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.

Collective Hub - - CONTENTS - WORDS KELLI ARM­STRONG

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.

On the set of Play School with pre­sen­ter Rachael Coopes.

Fi­nal­ist at the 2016 Tel­stra Busi­ness Awards with her hus­band Ben Guns­berger (far right).

Speak­ing event for The Moth­ers Den.

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