Louisa Forrest, 33, bounced back from near financial ruin after a relationship breakdown and has taken her company to new heights.
Today the BUSINESS is going from STRENGTH to strength, and we’ve just OPENED two new LOCATIONS and [are] expanding at a slow and STEADY pace.
My business began the way it does with many mums, I suppose; they say necessity is the mother of all invention and this was certainly the case with me. Prior to having my daughter, I was a small-business consultant and, before that, I had a 10-year career in sales. But after I realised my daughter was hypersensitive/allergic to chemicals on her skin and couldn’t wear disposable nappies, and I was struggling to do the laundry post C-section, the gap in the market made itself clear.
My ex and I launched Lavenderia NappyCare as a modern cloth nappy laundry and delivery service in 2011, but right away there were challenges. Initially we figured what we couldn’t launder ourselves, we would outsource, but we soon discovered that wasn’t a viable option in terms of affordability. We then rented a 30-sqm hole-inthe-wall in Sydney’s St Marys, purchased countless washing machines and dryers to fill said hole, and battled to get the word out through advertising. At the same time I had a sickly five-month-old, so I wouldn’t say it was the easiest of times!
Initially my ex was supporting the business financially, trying to keep us afloat while we built up the business, but then he lost his job. Redundancy is never good timing, but this was worse than most; reacting to projections based on feedback within the market, we had expanded too soon, moved to a larger facility, purchased more equipment and had counted on contracts in the pipeline that never eventuated. It was the classic ‘counting your chickens before they’ve hatched’ downfall. My ex and I ended up splitting while I was pregnant with our second child, and although he continues to have an interest in the business, I had to work out how to save a business that soon became six figures in the red and insolvent.
With administrators at the ready, and a new baby boy in my arms, I knew I had to act quickly. By the end of 2014, I started looking at operational costs and how I could reduce them drastically. I gave my staff a copy of the profit and loss statement and said, ‘Right, team, we need to cut six figures – how can we do it?’. In the end I had to let two of my staff go and the third cut her hours right down after leaving to have a baby, while I picked up the overflow. To cut costs further, we moved to a cheaper facility, pulled back on our outsourcing budget, and reduced marketing to very little, relying on the free marketing techniques I’d been studying along the way. Within months I reduced our operational costs by $200,000 and, finally, we were back in the black again.
Today the business is going from strength to strength, and we’ve just opened two new locations and [are] expanding at a slow and steady pace. The biggest lesson I’ve learnt is that numbers don’t lie, people do, and once you start lying to yourself about where you’re at and where you’re headed within your business and financials, it can be a long road to recovery – if you can recover at all. It hasn’t been an easy ride to get to where I’m at, but I’m well aware that I’m one of the lucky ones.