Q&A with MyNappies Cofounder Toby Shulz
The question of the day is: Can a childless nineteen year old run a successful baby supply store? Toby Schulz, the co-founder of MyNappies says yes and his customers from around Australia are voting with their feet as well.
Pitch MyNappies to me in 60 seconds
Sure, we’re an online baby retailer and we offer a wide selection of nappy brands at the lowest prices in Australia and we’re able to offer this sustainably low price because we are a full-time retailer of other baby essentials. Parents have and will be willing to pay full price retail prices because they know that we’re really reliable and delivering to them quickly and we’ve really go above and beyond to ensure their shopping experience is the best that they’ve ever had.
Tell me how it came about.
Jason and I have always shown an interest in wanting to start our own business I guess, but it wasn’t until late 2011 that we given ourselves 48 hours to decide where we were going to start and what business we would start up- and by the end of this 48 hour window, we had the idea of MyNappies and on Sunday night, we’d actually put up a landing page with a sign up box to try and validate our idea- that Australian parents weren’t happy with the current selection in baby essential stores.
Tell me a little bit about your background
I’m turning 20 this year so basically, late 2011 was my first year out of high school. I was at university-
Wait, how old are you?
Wow. Okay. Moving along. I didn’t realise.
That’s okay, not many know until they meet me in person- but that’s a good thing. I’m 19 and Jason is 24 this year. So late 2011, I was still at university full time studying and I was doing a commerce degree majoring in finance, but then in 2012- we had the My Nappies concept and I decided to defer for one year while Jason is still working full time as a financial accountant. I decided that if we had validated our idea by the end of the year and we were happy with where we were heading that I would pull out of uni and lo and behold 2013 came around and I pulled out to focus on MyNappies.
What are your customers like?
It’s really great. Mums know what they want and if they don’t get it, they’ll tell you straight away that they don’t get it. They don’t beat around the bush. This is what they want and this is what they expect and that really enables us to go above and beyond their expectations. And we’re willing to do the extra work for them, whether it costs us money or time. They’re really willing to tell their friends and their family about it and especially for startups that’s such a big thing that you get free word of mouth. It’s free advertising and it’s not coming from a magazine, it’s coming from their friends and it’s such a trusted source.
A lot of mums are talking about us and spreading the word and we’ve seen that really pay off with our refer-a-friend program. A lot of mums are sharing outside with that program.
What have been some of the difficulties you’ve faced?
Number one would definitely be prioritising our time, because at the moment we have four members on board, but I’m the only one that works full-time so we really do have to prioritise where we put our focus and so we have to be continually evaluating ourselves- we’re spending X amount of hours per day on this, is it actually paying off? Is it adding value to the business? This really has been the hardest thing for us to manage but we’re getting to a point now where we know where our time is best spent.
We need to reach that next level of growth so we can bring Jason onto the business fulltime.
What have been the high points?
The high points have been hearing back from the customers most definitely. It may seem like a small thing to some people but we put in a lot of work into our customers to ensure they get the best service. Small things like taking five minutes for every order, we write a handwritten card for all first time customers. And we do that for every single order- on a busy day, we can spend an hour or two writing these handwritten cards- so when we hear back on how lovely it was to open their order and have a handwritten note. It’s good to know that your time really does pay off.
Another key was when we secured our partnership with Plant with Purpose, so for every order that’s placed on the site, a tree actually gets planted in a developing nation. It’s a two-fold benefit, because these trees not only help to fight deforestation but Plant with Purpose also runs a program where they teach these developing communities about agriculture and sustaining their land and get a steady income and that really opens up a lot of doors for them and their families. So the deforestation helps to offset the parents that are using disposable nappies (and they always will because of the convenience and the cost)
Tell me about the Brisbane startup scene and what’s happening there at the moment
We’ve been involved with a few of the meetups that are around Brisbane and actually there’s a startup accelerator in Brisbane city (I forget what it’s called)- we’ve been to a few of the meetups and talks and they’ve been good! There is certainly a growing scene. You see big numbers at the events- but I guess the focus in Brisbane tends to be on the tech startups, moreso than the e-commerce. So a lot of these events we do get takeaways from them but because it is so different growing a tech startup- they’re so scalable and they’re not cash intensive- it is tough to find the right person to talk to in Brisbane so a lot of our contacts are made in the Sydney and Melbourne startup scene.
Advice for other startups?
Based on talking to other people and from the interviews that we’ve had, it seems like a lot of people think that your age makes a big difference. Like you’re not going to be as succeed due to your age, but I almost think that it’s better for you to at least start when you’re early.
When we talk to older entrepreneurs, they’re really willing to tell us how it is and if they don’t agree with something, they’re not just going to hold back, they’re going to tell you straight up if they don’t agree with anything you say or if they think they have a better idea. They’re really upfront about it and I presume it comes down to age- as long as you’re open minded and don’t come off as a know-it-all, they’re really willing to help you and take time out of their day to provide you with that information.