First-time parents Ronnie and Carlie McKenzie have put everything on the line to step out of their comfort zone and into a new business. Creators of Bambino Brands – a one-stop online baby shop, the inspirational pair have utilised their professional skills to create a niche business that will allow them to spend more time with their precious son while forging a bright future for their family. Ingrid nelson caught up with the local young couple to discover some of the challenges and rewards they have encountered on their journey along the road less travelled.
It takes guts to ditch the security of your day job and jump head first into a new business venture, especially when you’ve just become first-time parents. Just ask courageous Sunshine Coast husband and wife team, Ronnie and Carlie McKenzie, who did just that 12 months ago, after the birth of their first son Samuel in 2010 completely changed their life’s direction. Like most young families, adjusting to one income was a challenge for Ronnie and Carlie and they soon experienced first-hand the many realities new parents face – babies are expensive!
Both determined to spend as much time at home with little Sam while still being able to survive financially – the entrepreneurial duo put their heads together and the concept of Bambino Brands was born – an online one-stop baby and maternity store, offering all the latest brands for a fraction of the retail price.
“It all started when I was searching online for a quality car seat for Sam and I discovered I could buy the previous year’s model for much less just because the product had been superseded with a new one,” says Carlie.
“We wanted to give Sam the best of everything, but obviously with me not working, our budget was an issue. I found myself sifting through endless online stores trying to find quality baby products at a discounted price, but there really was no one-stop shop and that’s where the idea for Bambino Brands stemmed from.”
A true local, Carlie grew up on the Sunshine Coast, and having completed a physiotherapy degree after finishing high school, she worked in Brisbane for two years, where she met Ronnie, a trade-qualified carpenter who was running his own business at the time. It wasn’t long before the gruelling twelve-hour days her job as a physio entailed started to take its toll on her health and with Ronnie’s business taking a hit with the economic downturn, they decided to bite the bullet and move back to Carlie’s home town for a new start. Four years on – a wedding and a baby later, the couple decided it was time to get serious about turning their dreams of owning their own niche business into reality.
“I knew I didn’t want to work for someone else and I have always been interested in starting an online business. I love the fact that you are open 24/7 and your target is really unlimited,” says Ronnie.
“Carlie really came up with the idea and it all just clicked into place really, it just seemed like the perfect fit. When I was on the tools, I really only saw Sam on the weekends and I hated it. My dad worked a lot when we were kids and we didn’t see him much, I wanted it to be different for Sam. When I’m having a tough day, I can just pop out to the lounge room and spend some time with him and remember why we started this.”
More than just your average online baby store, Bambino Brands is all about family. Carlie blogs alongside the site on many current and important baby and parenting topics and spends countless hours researching and offering advice for mothers wanting information on products or general baby information. The couple have had great feedback through Facebook interaction and tell me the social networking site has been a major factor in the success of their business, with more than 8000 members already and growing steadily.
“Basically our aim is to make Bambino Brands very wholesome and family-orientated,” says Carlie. “We are very hands-on and interactive and I think that’s what sets us apart. Someone might ask me for advice on say, the best three-wheeled stroller for jogging, or the best car seat and then I go about finding a product that is just right for them.”
Each brand on the Bambino Brands site runs a period of up to two weeks, selling many different products and lines at up to 80 per cent off recommended retail prices. By accessing big-brand supplier’s overstocked items and running sample sales, they have access to top quality items at fantastic prices.
It hasn’t all been smooth sailing for the couple, like any new business, they’ve faced their fair share of challenges along the way. “We have put everything into this business,” says Carlie, a self-confessed worrier. “I admit thinking ‘what if it doesn’t work’? many times, but Ronnie is such an optimist, he thinks big and that’s great. I am more of a realist so we balance each other out!”
Watching this young couple dote on their blonde-haired little boy as we sit chatting over a coffee, it’s not hard to see why they are passionate about making this business work. Aiming to have more than 200,000 members within five years and with the New Zealand, US and Asian markets set firmly in their sights, Ronnie and Carlie are well on their way to achieving their dreams.
“My life changed completely after Sam was born,” said Carlie. “Everything changes when you have a baby, your perspective changes and what’s important changes. I found a diary the other day of what I thought I would be doing 12 months after the birth of my son – back at physio and him at day-care, but I discovered this is not what I wanted at all. I just want to be with him. So this is a vehicle for this to happen, for me that’s what’s important.”