How I started a baby lifestyle business that doubles its profits every year

Arch n Ollie feature image
ARCH N OLLIE founder
Renea Chelman (founder)
Founded: 2014
No of employees: 6
Location: Australia

Meet Renea. She’s the owner and founder of ArchNOllie, a fun and unique baby lifestyle brand. Inspired by her own children and realizing there was a gap in the market for functional children’s clothes, she creates reversible swimwear, headpieces, and a range of other accessories. After receiving an unexpectedly large wholesale order, she had to get to grips with the manufacturing process quickly to move away from hand-making every order.

While covid changed the company’s plans for attending various trade shows in Florida, Turkey, and New Zealand, they quickly pivoted and put their saved trade show funds into creating a separate label, adding eight new products to the range. The future’s looking bright for ArchNOllie, so we talk to Renea to discover her plans for growth.

Who are you and what brand did you start?

My name is Renea and I am the proud founder of ArchNOllie - a unique, fun and vibrant clothing, swimwear and accessories for kids.

Throughout my life, I have never had much ‘free’ as since leaving school I have always worked full-time whilst juggling side hustles. However one has remained, and that is my love for creating pieces for my children to wear and use. So when other people started offering to pay me to make pieces for their children, I could see potential and possibility to grow into a ‘full time gig’. ArchNOllie was born at the same time I was on maternity leave. Whilst I love being my own boss, in the beginning I really didn’t realise just how hard running your own business would be. Whilst the income at times does not equate to that of previous professional roles…..I still love doing what I am doing !!

In the beginning, ArchNOllie started with headpieces, and has now grown into a full baby lifestyle brand. Our range includes headwear, swaddles, dummy clips, bibs, milestone cards and we are splitting the brand into another label ‘Quincy’ which will now be the home of our swimwear, activewear, towels and all things lifestyle.

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Originally the brand was about making items which suited my children and our lifestyle, which was mostly about adventure, travel and childhood. With Archer and Olive now both at school we needed to both rebrand and define the labels which 2021 will see a clear separation of ArchNOllie and Quincy.

A little known fact is that myself and my family never intended ArchNOllie to become a full-time job. We realized it was back in 2014, when I released our ‘Reindeer Blossom’ headpiece on a $10 p/month Big Cartel website. At that time, I had listed the product as ‘sell past 0’ on the website and had intentions to close off sales after 20-50 orders as I was hand making still at this stage. After a couple of sale notifications I realized a business in the USA had ordered 1000 units!!!! I removed the item, marked as sold out and quickly had a nervous breakdown. My sister and I jumped on a plane to China the next week and that was our initiation by fire to manufacturing, neither of us having ANY idea how it worked, simply had the mindset of saying yes and working it out later.

BRAND IDEA - how did you come up with the idea for ArchNOllie?

When looking at children's swimwear and our products, we really solved a problem / gap in the market.

When ArchNOllie launched there was nothing on the market quite like our reversible swimwear. Long sleeved swimwear was rare at the time and there were no reversible suits on the market (and still isn’t). As we like to travel regularly, we would always try to limit the amount of swimwear we were packing as being in a Camper van travelling around Australia and/or being on an overseas holiday limits the items we could take and so having versatile swimwear was important. The reversible swimwear concept allowed us to in effect give us 2 styles in 1 and naturally helped when packing for holidays as less items were needed.

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ArchNOllie came from our children Archer and Olive. Quincy was also from our third child we never got to hold after a miscarriage. Quinn was a name I had on my list and because we love the beach and the breakaway label was a lifestyle swim brand featuring the sea, we thought Quinn Sea or Quincy was the perfect name.

Both logo’s are unisex however we put quite a bit of thought into ‘Quincy’ as the script in that logo reflects the waves of the sea and the Q is the sun, blue being the background of the deep ocean.

When I look back, ArchNOllie has evolved so much from the very first logo, mostly because we had no idea what we were doing ! But as we evolve so does the brand and style.BRAND LAUNCH - take us through how you launched ArchNOllie.

Our journey has definitely not been conventional, in fact it has been a process of ‘making it up’ as we go.

We have made loads of mistakes, some costly and certainly living in regional/semi-isolated NSW hasn’t helped the journey. However there have been many benefits - for example, I know every aspect of the business from sampling, manufacturing, customer service, trade shows, B2B, wholesaling, retail POS, International trade and everything in between. I definitely don’t recommend doing it this way as it’s exhausting, time consuming and most likely inefficient BUT it certainly has forced me to learn the ins and outs to running a business, which I think is a good thing.

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Easy hurdles were designing as ideas would come to me as and when I needed something or when I would be inspired. The hard, expensive and time consuming part of our business is getting both the designs to product and also the sampling process.

With regards to marketing, we have never allocated a budget until 2021 as we have opted to do things manually alongside the word of mouth attention the brand captured. This approach has worked well to date as our organic growth is something I am super proud of and it’s only now that we’re looking to allocate funds to support the existing program with some paid advertising spend.

When I think about the business and what gets me excited the most, it is always wholesale. When someone reaches out after seeing our hearing about our brand wanting to get stock for their own store, I get so happy. I still go onto our stockists websites and am excited to see our products selling out much faster than bigger more established brands. Those moments are super special and motivating.

ONLINE STORE SETUP - what are your top 2 tips for successful Ecommerce store setup.

  1. Be original, I know that is what everyone says but this hot tip is the reason our brand continues to grow.
  2. If you would gift your product to a friend, family or an influencer would you be a product of it? I often use this as a reference point to commercial production, sometimes you work so hard on a sample and it just doesn't work, be brave enough to drop it.

CUSTOMER RETENTION - what has worked best to attract and retain customers?

This is an area that I wish I was better at. Given I ‘wear so many hats’ in the business, I am hoping to focus more customer retention tactics moving forward, and/or bringing on a support person to manage this for me.

SOCIAL - what are your top 2 tips for successful use of social media to engage with customers.

  1. Posting regularly and
  2. Engaging with your audience.

I like to post x2 a day and then reply to all engagements however I am finding Social media is changing and becoming more complex. Also given that I have 3 businesses under our company umbrella and a social media strategist is high on the priority list for 2021 and beyond!

BUSINESS GROWTH INSIGHTS - how has ArchNOllie changed and evolved?

  • PROCESS - moving from hand making our products to manufacturing - that was a big evolution.
  • PROFITS - doubling of profits each year has been so rewarding and motivating.
  • STAFF - going from zero employees to 6 Part-time.
  • OFFICE - moving our operation from our spare bedroom to a warehouse....that was big !
  • PHYSICAL STORE - we have since opened a retail flagship store.
  • INTERNATIONAL SALES - selling locally to now having international customers with a real brand representation in Europe.

MANAGING CHANGE - what has your experience been and what would you suggest others adopt to safeguard their business.

Covid impacted our business in terms of international growth. We had saved all our profits to pay for 3 international trade shows in 2020. Florida, Turkey and New Zealand. It was very disappointing to miss out just as we were ready for the next stage of growth. We pivoted pretty quickly and put the funds into creating a separate label and adding 8 new products to the company.

Also, we were able to have much more stock on hand for large retailers such as THE ICONIC and become more of a ready on demand than indenting company. Covid also forced us to explore/analyze logistics more closely which enabled us to then reduce costs in areas which weren’t working. As a result, certain products became more price competitive with larger chain stores. Finally, due to our organic growth YoY, we never had to worry about loans or investment being paid back, so the stress we saw other businesses go through in the pandemic didn’t affect us in the same way.

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FUTURE BUSINESS PLANS - how is ArchNOllie doing today and what does the future look like?

We want to move to 3PL so we can concentrate on development as shipping takes a huge part of our day-to-day business. Projects will be officially launching Quincy as a stand alone label.

Long-term is continuing doubling profits annually, and putting more time into international growth where our labels are strong will be definitely a goal once Covid restrictions relax.

ENTREPRENEUR INSIGHTS - what has been your biggest learning experience since starting ArchNOllie?

Don’t expect to be profitable in the first 3 years. If you are, well done. As an organically grown business, we have always directed profits back into product development. Our growth has been steady and it has taken us 5 years to draw a steady wage, but I am happy we’ve done it this way.

ONLINE BUSINESS TOOLS - what are the business software tools you couldn't live without?

I use Tradegecko as our inventory, customer and manufacturing software, it’s expensive but I feel like using one platform to cover multiple roles is time effective.

See what business tools other founders are using.

SELF DEVELOPMENT - what are the educational resources you’d recommend?

We have just started listening to Clubhouse, which I find interesting. A personal podcasts bible for me is ‘ How I built this - with Guy Raz’ and living in a small town I really need the daily guidance of ‘The mindset mentor - Rob Dial’ Sometime I can get very overwhelmed with small town life, and finding ‘cheerleaders’ in my life after many disappointing friendships. This should impact your business but I do believe it is all interconnected.

Also Business Chicks Events with Emma Isaacs are a lifeline to me. I always feel empowered, motivated and have a sense of purpose in most areas of my life, not just business after attending these events.

INFLUENTIAL PEOPLE ‘shout-out’ - who have been the most influential people for you during your brand journey?

Firstly, my husband who is always on board with my wacky ideas (there have been a few). And being the primary breadwinner whilst the brands grow. My children who put life and business into perspective. I had two staff members (who returned to their previous roles post covid) who were my cheerleaders. I have never been one to need people's approval but when I downplay success they both made me own it, and for this I am grateful.

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FINAL WORDS OF INSPO - for other aspiring entrepreneurs.

Worrying about what others think blocks your creativity and your self-expression. Real freedom is getting to be yourself - Wholly, purely and honestly. - Author Unknown.

Latest offers & promotions - where can we go to learn more about your latest offers and promotions?

We share any promotions over on social media @archnollie - Both Instagram and facebook.

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