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.