BYE BYE, BABY
Mumpreneur Mandi Gunsberger PIONEERED the mum BLOGGING space in Australia. Ten years on, she SOLD her online JUGGERNAUT. Here’s how the SALE went down.
the founder of Babyology paved the way for mummy bloggers and has recently sold the empire she built from her kitchen table
Mum-ofthree Mandi Gunsberger recently sold one of her babies. No, not one of her daughters, but her online business, Babyology. She launched the parenting portal from her living room back in 2007 to navigate all things baby as she was prepping to become a first-time mum.
What was her vision? “To create a parenting website that provides a supportive and trusted community for parents and parents-to-be. With information and advice that celebrates the parenting journey in all its shades.”
At the time of sale, Babyology had a community made up of more than one million people, plus more than 1.2 million followers on Facebook, and a further 58,000 on Instagram. While Mandi isn’t legally able to share the sale figure, she says, “I’m very happy with the outcome.” So, how does it feel to nurture a business through teething problems and puberty blues – and then walk away from it completely?
At the time of the sale, reveals Mandi, “I’d finally decided, after bootstrapping the business for almost a decade, that we really wanted to grow bigger, hire more staff… a lot of things that we couldn’t afford to do on our own.”
An entrepreneur who just happens to be a mum-of-three, Mandi had grown the brand from a solo operation to a team of almost 25 – mostly women – working remotely from their own homes and their Sydney headquarters.
Today, there are countless mum blogs saturating the market, but when Mandi returned to Australia in 2004 with her husband after five years in San Francisco, the blogging industry, which was already in take-off mode in the US, hadn’t yet made an impact in Australia.
“Our content was very aspirational and seen as something to ‘ooh and ahh’ over, as you would a glossy magazine with a Ferrari on the front cover,” says Mandi. “Most people will never buy a Ferrari but are happy to look at it and read about it. We wrote about crystal encrusted bottles, and dummies and prams that cost $10,000 and over.”
The business model worked. Soon considered the market leader in native online content for Australian parents, they added events, subscription boxes and video content to their repertoire.
In the last quarter of 2016, they began looking for funding – a result of the business transitioning from a remote enterprise with freelance mums who contributed from around the country, to renting an office space and managing 20 onsite staff in Sydney.
In her pursuit of investment, Mandi tapped her networks (she estimates she did 45 presentations across Sydney and Melbourne). “I didn’t realise when we had the initial investor and a term sheet [which is drawn up by the main investor] that we had to go back to the market and find the rest of the money for the deal to close,” she explains. “For instance, if you want to do a $1 million raise, the main investor might put in $400,000 and you have to find the rest.” >
What was more unexpected, though, is that some of these early investors loved the business so much that they wanted to discuss acquisition – something Mandi and her husband, Ben, who together held 100 per cent equity in the business, hadn’t previously considered.
With potential offers on the table, they got an adviser on board and went to the market with an IM (Information Memorandum) to see which offers would materialise.
“There is a lot of negotiation back and forth, adviser to adviser, lawyer to lawyer,” reveals Mandi. “There’s a lot of due diligence involved, and you end up negotiating down to the final tiny little thing. It’s a big deal for them. A big deal for us.”
The transaction was a six-month process. “We were purchased by Kinderling Digital Media – a digital radio station for kids,” she explains. “I thought, ‘Okay, if someone wants it and it’s a good price…’ Kinderling’s acquisition enabled the company to form The Parent Brand – Australia’s largest digital media group targeted towards families.
Mandi exited the company immediately after the sale was finalised and a new managing director stepped in. “It felt complicated to have both of us sitting at the helm and I was very happy to say, ‘Call me if you need me,’” she recalls. Ten days after the sale the family took a holiday in Japan. “I’d never had a month off. I’d only ever been able to go away for a week. My kids didn’t know what hit them. We had a ball.”
Back on home turf, Mandi, who prior to founding Babyology worked in PR, sales and marketing, is seeking out new projects. “I’ve already got my finger in so many pies. I don’t think I’ve learnt the art of sitting and relaxing yet. I’ve constantly got coffees and meetings and speaking engagements. But to no longer have the thought of running a team of 20 people resting on my shoulders as I go to sleep at night is a very good feeling.”
It’s also a relief for the trailblazer to no longer have to keep the wheels of an evolving business turning every single day. “For the last two years, as we tried to grow into a bigger company, it was very stressful. Then we raised money and that was stressful, and when that turned into acquisition, we were running a business and selling a business at the same time.”
In terms of the future, the ambitious founder feels that anything’s going to be easy compared to building Babyology and selling it. “I’ve heard from [other] entrepreneurs, that with all the mistakes and what I’ve learnt, nothing will ever be as difficult as this first time.”
I’ve ALREADY got my finger in so many pies. I don’t think I’ve LEARNT the art of SITTING and RELAXING yet.