It was September 2014.
Seems like a lifetime ago, but in reality, it hasn’t even been 3 years since that date.
A teacher by trade, I was on maternity leave with a 19 month old, an 8 week old, and a craving for creativity.
Wanting to contribute to the grocery bill – but not return to the 9 to 5 – I decided to take my hobby-only interest and launch a very small range of totally unique products into the online marketplace.
My research told me there was nothing else out there that allowed people to preserve their precious moments and memories in an effortless, artisan-quality, affordable way.
So with some basic photography of my first ideas, and a ‘just start somewhere’ approach, I began using Instagram as my only marketing tool, and opened the doors to the Arlo & Co online store.
As the virtual till began to ring, I made the products in my makeshift garage studio, with the help of my Dad, at first, and then my husband. I ran the business from the kitchen bench, often while breastfeeding an irritable baby and chasing a toddler.
Fast forward to this year and after a gazillion sleepless nights, thorough research, strategic planning, growing pains, some failed launches, intricate brand building, a and a couple of new, key team members, we felt like it was time to seek some serious external feedback and recognition for Arlo & Co.
With a ‘go big or go home’ attitude, we aimed as high as we could and applied for the prestigious Telstra Business Awards.
Now, for those that have gone through the application process, I think we’ll all agree the task is not for the faint-hearted. It prides itself in leaving no stone unturned as you gauge every corner of the labyrinth that makes up your business.
The application took us about 80 man hours and pushed us to really solidify our vision, our direction, and our roadmap.And once everything was submitted we were giddy with excitement that for each of the in depth questions we did, in fact, have all the answers.
A few weeks later, when we got the call letting us know we’ve been shortlisted (in the NEW business category) – a mammoth achievement in itself – we gasped, danced, and pinched ourselves. Two amazing judges came out to our leafy, Eastern suburbs studio and went through the nitty gritty with us once again.
Although a lot less gruelling than the application process, the interview still left us in the dark about whether we were going to make the finalists list. We decided to celebrate how far we’d come with team pizza and drinks, then return to business as usual.
So when I got off the phone with the Telstra team three weeks ago congratulating Arlo & Co as award finalists, I cried a little.
Too honest? Maybe. But the truth is that this startup life hasn’t been easy.
There have been so many days I’ve wondered if we’re actually able to manage the balance of parenting and creating and building dreams all at once.
We’ve learned so many things along the way, like the fact that perseverance pays off, but it does so at the expense of a social life.
We’ve created our beautiful buisness – from scratch, in under three years – and we’re proud. With no external capital or help, and with sheer innovation and grit, we’ve figured out how to truly find our niche in creating pieces that signify, celebrate, and remember the importance of family, loved ones, and special moments.
And we’ve built a team that’s immeasurably dedicated to our mission of creating the best quality personalised products and building a business that nurtures family and community.
So for all of our hard work, sleepless nights, flops, innovation, and successes to be recognised by one of the most distinguished awards in Australian business is such an honour.
Telstra have spent 25 years perfecting the art of discovering and empowering Aussie doers who are innovative, and prepared to roll up their sleeves, take risks, learn, stretch, improve, and build something special.
And as we prepare for the gala dinner at the end of the month where the winners will be announced, we hope that even now this honour will allow us to reach greater heights in being a role model organisation who inspires others to go for gold.
We represent a new wave of parents building empires from their spare rooms, using innovative marketing models to capitalise on the rise of the social media based business.
We want others like us to know that it pays off to have determination and tenacity to make their work suit their changing family dynamic.
Because after all, family comes first.