Gumigem: Jenny McLaughlan

Name:Jenny and Stuart McLaughlan
Company:Laughing Lamb Creations
Staff numbers:
Company description:The home-based start-up founder on launching during maternity leave and how a celebrity tweet put her company on the map

Company name: Laughing Lamb Creations Founders: Jenny & Stuart McLaughlan Age: 35 & 41 Based: Dundee Staff numbers: 0 Date started: 10/12/2010

Tell us what your business doesIt’s an online business providing innovative teething necklaces for mums to wear and babies to enjoy

Where did the idea for your business come from? From my son Miller who was / is a terrible teether and would grab and chew anything, including my necklaces! One day when he was doing such a thing it struck me that it was not ideal. Necklaces can break easily, have small beads and contain toxic paint. So I thought what if I could develop a product that just looked like a pendant put was safe for babies to chew and could aid the teething process?

How did you know there was a market for it? I didn’t know there was a market for it, so researched the concept with some other mums and 9/10 could see it working, with one thinking it was a daft idea and sent out the wrong message to babies. However the others felt that until a baby hits a certain age it cannot follow instruction and will do it anyway! I also investigated if such a product existed and found something similar in the States which was doing well but nothing in the UK. I checked the legalities and decided to test the UK market by developing the product and launching it, confident that based on my research it was viable.

Since launch, the US company have now got a UK distributor, however I still have several unique selling points – different designs, and more variety of designs, unique glimmer effect in my pendants. Mine can be sterilised, cost a little less and are made right here in the UK.

What were you doing before starting up? I have not left my job. I am a sale manager and enjoy that role. I manage this on top of my day job for additional income, but who knows where it will take me.

How did you raise the money? I didn’t! I had no debt and given the current climate and being on maternity leave I knew it would be pretty tough and time consuming to secure a grant or loan, so I took a huge risk and got a credit card and have paid for the start-up costs and production on that. In many ways it’s better than a loan as it’s interest free for a year, by which time I hope to have cleared my costs.

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How did you find suppliers? It was not easy. Once I understood the materials required, it was a time consuming process of ringing round, emailing, investigating and getting quotes. I also felt it was important to feel you could work well with your suppliers. My stuff is all manufactured in the UK (except the clasps – of which I could not find a UK supplier). We then lovingly construct them right here at home!

What challenges have you faced how have you overcome them? Cashflow and stock are big ones. We got some good press coverage and we did not want to let people down who ordered, but where short on money to order stock, it was just so hard to predict what level of sales press may create. Also finding customers, we did not have the money to advertise, but the concept was / is new in the UK so people are not searching for them or looking for them. I started with asking online mummy bloggers to review the product with their babies and write about it.

How have you promoted your business? Mainly used social media, Facebook and Twitter, spread the word by getting mummy bloggers to review and asked friends to host a link on Facebook. I then started targeting celeb mums. I contacted their agents and sent off samples, but did not get any responses or confirmation that it got into the right hands. So I changed tack and started tweeting celebs. Denise Van Outen responded and asked me to send one to The Savoy theatre in London where she was doing a play. I was stunned when that night she tweeted about it! Hits went from 30 a day on my site to 470 in two hours and sales grew by 216% that month. On the back of that I got in the local paper and Denise wrote about it in April’s Prima Baby magazine. I also paid for one advert on Netmums thinking it was the perfect place, but got so little back from it I have decided to avoid this kind of advertising in the future.

What has your growth been like? When we launched in December we did very little, but now we are in our fourth month we are turning over more than £1,000 a month. We are not yet profitable and not quite on plan, as I had not considered the costs of photography, loosing stock as giveaways and competitions and I have decided to do more baby shows than I planned which are not cheap. However I think that by the summer we will be at breakeven point and start to make profit in Q4 this year.

What’s the impact on your home life been like?I now just sit at night on a laptop instead of watching TV!

Where do you want to be in five years’ time? I would love to get into big retail and more independents across the country and take 10% of the new baby market. I can also see the business evolving beyond just the necklaces but don’t want to give too much away. I don’t need an exit plan, I have a wonderful job and I know Gumigem will work!


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