Cygnet Royale is an Australian start up company that’s helping mums feel stylish as well as comfortable. Founded in late 2017 by Dr. Linda J Howland and her husband, the company’s first product was launched in May 2018 using both Amazon.com and Shopify online platforms.
Their first product is an innovatively nursing pad (slips) that Linda designed herself for new mom’s who don’t want to compromise style for function. The inspiration for the company and product came from Linda being a SAHM for the last 6 years enjoying the journey of motherhood with her 3 young babes.
They plan to expand the range to include unique luxury eco-friendly “home spa” style products for bed, bath and personal care including more maternity products in the coming 12 months.
Female Entrepreneur Q & A
What made you decide to start your business and become a female entrepreneur?
After the birth of my first child (the life-changer), I realised that working in a research laboratory (at any hour of the day for unpredictable lengths of time) was not going to fit in with the lifestyle I wanted for my new family particularly during their younger years. So I started to look for ways that I could create an income stream of my own making.
What was the process of turning your idea into reality?
It’s been several years in the making, while I tried all sorts of different entrepreneurial pursuits like writing and self-publishing a health e-book about Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).
After the birth of our second child we moved to Ballina (near Byron Bay), a beautiful little beachside town with a great lifestyle but no research facilities, so that put another temporary hold on my research career. So I decided to follow one of my passions for bamboo clothing and started my own online Shopify store that sold a range of Australian modern and colourful eco-friendly bamboo clothing and organic sheet sets.
It wasn’t until one of the suppliers really threw a spanner in the works by upping their order requirements and with such low margins to be made, it got me thinking that perhaps I would stop using a “middle-man” and start producing my own products. From there, I invested in and completed an online course of how to create my own brand and sell products on Amazon.com from a successful Aussie Entrepreneur Adam Hudson. This was not long after the arrival of my third baby, so it took a little while to get it up and running, but little by little everyday I chipped away at talking with suppliers via Skype and email, buying samples then having prototypes made to test my design ideas in a few different manufacturing companies in China.
Cygnet Royale was founded in later 2017 and I decided to start with a range of elegant and stylish Nursing Pads for new Mum’s who wanted to choose an eco-friendly option (washable/reusable) and because I knew that this type of product was something I was very grateful to have found and had enjoyed using myself during my breastfeeding days.
I was new to clothing design and have zero sewing skills but I knew what I wanted and could envision the end product, so I just reached out and utilized freelance services to reach my design goals.
There were many design hurdles along the way, I had ideally wanted to use organic bamboo fabrics but the reality was that they just didn’t perform as well as the cotton prototypes that used flexible memory foam. The foam could be molded to fit the curves of a breast, and would flex and compress easily as a breastfeeding Mum’s breast shape changed through the day. They needed to not leak and be super fast at absorbing liquids so they didn’t have “run off” like most of the slow absorbing bamboo pads currently on the market. I wanted them to be sexy and stylish, elegant and delightful to see and touch.
I’d found becoming a mother changed the way I needed to dress, the way I felt about my new and ever changing body shape and available wardrobe selection, and was sometimes hard to define who I was within this new role. I wanted to give Mum’s back a little stylish elegance to enjoy as part of their nursing experience by using quality lace on the outer covers of the pads. The Cygnet Royale Nursing Slips launched in May 2018 and have been very popular with new Mum’s and especially as Baby Shower Gifts for new Mums-to-be.
What ways have you marketed your business and which has worked the best for you?
As the majority of my sales are through the Amazon.com platform, I use their Pay Per Click advertising options that allow me to target my audience and the keywords used to search for my product.
I use Facebook and Instagram mostly to regularly promote and create awareness around our brand, including occasional % off sales/giveaway promotions.
I’ve set up a Shopify store, but have it aligned to fulfill orders via Amazon’s FBA (fulfilled by Amazon) services for the usual Amazon FBA fees, which means I don’t have to track multiple inventory levels and my stock is all stored in Amazon warehouses for a low monthly storage fee. I love that the Shopify store links seamlessly into my Facebook Shop, so I can drive sales via facebook advertising.
Pinterest and Instagram are also very effective at driving sales direct to Amazon.
Word of mouth is always great! So I am currently searching for Influencers that fit with my brand, and making my own Youtube channel.
I’m also very interested to learn more about the new “only pay after sales” advertising agencies like Klickly, as I often felt the CTR style advertising was not very transparent as to impression/clicks/sales data.
What’s the one thing you wished you knew at the beginning of your journey?
Everything takes twice as long as you think it will and probably costs twice as much as you planned. This can really wreak havoc with financial plans. I had problems with faulty product that needed to be sent back and remade, and then that doubled the storage and shipping costs. It’s also all the small ongoing costs over time that can slowly under mind the cash flow of a small start up business. I’ve had to top up our business account several times from personal finances to keep it afloat.
Don’t be afraid to invest in tools, information and help from experts. Trying to do everything yourself can make things take so much longer to achieve, often costing you more in the long run – I’ve learnt this the hard way. Work out how much the operational costs of your business is per month, then weight that up against doing something yourself slowly versus paying an expert to do it right, first time and fast.
Using an online accounting app like Xero has helped me keep all my business finance data in one place, and easily track my separate business bank account for expenses and income reports.
What’s your daily workday like?
I work my business around my family life, so once my two older kids are at school, I get a little bit of the admin work done in the mornings while my little one plays with his toys.
Then we usually head out to do something fun and social outside in the community, then his sleep times (2hrs) are my serious work time, great for making phone calls, important emails, financials, writing up new product requests and contacting suppliers, contacting retailers and new distributors or seeking out Instagram influencers to assess if they would be the right fit for our product range and branding.
My afternoons are filled with normal house duties and afterschool fun with the kids, dinner prep etc, and then after they are all in bed, I spend another few hours finishing off important or time-sensitive tasks. I often like to schedule my social media posts and more fun marketing activities at night.
Friday nights and weekends are largely off duty and spent with my husband and kids enjoying what really matters.
How do you fit being a female entrepreneur around being a mother?
I’ve always found that after the first few months with a new born baby, my brain (although crazy tired) started to yearn for something more to do. I often found myself brainstorming great new product ideas during my 3am breastfeeds in the dark (before the days of smart phones).
Time is precious when you’re a mum, so having a “to do” list helps me to keep track of the house and work goals, and my dairy is a must for those days when you’ve not had much sleep to keep things on track. I also journal a bit, to get new ideas and new goals clarified.
For me, always pursuing things that I was passionate and got excited about, things that got my heart racing and my mind chasing ideas has made it easy to find and want to find time to work on my business. I think there was also something in the back of my mind (perhaps my ego is more accurate), that said if I was going to put my career aspirations of becoming a highly respected medical researcher on hold to become a stay at home mum, then I also wanted to do something BIG with that time.
I love being with my kids, but it often didn’t seem like that was the only role I was meant to be playing at this time and I looked at it as my opportunity to play around and experiment with my entrepreneurial pursuits.
Sometimes it’s so easy to get focused on chasing a career goal, next promotion, next pay rise, that we get so far down the narrow rabbit hole that we don’t permit ourselves to look around and check in with other potential options.
It took me awhile to disconnect from my career related identity as a researcher when I realized I wouldn’t be returning to that work straight away, and it has taken years to grow into the shoes of being a female entrepreneur, even now it doesn’t feel like I’ve earnt that title yet but I also couldn’t imagine going after anything else. It’s addictive. I get the best of both worlds – a mum who can be there with her kids and someone who gets to create magic in their own business everyday.
Have you got a favourite quote or mantra that keeps you going?
I have so many quotes. I use them as my revolving screen saver to constantly remind me that I am blessed, and lucky, and grateful for the life I get to live.
One that really stands out to me is
“ When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be”
and this really helped me transition from my old career identity into first a new mum, then a mum of 3 little kids under 6yrs and now as someone who aspires to be a successful Female Entrepreneur able to inspire other women to lead a life of pursuing their own passions.
My other personal favourite is
“Everything is Figureoutable”
from Marie Forleo (or more accurately her mum), which really helps when I get stuck in my personal or business life, and makes me just stop and work out a way to take a step forward in the right direction. Learning to Fail Fast and keep going without letting embarrassment of failure hold me back – thank you Richard Branson.
If you could offer one piece of advice to the ladies out there thinking of starting or just starting their entrepreneurial journey what would it be?
Use a vision board to nut out your dreams (big or small) and then do this with your partner, and compare the life journey you want to take together. It helps when things get tough or your feeling lost/uninspired to be able to look at your vision and find the motivation to keep chasing it. I hang mine in the bathroom, where I start my day brushing my teeth and thinking about what today is going to bring and how can I take just one step towards achieving these goals and dreams.
Get clear, write it down, and then share it with those you trust including your kids so they can help you and understand your “why”.
It makes it so much easier for kids to understand why you’re working instead of playing with them when they know that it means they get to go on more family holidays together because Mummy is doing the work that will provide that special experience for them.
Let them make their own dream boards, so you too can tap into their inspiration, passions and desires.
If you could have the help of anyone who would it be?
Personal coach would be a dream, to have someone to keep you accountable and help you realize what you’re really reaching for and believe you can go beyond your own limits.
I’d also love a personal chef! I hate cooking (unless its baking sweets) so having someone make healthy and delicious meals for the family would be my dream come true.
What’s the ultimate goal for yourself and your business?
I plan to expand Cygnet Royale’s range of products and continue to distribute them on the Amazon, Shopify and other platforms like Target and Wallmart.
The ultimate goal is to continue with positive financial growth over the next 3-5 years then reassess. Ultimately, I want my businesses to provide philanthropic support to benefit the health of our global community. We currently support several KIVA microloans for women in other countries to start their own businesses, and we hope to continue expanding our support for this cause and also create a reliable funding source to support medical research for women’s health issues.
When women support other women – great things happen right!
I want to keep learning and then share that wisdom with my children and other men and women to help them fuel their entrepreneurial spirits.
I’m excited for what the future holds for my children and for all of us on this big beautiful blue planet.
Thank you so much Linda for taking the time to do this interview with Anne Louise Magazine. Do you have an additional questions for Linda? Let us know in the comments below!
Want to find out more or get in touch with Linda?
To get in touch or find out more about these amazing products, pop along to www.cygnetroyale.com
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