Water cooler chats...with Laura Furiosi from Rashoodz

When two clever mums saw that there was a need for swimwear that addressed the needs of mums and their kids, Rashoodz was born. The result is the patented Rashoodz designed swimsuit that has a legionnaire’s hat attached to the collar by clips.

Founded in 2008 by Laura Furiosi, Rashoodz has gone from strength to strength, going on to win multiple design and lifestyle awards. Laura shares some nuggets of business gold with Lemon&Gingr.

Laura, an incredible 8+ year journey so far for you and Rashoodz from identifying a gap in the market, to local and then international sales, to earning top gong at a national awards ceremony alongside a host of brilliant mums in business. How are you feeling about it all?

I feel great. I remember attending the awards back in 2012 and hoping that one day I could say my business was a success and I could be Ausmumprenuer of the year.

Could you describe the very start of it all? What was the tipping point for you that made you take action on your idea?

Starting out my friend and I were just selling at markets. It was great but I wanted to spend time at home with my children and standing around at markets all day long wasn't my idea of success. So I took it to the next level by attending trade shows, and hoping to get stores to do the selling for me.

How prepared were you to create, drive and nurture your own business? What did you find yourself having to learn at lightening fast speed?

I have a Bachelor of Education, which isn't that useful in business. Starting small I had to learn accounting and its appropriate software, website software, marketing, social media and also design. Probably the biggest learning curve was the wholesale industry, the lingo, the rules and the basics stuff like how to make a barcode!

Did you have prior experience in creating your own product? Take me though those first few months. What were some of the unexpected challenges you had to overcome?

I had never created my own product before. To start all we had was a drawing. I then took this drawing to a technical drawer and a pattern maker. I worked tirelessly with the pattern maker and a seamstress to create a pattern I was happy with. When the pattern was finished I had to find a factory to make it, and then tweak it.

The biggest challenge was getting clips, zips, material, etc all to the factory so they could make the swimwear. It took a very long time and a lot of back and forth. In the beginning stages I hadn't even thought about packaging. This came much later.

Tell me about how it felt to have your own product in your hand that was going to support and drive your vision and mission to protect young children from skin cancer. And of course, how did it feel fulfilling your first orders?

Fitting the finally product on my daughter for the first time was such a thrill. It was something that had been taken from an idea on paper to an actual product. The best part was I knew that it would help thousands of parents help protect their children from sun cancer and also get children used to having a hat on their head.

When I got my first order from a store it was so exciting. We still supply to some of these stores many years later. We have created lovely relationships with our stores.

At what stage did you realise that you were a growing business and how did you need to adapt your operations the accommodate for that growth?

After a few years of running this from home and out of my garage, I realised the next shipment due from China wasn't going to actually fit in my house. I realised I had to move out. I initially had a 3PL company but then have now had to take over from that and into our own warehouse.

When a business first starts, there are certain strategies and ways that the business operates that are reflective of that start-up phase.  As the business evolves and moves to a growth phase, there are often different issues to consider and different ways that the business will need to operate.  Your business has obviously gone through various stages of start-up, growth and expansion - was it easy to identify when you might have needed to change-up how you were operating and what the business focus needed to be on? 

Each phase made itself clear to me out of growing pains, but each time I came to it, making the next steps always felt like I was about to jump out of a plane without a parachute. Realising I needed staff was one of those expansion phases that scared me so much. I couldn’t keep up with demand of questions, online orders and stores, so I needed to add another me. This was the first step, but slowly over time I needed to be in charge of my own warehousing as we got to a point where it would be cheaper to do it ourselves. But I needed another person to help with that.

Each transition phase makes itself known through problems that start to arise, due to lack of staff, or lack of time or no experience.  I believe transition phases between getting staff, warehousing, software implementation and an office or going into wholesale for large chain stores are all big steps. I think if you move into these phases before you need to you will come into problems, but if you move into these phases too late and you hesitate you will also hit problems.

It is a fine line and it needs to be planned and timed correctly. I hope that my latest transition into warehousing myself was the right choice, but I can already see the problems that we had from using a 3PL company disappearing.

And what about your role personally?  Naturally, as Founder you want to be aware of everything, but at what stage did you decide to take a step back from the granular details?  Was that a hard transition for you?

To be honest, as a founder it is very hard to step back, but also as a mother I need to. My team has their roles and I am still training them in some areas. However in other areas they know more than me and that is why I hired them. I value their opinions a lot and they have all brought a new expert element to the business that has added immense value to what we offer.

I have chosen to be the face and to continue doing the things I enjoy such as the designing and overseas business side. I don’t go to work on Fridays and I leave work at 2:30 to do school pickup. My staff are quite capable of taking care of the Australia side of our businesses without me.

I think that as we expand my staff now will be the heads of each department they are currently taking care off. That is my plan. I think when it comes to expansion and hiring people, make sure you choose people you know have something you don’t. Plus being able to trust them with your baby (business) is so important. I have seen a lot of great brands never expand because the founder is too afraid to let go and get someone else to take care of the day to day so they can focus on expansion.

You really need to learn to trust and hire well. This has been such a learning experience for me.

What were your biggest learnings from your business as you experience and continue to experience growth in your business?

You need to plan ahead but also take every day , one step at a time. Every new element in this business I have had to face, seems scary, especially if I have no idea how to achieve what is needed, but I always break it down into steps. Write down what I need to learn and then learn it.

You cannot rush things but I learnt you also cant hold yourself back just because of the fear that you might fail. What is the point of business without a little risky thrill every now and then?

Taking your businesses to the international markets is huge step - what is your big piece of advice for retailers or manufacturers looking to sell across multiple regions?

Change your product packaging and marketing material to match each region. Do not try to take the blanket approach of one size fits all. You need to be willing to learn new ways of doing business. Each country seems to have little quirks and customs that you really need to be aware of so you don't insult or ruin your business negotiations.

I also learnt that persistence pays off, it has taken me a few years from initial meetings to finally getting into stores in China. It is worth the persistence.

How important is the right team and network to you in both your personal and professional life, when running a business and in particular, as a mum running a business?

The team I have with Rashoodz is so important in helping it all run smoothly. My aim is to have a group who are all on the same page and have a positive vibe all aiming from the same goal of helping children be protected from skin cancer.

I also have outsourced some things in my life to help with my busy mum life too. I outsourced the washing and cleaning, so now when I am home I am free to spend time with my children and not spending time at home cleaning the house and yelling at them to stop messing it up. My husband has been a great supporter and takes on responsibilities around the home as well.

Would you be comfortable sharing with us a time where, not only did something not go right, but it in fact, went wrong?  

We were approached by a large overseas company that wanted a lot of our product and at the time we were only selling online in Australia. The catch was they wanted it half the price of what we were making at. So against all my instincts I compromised on quality to make it the price they wanted. THIS WAS A HUGE MISTAKE! Yes, they bought lots of stock, but the sales were terrible due to the quality and not only that our happy customers were upset because of the quality change.

Our swimwear usually last two or three children (hand me downs) and the material doesn’t change colour or shape. However this batch we made for this large overseas company was terrible and the material didn’t last longer than two swims. We had a lot of dead stock that I wasn’t willing to sell and it ruined our relationship with that large overseas retailer.

How did you recover from that and how did you ensure that your mindset didn't take a blow from it? 

I immediately changed back to our outstanding quality swimwear material and flatly refuse to ignore my instincts or compromise my brand's integrity for money. The left over swimsuits we sold off as seconds at cost price and explained to the buyers what to expect.

My mindset didn’t take a blow because I knew that I should have listened to my gut! I resolved then and there to never ignore it again. It has also helped me when dealing with larger department stores who ask for compromise for me to say without hesitation NO.

There is a bit of chatter from time to time about the name “mumpreneur”, “girl boss” and so on. Why do you think some ladies really take to it, while others are inclined to push against it?

I believe we are entitled to call ourselves what ever we like. I think the mumpreneur tag gets push back because people argue they don't like to be labelled, or that being caused a mumpreneur means we are belittling ourselves. I wear it as a badge of honour.

It was damn tough starting up this business and being a stay-at-home mum. It wasn't easy, but I had a support network of other mumpreneurs through the Ausmumpreneur group that helped me out when I needed it. I know many mumpreneurs that I can pick up the phone and call quickly asking for advice or help. This support is invaluable.

So i see it as being a member of a group of like minded women in a similar situation to myself.

Keen to know more about Laura and Australia's favourite swimming togs? Check out the Rashoodz Instagram, Facebook or  website

Winnie ElblComment