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Kindershare connects owners and renters of children’s equipment. As founder, Vanouhi is responsible for all operational, growth and development opportunities.
Vanouhi is a passionate and self-motivated individual who is dedicated to the for-purpose sector
Vanouhi uses her skills to create value that is measured in more than dollars and cents.
To listen to the full interview on iTunes click here.
You can listen to the full interview on Stitcher click here.
To listen right here on the blog click here.
My guess is that you are here because you are curious about what it might be like to start a business?
Perhaps you’ve been wondering if you have what it takes? If your idea will work or even how much it actually costs to build a successful business?
I’ve written a book that can answer pretty much all your questions “So You Want to Start a Business” and you can download the first 20 pages at www.thestartupsteps.com
15 years of experience working with start up businesses are condensed into this book.
It’s your step by step guide to launch your business smarter and faster and I’m so excited to be sharing it with you and can’t wait to hear about your progress.
Are you ready to grab your excerpt? Click here www.thestartupsteps.com
Happy reading! Now here is the transcript of the podcast.
Ingrid: Hello and here we are today with Vanouhi Nazarian. Hello Vanouhi and thanks for joining us!
Vanouhi: Hi Ingrid. Thank you! And how are you?
Ingrid: I’m great. Thank you! Beautiful sunny Sydney morning. I can see the blue sky out the window, and I know it’s pretty hot out there so yeah.
Vanouhi: It’s going to be a scorcher.
Ingrid: It’s going to be a scorcher. Okay, so let’s get into it. Tell us what business are you in. What is your business?
Vanouhi: Okay, so I launched Kindershare a few months ago. Kindershare it connects owners and renters of children’s equipment, so how I like to describe it to most people is we’re like Airbnb for kid’s equipment. When we say kids equipment, we’re talking about things like travel cots, travel strollers, aeroplane cushions, things that people buy and they only use it for a couple a weeks a year, and then it gathers dust in their cupboard for the rest of the year. What we do is let you unlock the value in it, by renting it out to other families, and travelling families can rent them from you, save some from having to buy …
Ingrid: When they get there. Yeah.
Ingrid: Yeah, actually I remember my sister buying a push chair when she came to Sydney, because it was easier for her to come and buy push chair here, than it was to carry the one from Brisbane, and then I think we donated it to the thrift shop or something, at the end of her holiday here. So yeah, if we had Kindershare in those days, we could’ve done that. Yeah.
Vanouhi: And I definitely have nothing against donations. My background is the not-for-profit sector, so donation’s definitely accepted. But there are a lot of people that don’t donate, and they end up buying these things and then throwing them out. And we’re creating all this waste that’s really not necessary.
Ingrid: Yeah. Well that sounds like an answer to a next question, but when did you start this business?
Vanouhi: So this week’s actually been 12 months since we registered the company, but we launched –
Ingrid: Wow. Congratulations!
Vanouhi: Yeah, so very exciting. But it did take us a long while to launch. We only launched in June 2017. There’s a few reasons for the delay, and I’ll talk a bit more about it later on. But the primary reason was insurance, that took us a really long time to find the right level of insurance. The sharing economy is still very new in Australia, even though we all hear about Airbnb and Uber. So yeah, finding the right level of coverage took us a very long time, and hence the delay.
Ingrid: So a year since you registered, and six months since you started operating?
Vanouhi: Yeah. That’s correct.
Vanouhi: Yeah, and idea came about in October last year, so it’s just been just over a year.
Ingrid: Yeah, it’s just over a year. Okay, so why did you start your business?
Vanouhi: Well, I’m actually studying a Master’s at the moment, at UTS. I was a bit bored a few years ago, and thought what can I do to sort of have something that’s just for me, and it’s not just the family or work. Decided to role in a Master’s, and one of the subjects assignments required me to come up with a business idea. And I thought about my life circumstances and what was happening around me, and thought yeah this sounds like an okay idea. Did the assignment, handed it and then said to my husband “Oh, actually I think we might be able to make this work.” , so that’s basically the short story behind it. So yes.
Ingrid: And I always ask this question, what did you want from your business from day one? So you sort of created an accidental business, but then once you’ve decided that it was going to be a business, what did you want the business to do, from day one?
Vanouhi: On a personal level, I definitely was looking for a new learning opportunity. My previous role had become a bit stale might be the right word. I was looking for something else to learn about, and so this has been a fantastic opportunity for me to learn and grow on a personal level. But the base reason of the business was to make life easier for travelling parents. My daughter had been to six countries by the time she was three years old, so we knew how much of a hassle all of that stuff was. We know people love to travel, and we were just trying to make it easier for travelling parents. I’ve always been a bit of an environmental person as well, I mean I wrote a letter to Bob Hawke about the environment when I was 10 years old or something. So for me, giving opportunities for parents to avoid unnecessary purchasing, and contributing to landfill was definitely another motivator for me. But I’ve always had this vision now of families go on holiday, they drop off their baby equipment before they get on the plane, they turn up somewhere else, they receive another package of baby equipment that they need for their trip. That’s really what I’m looking forward to seeing in the future.
Ingrid: Yeah, that’s a great vision, that’s really terrific. Thank you! And so given that there’s been a few different milestones, and given that it’s actually early days, does it feel like a business yet? And if it does, when did it become real? When did you realise you were in business?
Vanouhi: Yeah, definitely milestones, as you’ve said, when ASIC’s sent the little certificate through, and I was like “Whooo”. That’s exciting. When I actually purchased the .com domain, which took a long time to get. These were a little milestones. But the real, real milestone for me came … so my background’s in the non-for-profit sector, I was offered my dream role as a COO of a not-for-profit, and it was really something that I’d always had in my mind of this is what I want to do. And went through two or three levels of interviews, they offered the job, and I sat back and thought about it. And actually went you know what, it’s now or never with this business, I’m actually going to decline the offer of my dream job, and pursue this, and see if I can make that work. So yeah, that was really the milestone, turning down my dream job.
Ingrid: Oh Vanouhi, that’s very brave, isn’t it?
Vanouhi: I always think back, and I think is this the right decision? And time’s only going to tell. And it was a COO role that was part-time. How many of those come about?
Ingrid: That is a real sliding-doors moment, isn’t it? And you’ll never know. Yeah. Well, we’ll know this of it anyway, won’t we? You said that you thought about this business because this was something that you would’ve appreciated because you travelled with your daughter. And maybe anecdotally, a couple of other people might’ve you know … How do you know that customers want this? How do you know your business idea has legs? And I know it was part of a project, so you probably had to do some of the viabilities, MVP, that sort of thing. How do you know that people want this?
Vanouhi: It’s funny that you mention MVP; MVP wasn’t discussed at all during that initial subject, and it wasn’t until about six months into the journey that I first came across MVP. Would’ve saved me quite a lot of money if I’d heard of MVP right up front.
Ingrid: Actually, sorry, maybe we should just pause for a sec, and I’ve just assumed that everybody probably knows what MVP stands for, it’s minimum viable product. So and if maybe you could talk a little bit about how that impacted you as well? So sorry, I just needed to say that, cause some people listening may not have heard that term before.
Vanouhi: Yes, certainly. Like I said, it was something I wish I’d knew a lot about. The concept behind the MVP is that you take something very basic, and try to sell that to customers, or potential customers. So what that means is that you don’t do what Vanouhi did, and spend three months building a website with bells and whistles that people might not actually care about. You instead just go out and sell from day one, and that’s really how I knew that customers want to my business is offering. It was selling, selling, don’t just ask people. There’s an old start-up saying that says founders would be rich if they had one dollar for every time someone said “That’s a great idea.”, you actually need to have customers that are parting with cash before you know it’s viable. Having customers refer other people to your services, well is also very reassuring and it’s definitely a good sign for a business. That’s definitely the important thing to do.
If you are thinking about starting a business, find two or three people that are willing to pay for your site. You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars developing a website, you can just create a landing page, say pre-sell orders are being taken now, to register please click here, and that’s all you need to do. You shouldn’t be spending too much money upfront, before you know if people are willing to pay for it. And it’s now just your friends that you should be asking, that’s the critical story. You need to be going out and talking to strangers, people not from your suburb, people not from your social economic background. It’s important to get out of your own box, and out of your own circle and talk to other people. For me that was really important to do.
Ingrid: Yeah, and so those people gave you the endorsement that your product was something they wanted?
Vanouhi: Yes, yes definitely. They parted with their cash, and I had a couple of my own personal products that we’ve gathered over the years, and I had people parting with cash to borrow those, so yup.
Ingrid: It was an idea that was going to work. Terrific. So you’ve talked about money and parting with money to pay for things, and you can be as open as you like with the answer to this. So how do you fund the business in the early days? And how are you funding expansion?
Vanouhi: Yeah sure. So we’re currently funding from our savings, that’s basically the short story. I’ve also won a number of prizes at pitching competitions, so that’s been helping to fund things that I might not necessarily have paid for willingly myself, so yeah that’s definitely been helpful. But otherwise, just from our savings.
Ingrid: And it does sound like pre-selling to some degree, as well. Like selling the product as part of MVP. Yes.
Vanouhi: Yes, yes that’s right. Definitely.
Ingrid: So in terms of pricing. How did you decide a pricing strategy? How do you decide how much it’s going to cost for people to do this?
Vanouhi: Yes, certainly. The advantage of doing it is a universally assignment, was that I had access to a whole group of research papers including many research papers on different pricing strategies for sharing the economy companies. And one of the papers said the average is between 10 and 15% commission on transactions in the early stages, charge to one side of the transaction only, so we settled on 13%. It wasn’t particularly scientific, but it was what we thought would work, what we thought the market could be at the time. So at some point, we might revise the pricing strategy, especially if – sorry once we hit the GST threshold, we will need to revise it. But yeah for now, that’s how we did it.
Ingrid: And so when you say a two sided, so there’s a two sided, so there’s the person paying the money for the shared economy item, and there’s the person who’s getting the money for offering the shared economy item.
Vanouhi: That’s right.
Ingrid: And in your situation, who pays that 13%?
Vanouhi: So it’s just build into the price. So, you will see on the website, for example travel cart for $20 per week, so the rental will click, they’ll pay $20 out of their credit card, and the owner will receive $20 less $2.60, so –
Ingrid: Which is 13%… Yeah, so okay that’s terrific. Thank you. So how are you finding new customers now, and how do you know where they are? So how are you growing this business Vanouhi?
Vanouhi: Yes, certainly. We’ll still talking to a lot of people. Talking all the time. So we went to the Sydney Baby Expo, a couple of months ago. That was fantastic. I think, I personally would have spoken to at least 800 people over the three days, and we had a whole bunch of other people helping us, friends and family. So talking to people still. Lots of comments and posts within Facebook groups, that’s probably the best way that we’re actually attracting people. It is a lot of hard work, a lot of time, but it’s the essential thing that you need to do in the start of any business, actually talking to people, understanding where people are at with awareness of your product, and what their thoughts are around it.
Ingrid: Now, early days, but have you thought about an exit strategy? Do you see this as something that you’ll exit from it at some point? And you can tell us or not, it’s a question about have you given it a considerate. Well cause Steve, you know Stephen Covey talks about how we begin with the end in mind, so is there an end in mind?
Vanouhi: Yeah, a buyer would be ideal at some stage. I’m not planning on living forever, so you do need to plan from the start with what you’re going to end up at. So at the moment we understand that sometime away, we’re focusing on growing the business, trying to make it profitable, and then we start looking at possible options.
Ingrid: Terrific. Now, some reflective questions. What’s one thing you wish you’d done differently at the beginning? You have eluded to something already in terms of the website, by the sound of it, but is there something that you really wish you’d done differently?
Vanouhi: Yeah, it’s definitely understanding the concepts of MVP, and blank start up a lot earlier. My background, prior to being in the not-for-profit sector I did a lot of consulting for large corporates, a lot of risk averse, behaviour things like that, that was inherent in how I behaved in the first six months of having the company. So we spent too much time worrying about trade marking a name, or worrying about a little terms and conditions and things like that; when the reality was that we didn’t even know if people wanted to pay for this service. So for me, I’m just really, understanding the concepts of MVP is important. It’s not to say you launch with a crappy product, but it does mean that you just cut down what you’re doing to the very bare basics. Go on the market with that, find people that are willing to pay for it, and then move forward on developing bells and whistles.
Ingrid: Well, I hope everybody who’s listening, is really paid attention to that point from Vanouhi, and if you were just kind of a bit distracted by something in your world, as you were listening to this podcast, just rewind the last two minutes. And just listen to that about the MVP, because it is absolute gold. Thank you, Vanouhi! So this is a slightly different question. Is there something you wish you’d known from the start? And maybe it’s the same thing, but for some people this feels like a different question.
Vanouhi: Yeah, the one thing I definitely wish I knew from the start, was the only person that’s an expert on your product, is your customer. You don’t know anything about your product, it’s only the customer that matters, customer’s opinion that matters. If you don’t have customers, you don’t have a business.
Ingrid: Man, that’s the thing, I’d say in 15 something interviews, that would have to be one of the best bits there. Thank you!
Vanouhi: I can’t take credit for that. I’ve had the benefit of coaching from someone who was a lecturer at Stanford University, and is now a lecturer at UTS, so that was the one big take away I took from it.
Ingrid: It is, it really is. There is only one expert, isn’t there? And it’s the customer. So if we think about who’s been helpful, and it sounds like your lecturer at university has, and there’s probably some other people. So apart from yourself, who has been of greatest assistance to you and to your business?
Vanouhi: Yes, certainly. On a practical level, family and extended family, and having a nanny on board has really helped me focus and get away from the house, so that I could grow the business. It’s really, really difficult to try to do something when you’re sitting at home, and there’s kids at home, so on a practical level that’s really helped me. From a business perspective, my extended colleagues and friends network. So I have a school friend, from when I was in high school, we used to live around the corner from each other. We just catch up once every few months, and he gives me some general advice and guidance. I have got a friend of mine that’s living over the seas, but is not helping me with my market research.
It’s reaching out to your old friends and family, people that you might’ve forgotten about, but they do have specific skills that can be very, very helpful for you. So yeah, just my wider friends and colleagues network. There’s a couple of good friends that are still in large corporates, have helped me a bit as well. Just sitting down and being able to chat through issues we’re having, and then giving me their perspective on things. And approaching it from a very different angle to how I’m approaching it, has also been very helpful.
Ingrid: That’s a terrific answer. Thank you! In fact, I’ve just been thinking about this idea of how we often overlook the people that are closest to us, cause we get so used to what they can do. And we go searching for something much further away, or outside of our circles.
Vanouhi: Yes, certainly. I mean, I’ve been part of a … same people that are completely outside of my personal circle, I’ve been part of a fantastic networking group called the Sharing Hub. And the founders of some the largest sharing economy companies in Sydney have been fantastic and so generous with their time. That it’s been quite reassuring, when you go to them with a problem or an issue, and the tell you “We had this in our early days too.”, and you think “Oh, thank God it’s not just me.”
Ingrid: “It’s not just me.” Yeah. Indeed. So you’ve eluded to this now, with that, is where do you go for good feedback? Who gives you good useful feedback?
Vanouhi: Generally speaking, independent people with some experience in business have given me the best advice. Lots of friends offered suggestions, but the experience I found most useful was from people who actually ran businesses; either directly or some of my former insolvency colleagues. And could think about the broader issues that apply to a business as well, so yeah definitely finding people with experience in running businesses.
Ingrid: Yeah, who’ve done it before. And that’s one of the purposes of having this podcast series, is so that we can learn from people at different stages in their business. And all of us are always learning, no matter how far along that road we are, we’re always learning. And most of the people listening to this podcast, are thinking about starting a business, so yeah we’re learning from people who have been in business.
Ingrid: So what are the three characteristics you have that make you successful in business?
Vanouhi: So for me, I think deep work experience is really important. I spent 10 years advising, or running companies that had collapsed or were close to collapse. You get to see the impact of day to day decisions that managers have made, the outcome of that. Working in the insolvency environment, means having to make decisions very quickly. And that’s a skill that lots of people don’t have, because they’re scared of what the outcome might be if they get a decision wrong. So I think definitely that experience that’s given me the ability to make decisions, make them quickly and then with considering the consequences, and then if things go wrong dealing with that differently. Attention to detail, I think is an important experience, so account of my background used to sort of looking at pages and pages, and spreadsheets, and being able to pick what the mistake is in them, has helped a bit. But can get in the way sometimes as well, because you’re too worried about making things perfect, when often your enough can be good enough.
And then of course, most important thing is that I’ve got a passion for the underlying problem that my customers are facing, which is trying to get travel made easier for them. And also helping families to generate less waste.
Ingrid: And that underlying passion is completely driven by the environment, it’s driven by ease of life of the people, that real, as you said much earlier in the conversation, that desire to solve a problem, that you recognised early in your being a mom, and being a parent, that it was really and truly an issue. It sounds to me like another characteristic that you talked about there, is that ability to ask for help. Like when you talked about talking to people that you know, reaching out to people in the shared community, and things. How important do you feel that ability to ask for help is, as part of growing a business?
Vanouhi: Yeah, I think that that is really important, just putting yourself out there is the number one thing that you need to be able to do. From day one, you need to be talking to your customers, from day one you need to be reaching out and finding people. I went to a talk last week, and they said something along the lines of it’s never been easier to launch a business, but your business is now just one grain of sand on a beach. So unless you’re putting yourself out there constantly, no one will find your business, no one will be attracted to your business, so that’s definitely an important point to get out there.
The other essential one I think it’s perseverance, the ability to pick yourself up when things go wrong. So Kindershare’s first ad campaign went out onto Ellaslist, which is a mailing list in Sydney, and the Kindershare website crashed on the same day, so I spent quite a bit of cash getting this advertising campaign out, and when customers got through, they weren’t getting anywhere. Getting over that angst of moving forward pretty quickly, is critical. And that sort of event has happened time and time again, thankfully not to that extent, but yeah. Things go wrong all the time when you’re running a business. It’s not all roses. So being able to pick yourself up and move forward I think is critical.
Ingrid: Yeah, that perseverance, tenacity, resilience that whole suit of skills, those characteristics really are important aren’t they?
Vanouhi: Yes, certainly.
Ingrid: So Vanouhi, someone coming to you, super excited about their idea, they tell you that they want to start their own business, what do you actually say to them?
Vanouhi: Interesting idea, is generally my first comment. And then I say, okay do it. What are you going to do by this time tomorrow to see if someone’s interested in buying your product? They’ll say “Oh no, I can’t”, the common first reaction is “Oh no, I don’t have a website, I don’t have this, I don’t have that.” I’m like, you don’t need a website, you don’t need any of that to get started. And then I try to workshop with them to help them figure out how they’re actually going to take the first step to validate their idea. And set them a very clear time-frame to do it.
Ingrid: See, it’s really all about action, isn’t it? And like you say, what are you going to do in the next 24 hours.
Vanouhi: Yeah, that’s right. Ideas are available everywhere, I get 10 ideas a day for a business, but once you start getting ideas, they flow quite easily. It’s being able to implement them, that’s the solution. That’s the real mark of the business.
Ingrid: I like to say that ideas are just that, until you take action. And it’s only through the action that they actually become something other than an idea. Vanouhi thanks so much! And before we wrap up, is it anything else that I didn’t ask you, that maybe you want to say? Or that you haven’t been able to tell us about your business? So just spell it for us, and I’ll put it in the show notes, but it’s Kinder, as in child K-I-N-D-E-R
Vanouhi: Share, S-H-A-R-E.
Vanouhi: .com, that’s right. Yeah, so that’s it, kindershare.com. Especially if you’ve got a travel pram, or a travel cot, or aeroplane cushion, we’ve got really high demand going at the moment, with Christmas, so you can be listing it on there, and be making money from it tomorrow. Simple as that. So list it on there.
Ingrid: And so these are people whose maybe they’ve been saving these items for maybe a family member who’ll be having children in the future, or they were nice products and they don’t want to just give them away, so they can actually make money from something that’s sitting in the attic, or sitting in the garage.
Vanouhi: Yeah, that’s right. If you’re in between children, or like me if you don’t know if you want to have another child yet, or not. And you’re holding on to them just in case, then yeah you could definitely be making money off of it. One of the owners I was speaking to yesterday, she said to me “You know, I always thought oh I’ll just sell it at some point, but I’ve actually realised I can make more money by renting it out to local families instead”. People that are a bit smarter with their money, as well, and trying to look at ways to bringing in a couple of extra dollars here and there.
Ingrid: Yeah, it all just adds up, doesn’t it? Sure does. Vanouhi thanks so much for your time this morning.
Vanouhi: Thank you very much!