Earlier this year, I waxed lyrical about the new baby website I have a slight obsession with - the memo...
“Any pregnant woman who has stepped into a large-scale baby store will likely be familiar with that same feeling. Apart from the gorgeous prams and the cute onesies, everything else is a blur. A confusing, overwhelming, juggernaut of blur. Do we need 14 variations of a teat? Is that bath contraption necessary? How many of those plastic, fluorescent ‘educational’ toys are required to maximise my unborn baby’s chance of success? The short answer? No and none,” I said. “I’m not sure how it happened, but as retail experiences (both online and in-store) leapt ahead to predict our every need, baby shopping experiences have lagged. What pregnant women – and indeed new mothers – need is not overwhelm in this extremely volatile time. But rather, a little bit of handholding. A trusted voice. A curated eye. And a little less plastic.” In other words? Thank God for the memo. Their chic, elegant, curated selection of must-have products for expectant and new mothers really is the best of the best. So naturally, we needed to take a look behind the veil to learn a little more about the two genius female founders of the brand – Phoebe Simmonds and Kate Chasey. We spoke exclusively to Phoebe and Kate about why Zoë Foster Blake is on their wish list, why ‘bumps’ will never feature in their campaigns, and why they don’t consider themselves entrepreneurs (that’s one area where we’ll agree to disagree…).
What did your careers involve (and what do they continue to involve) prior to the launch of the memo?
Kate: I had been a beauty buyer for retailers like Mecca, Myer and David Jones. We had met through the beauty game, Phoebe was the Marketing Director for Benefit Cosmetics for three years before starting her first business The BLOW Blow Dry and Dry Styling boutiques.
Have you always considered yourselves entrepreneurial?
Phoebe: It’s not a word we would associate with ourselves. We saw a gap in the market and the opportunity to deliver something that would really mean something to Australian women. We had the experience and the confidence to back ourselves, so we jumped in. Does this make us entrepreneurial or just opportunists who love retail!?!?
With extremely busy lives already, what prompted you to add another string to your bow?
Kate: Why not? We really believed we were best suited to meet this need, my need, for a feel-good retail experience, a place that stocks everything I needed to prepare for life with a newborn. When I was pregnant, I was overwhelmed with the amount of choice, the number of opinions and the amount of times I had to go to Baby Bunting (when I really, really didn’t want to go to Baby Bunting). I thought I, and we, deserved better.
What sparked the idea for the memo?
Phoebe: Kate came to me with the idea of the memo from her own experience, and not being a parent myself I couldn’t believe how this industry was being marketed. Bumps, cooing babies, heavy discounting and unattainable ‘boho-chic’ crowds the space with zero focus on the needs or concerns of the actual parent. Pair that with way too much choice (and opinions) leads to many expectant parents feeling jaded and confused by the whole process. Our customer gets weekly blow drys, goes to pilates and shops on Net-A-Porter. Yet before the memo, when she became pregnant, all of a sudden she’s marketed to in a completely off-putting way- the options are endless but unclear. Life is already changing so much, we wanted to deliver an experience that was feel good and left her feeling the same person- in control, just more invincible.
Can you talk us through the process from that initial idea through to the launch?
Phoebe: Absolutely. The first part was a lot of brainstorming and research. I was heavy into the brand identity world, defining what we would stand for, our tone of voice, how the brand would be expressed across all comms. Kate: and I was heavy into carefully curating an edit based on the list that friends and I would refine and circulate. I was committed to stocking only the stuff you need, will use and love. Some products are eco aware, some just work best, all look beautiful. Over a lot of email stalking, I secured over 70 brands who aligned with our brand mission and really are the best of the best. There was a lot of buy sheets, filled with 270 different SKUs… starting with a $7 Sudocreme to a $1500 Cot from Leander. Phoebe: then it was onto site design, finding a space to house our stock and developing a marketing plan that would make sure we could be found!
What were some of the biggest challenges in getting the website up and running?
Phoebe: We had a very clear idea of our brand and how it would look and feel online and the customer experience we needed delivered, but not being experts in e-com, we had to lean on the best in the biz to strategise the best way to deliver this. It was a phased approach and involved a lot of work from our web designer and developer Three Names Creative. Kate: the hard part was walking before we ran! Our customer deserves the best, so we wanted all the bells and whistles from day one. It was challenging to learn of any limitations to the scope and then have to find creative ways around them. We use Shopify and wanted ‘the works’, but cost is also a factor as a small business. So we worked hard with TNC to create bespoke solutions where we could to make our customers shopping experience as feel good as possible.
How did you go about finding the right partners to work with - from products on the site, through to web developers?
Phoebe: We have a really supportive network of smart creatives and retailers and so asked around, called around, had a lot of coffees… and listened to our gut on who we thought best understood our vision.
How did it feel on launch day?
Kate: Thrilling (and a bit of exhaustion and relief)! We had fabulous support from family and friends from day one. Obviously we had a lot of nerves when we pressed LIVE but we were ready. And we knew Australia was ready.
Is it just the two of you working on the memo? How do you manage to squeeze this sizeable business into your already busy days?
Kate: Just us! But we have incredible support from my parents who love to help us pack orders too. Organisation is key to keep both work and home life moving forward. Weekly diary meetings with my husband and Phoebe enables us to plan the week/month ahead, ensuring we cater for the flexibility around my children, and Phoebe’s other child (business) The Blow. We are both extremely nimble and work independently so given there is 24 hours in a day, we work in our own time and when we can.
How do you determine who does what on the business? Do you have set roles and responsibilities?
Phoebe: Luckily (and strategically) we have complimenting skill sets. Kate looks after our brand relationships, product planning, inventory management, merchandising and customer experience. I work brand side across all our communication channels to make sure our message of ‘feel good, expect joy’ is spreading and resonating.
Talk us through the mission and the vision behind the memo...
When it comes to buying up big for their baby, expectant parents expect the worst. The current retail experience is confusing, time consuming and incredibly overwhelming. The memo is the feel good baby retail destination to help make those big decisions, easy. With the tone and built in trust of a close friend and the credibility of an industry insider, we’re here to guide expectant parents through the noise, opinions and stuff they actually don’t need to serve up only the best, the brightest and most loved newborn and maternity brands on the planet. Our goal is to help new parents settle in to a happy home life with their baby, and the business is built on values that put the customer first. Effortless. Less is more. A streamlined, curated edit and easy customer experience to help you get through your to-do list, stat. Confidence Feel confident in your purchase decisions. 30 day trial after giving birth. Simple refund or credit note policy on all items. Considered. Minimise waste in the baby sphere. Offer environmentally conscious and sustainable products where possible. Packaging is smart and efficient. Transparent. We’re honest and upfront in our communication, always. Community This is so much bigger than us. For every registry made on the memo we contribute 5% of proceeds to St Kilda Mums.
What has been the greatest highlight thus far?
Phoebe: We’ve had many! From receiving beautiful feedback from new customers in far away parts of Australia to selling out of some items in the first week, to volunteering with St Kilda Mums at their DC, seeing how our funds are in their very small way going towards their efforts to give all young families a happier and healthier start to life. Earlier this year we also started some events, which is a great opportunity for us to meet our community and close the gap between online and offline.
You have to gift three pieces from the memo to a friend having a baby - what do you choose?
Kate: I love to gift friends items that no one seems to tell you about until after the fact. Body Ice Maternity Care Set – these soft pink pearls will help make the pain go away. Nappy Wallet – I literally had no idea what this was when it was gifted to me. Little did I realise that I would use it multiple times a day as a protective barrier for my baby and having one that fits all your supplies (nappies, wipes, hand sanitiser, biodegradable bags), meant that you also didn’t need to lug your nappy bag with you everywhere. Haaka New Mum Breast Pump Pack – this is a cult product that appears to be too good to be true, but it really is that good. Yes, it is a breast pump, but it also allows you to collect your letdown from your other breast when the baby is feeding. Plus, if Chrissy Teigan is a fan, then so am I.
What’s the ultimate piece or brand you’d love to see on the memo?
Gro-To! Zoë Foster Blake, you goddess, are you reading this!?!?
Where do you source your products and how do you find inspiration and new brands/products?
Kate: We have over 80 brands and 400+ options within our assortment that are sourced directly from brands internationally or within Australian. Our assortment was carefully curated and refined based on personal experience from either myself or my friends. When choosing the products I consider what parents will actually need, what they’ll rely on over and over again and what they’ll feel good about owning. Cross checking this personal experience with additional research about the items on blogs, social media, forums, baby awards, allowed us to feel extremely confident in the assortment we were recommending to our customers. the memo is a community built on trust. We’re here to give customers more confidence as they enter into a new home life their baby.
Who inspires you?
Kate: All mothers inspire me as all are ‘working’ and loving of our children. The network of mums is just incredible, whilst there can be the judgy parent out there, I find most Mums are empathetic and kind and supportive to one another. Mums understand the importance of community. A kind word, a helping hand, a lasagne, can go a long way to knowing you’re not alone.
What's next for the memo?
Kate: Growth! And good times. This year is all about building our community around our #feelgood message. We’re establishing a lifestyle and a hub that educates and inspires, and we also plan to host some big events that will bring people together.