12,000 to 13,000 new Facebook followers every week. We’re really on a trajectory with Facebook and that feeds into our website and sees our website traffic grow and the online shopping grow. What we always try and do is stay ahead of what’s happening in the marketplace, so we launch new projects to make sure we’re at the forefront and we’re giving people new options to come and work with us, keeping it all fresh with new events and lots of exciting things happening. We haven’t reached nearly the potential of who we can reach in Australia. At the moment we reach about 35% of Australian parents but we want to reach everyone who has a child. So we’re still full steam ahead!

    Ba-by-o-logy (noun). The place to find anything for children and parents that’s worth having, from the practical to the sublime and everything in between.

    Babyology is the online market leader in high-quality product-focused editorial content for Australian parents. It’s the premium online resource for parents, providing information and reviews on products and services, facilitating a community where parents can discuss products and services and ask questions of experts in the field. So whether you’re building a dream nursery, checking out the latest designer childrenswear or wanting to know about the hottest toy on the market, Babyology will keep you up to date and in touch.

    Networking and talking to mentors is such a great help when running your own business. Business Mamas provides a mentor to work with very step of the way, and opens the door to amazing networking groups. 

    Copy: Melanie Quirk      Photography: SomedaySomehowStudios 

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