Louisa For­rest, 33, bounced back from near fi­nan­cial ruin af­ter a re­la­tion­ship break­down and has taken her com­pany to new heights.

Collective Hub - - RESILIENCE -

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.

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