Catherine Hawkins – Pureborn Organic – CEO Business Marketing Interview 20

In this interview listen to Catherine talk about her journey building Pureborn Organic, identifying a market gap in NZ, brand positioning in a crowded marketplace and how to gain business credibility early on.

Catherine also shares some major insight into the Pureborn Organic marketing strategy including audience targeting, the 100% migration to Facebook marketing, and the launch of her brand new business

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Ryan: This is the Ryan Marketing show, and you’re listening to episode 20 of 100. Today, I’m with Catherine Hawkins from Pureborn Organic, and we’re going to be talking all about her journey in business and what got her into this business and where she’s got to now. How are you doing, Catherine?

Catherine: Good, thank you.

Ryan: So let’s go all the way back to when you started the business back in, what was it, about 2008?

Catherine: Yes, 2008.

Ryan: What was it like, prior to sending in the company in corporation form, prior to first day trade? What was it like to actually make that decision to – “I’m going to go start a business”?

Catherine: It was a long decision, it started with the birth of my first son and I had wanted to be an at home mother until I was an at home mother and then I didn’t want to be an at home mother. I was really fortunate that we were living in the States at the time and my husband was working so I had a year off to set up the business and we identified during that time, living in America what a great product organic cotton was and that there was a gap in the market for it in New Zealand.

Ryan: So Pureborn Organic, it’s a kid clothing brand as such?

Catherine: Yeah.

Ryan: What’s the difference between that and what you would get from some of the – what was there prior and where did you see the gap when you started?

Catherine: There wasn’t much organic cotton in New Zealand, there was one company who was still doing it and doing it well but there was a definite space in the market for a premium quality product to come in at more mainstream pricing. It was quite an inaccessible product for most people because of the price of it and the quality of our clothes definitely set us apart, we use a 220 GSM certified organic cotton. Which is really durable and a really lovely weight.

Ryan: So during that time you took off that year, how did you go about doing your research to uncovering this gap? Or was it, this is something that you experienced first hand?

Catherine: So we bought organic cotton for our son in America and from that we thought we hadn’t really seen that available in New Zealand so obviously we researched what was happening in the New Zealand market, what there was a demand for and then we went about sourcing samples. We sourced samples out of Hong Kong, China and India, and the Indian ones weren’t the best price but they were the best quality and we felt that for an organic product to have authenticity in the New Zealand market place China and Hong Kong probably weren’t the right partnership.

Ryan: Did you fly over there?

Catherine: Nope

Ryan: So this was all done remotely.

Catherine: Yes.

Ryan: Just emails and calls?

Catherine: Emails, yeah. Calls, couriers.

Ryan: And how did you know that you had the right company, that you had chosen in India?

Catherine: The guy who owns our factory, I established a really good relationship with early on and he and his wife had the idea for their factory while they were on the Number 14 bus in Putney in London and I had lived on the Fulham Road and caught the Number 14 bus very often and that felt to me like enough of a sign that we could work well together. What you get from your supplier is never guaranteed and it’s never exactly what you want but if you have a strong enough relationship with the person behind the factory you can work through all those problems.


Ryan: Okay, so you’ve identified that there’s a gap, you’ve found a supplier in India to work with. Now they’re providing the raw ingredients, what you don’t have is a brand to then launch to market so talk us through how you went about establishing the name, the look, the feel.

Catherine: We looked at a lot of websites and we realised that there was so little individual space online that we needed to come up with a name that, when it was search, would only lead to us. So we came up with Pureborn, partly because my name being Catherine, ‘pure’ in Irish or Scottish. So I quite liked the association, I didn’t want it to be about me but I wanted to have that little part of association that I knew was in there and to put it together with the ‘born’ obviously associates it with babies and toddlers which is what the brand was so we came up with the name and then my brother in law designed the logo for us with the face which is actually trade marked in New Zealand and Australia and yeah, Pureborn Organic was born and we started moving forward to get some products.


Ryan: Then how did you get the name out there?

Catherine: When we launched the website we intend to be an online only company until we realised that it’s not that simple so we had to do a lot quick thinking with 25,000 dollars invested in stock and nobody buying it and we were really fortunate that one of our first customers was Kirkcaldie & Stains in Wellington and from them endorsing our product and carrying it as core stock we were virtually able to sell it into most shops across New Zealand. At capacity we had about 100 wholesalers stocking the range and from that and taking advantage of branding opportunities direct to the public we managed to integrate the brand pretty quickly.

Ryan: Right so taking what is a new brand at that period of time and getting Kirkcaldie & Stains who is a very old brand in retail to endorse it, that then gives you the kind of levelling up to be able to go round New Zealand retailers and say, ” we’re at Kirkcaldies’, you should stock us.”

Catherine: Yep, pretty much. It was that simple.


Ryan: Since then have things changed? Have you – is now more online or is it very much a bricks in water retail lead distribution?

Catherine: Our stockists are mainly bricks in water stores, we do supply a few websites but because it is quite a tactile product people like to touch the cotton. Things constantly change in business and you have to be constantly evolving and aware that what is buttering your bread one day may not be the next so we’ve worked really hard to establish as many different revenue streams as possible to safe guard our income.

Ryan: Is that because some of the product you stock, are very trend related? Or is this more around just making sure you’ve got, you don’t have all your eggs in one basket?

Catherine: Yeah, it’s basically that lots of shops change hands and close down and you can’t rely on small business’ to carry your business if you don’t have some bigger ways of making money, you could end up in a pickle.


Ryan: Now, around 2010/11, it’s kind of when social media was going crazy in New Zealand, how did you introduce that to your business?

Catherine: We got a Facebook page, first, and we love Facebook. Facebook’s been amazing for us and we grew our customer base on Facebook through giveaways and getting people to virally promote our product for us. When we opened the outlet shop years ago we set up a separate Facebook page for that directly targeting local customers because we didn’t want there to be any cross over we have to be a little bit careful with our stockists not to be direct selling on their doorsteps.

Ryan: It’s quite a delicate balance, wholesale and retail.

Catherine: It is, and we have come up against that a few times but I think we manage it quite well and as of two years ago our entire marketing budget has gone onto Facebook. We don’t do any print, media, or any radio advertising which we’ve tried in the past. Facebook shows us what our return is, it’s really easily trackable you can see your results you can see your reach and you can see the value of your spend.

Ryan: Do you get into using some of their new ad units that they’ve got available, some of the new video base ones or canvas base ones, or is it just very much post and boost?

Catherine: Yeah we do the standard boosts and we also have in the last year started doing clearance sales in different parts of the country which we will promote via Facebook and we find that virally the reach and return we can get on them is nothing short of spectacular.

Ryan: That’s great to hear because a lot of business’ have struggled through that, either they’ve lost organic reach with Facebook so you’ve still got a very strong base to be able to do that.

Catherine: Yeah and it’s like our main Facebook page at the moment I’m not spending any time on it and its flat and we haven’t got the reach on it but as soon as you boost a post as long as you target it specifically to people who you want to come it doesn’t matter if they like your page or not they will still see that. It’s what comes through as a sponsored post in your news feed so it its relevant to you because we’ve said that your who we want as a customer, we pay to push that into your newsfeed.


Ryan: Are there any particular tips or tricks you want to share with other business owners on how you’ve gone about targeting and seen some success?

Catherine: You know obviously it would be custom to every business, but we find that we target women between the age of 20 and 60, and we also, within our events that we set up, we run giveaways and people need to share our event on their page to enter the giveaway whether or not thats quite in the Facebook regulations I’m not quite sure, but that’s how we get our viral reach. You’ll break down at the end and you’ll see your spend has reached say, 7,000 people but you’ve reached a further 7,000 virally by getting your customer base engaged and sharing the information of what you’re trying to achieve.


Ryan: And one of the challenges with Facebook is they’re always changing the rules, it’s an ever moving goal post. Is there any tactics you’ve got in place to capture those peoples’ contact details, their email address, so you’ve got your own database that, depending, whatever Facebook does you’ve still building your own database?

Catherine: Yeah we have but I think with our product because we’re a fluid market, people come in and out of being relevant to our brand. You know if we were womenswear those people would always want to see our emails or would always be our customer base in our target market whereas you know if you have a baby in two years they won’t fit our clothes anymore so the turnover of email address relevance isn’t as big as it would be with other products. We do have a database local and national but with being able to spend money on Facebook it kind of gets you around that anyway and a lot of people will say “Oh I’m on your Facebook page”, so they won’t want to get double whammied by us. So we just kind of leave it.


Ryan: It is a bit of a challenge with your type of business then is that every couple of years you’ve got a brand new potential customer base, I guess thats an opportunity as well.

Catherine: Yeah, I think obviously the market refreshes itself so it’s good as well because if someone hasn’t chosen to buy your products they become irrelevant after two years anyway. I think what you can’t underestimate with our customers is how much time they spend on the internet. They’re internet shoppers, they’re young, they’re woman, they talk. A lot of the time they’re not working so they are going to coffee groups and joining play groups and very much the mouth piece of your business and they are obsessed with their babies of course as most women are and they talk about what they buy and what they like so I think that’s a very powerful tool that a lot of products wouldn’t have. You know if I went and bought a pair of jeans for myself I probably wouldn’t tell all my friends about it because its not that exciting or important to my life but if I bought something that I like for my baby and I wasn’t working and I had this huge network of people I would probably be a bit more excited about it.


Ryan: Do you actively reach out to some of those influences? Are there particular ones that you know will spread the message to more people then others?

Catherine: I think as long as you keep your message on target and you keep supplying products that people love, it’ll do it for you. We’ve got a number of products that are kind of staples in babies wardrobes and we could probably do better at getting the message across about them but we seem to be sold out of them most of the time anyway so we either need to up our volumes or not make too much noise about them because they sell themselves.

Ryan: Do you find that with having that core range, that one of the challenge with any business is making enough margin on all the different items with the core part, is there more margin on some of the edge products of your range or do you kind of just mark it up and sell it to your retailers to sell on?

Catherine: Yeah so there’s a standard sort of retail mark up for baby wear, and you kind of run in line with what the market expectation of paying for an item is. We do have better margin products, definitely, we have things for example body suits which are the ones that clip underneath that there’s a lot of fabric wastage round the thigh and the cut needs a lot more finishing work and there’s the doming so those are a lower margin item but then we sell more of them so – across the board it kind of evens out.


Ryan: Now Pureborn Organic is the main brand for your business but before we started this interview we had a brief discussion on this new brand that you’re starting. Can you tell us a bit more about that and your thinking behind that business?

Catherine: Yeah we launched a new website called about four months ago, it’s – there’s a big market of people out there who aren’t in the baby arena and don’t know much about baby products. A lot of men who need to purchase corporate gifts within their office, a lot of maternity leave presents so what we’ve done is we’ve basically bundled what we know should be the best selling products in our range along with Ecostore and Aden and Anais muslin range together into gift boxes starting at $39 through to $249 and it’s online only so it’s just click, buy, forget about it.

Ryan: And what are some of the lessons or learning you’re going to be taking from Pureborn across to baby shower gifts to get the brand or the business out there?

Catherine: We are going to be using Facebook for that for promotion.

Ryan: Seperate page, same page?

Catherine: Seperate page, we can discount it further because obviously with Pureborn we’re primarily a wholesaler where with this we’re the retailer so we’re getting the retail margin on products so we can play around with it a lot and offer good specials and discounts that we’ve got to be a little bit more cautious about doing with Pureborn out of difference to our stockists. It’s a website that’s really user friendly. You know, it’s for people who aren’t interested, basically, who just want to – they’ve got a problem they need to sort it out and there’s the way they can do it and because our brand is well known they hopefully will trust us and our taste and integrity in delivering good products that mums will like.


Ryan: So what’s an example, if we’re looking at the screen here now. We’ve got four different gift boxes across the top, what goes into those gift boxes? For let’s say the, $109 one?

Catherine: So that has got a bodysuit, a pair of trousers, an Ecostore soap, a screen printed New Zealand map tee shirt. It’s got an Aden and Anais bib which is a triple layer muslin so it’s really absorbent and it’s also got a PVA free silicon teething necklace. We’ve been bringing those directly into New Zealand for about two years and they’re a really popular product because quite often people want to give something for mum as well, baby presents are so focused on baby and it’s nice to just have some in there that mum can wear and later baby will teethe on that.

Ryan: Great so this is quite exciting because you’ve got a set of gifts here where if someones giving that to the mum it shows that the company cares. For an exec PA or a CEO, wanting to show that they care that extra bit, this is a great resource for them.

Catherine: Yeah absolutely and you just pop it in a box and courier it out and it’s there for them, it’s easy. Quite often we get last minute calls from people needing something for a baby shower or someones leaving work and it happened recently and I closed up and then jumped in the car and drove over to Hastings to deliver something to someone cause they needed it that afternoon. It doesn’t seem that people plan well in advance for leaving gifts for people going on maternity leave and quite often they’ve had a whip round the office and they’ve only got a set budget so in delivering things that are all packaged beautifully but with such a good range of prices, there should be something for everyone there.


Ryan: Now with an online only business like this, what you touch of the brand when you receive it’s quite important so what’s that out of box opening experience? Talk us through that.

Catherine: We’ve had, everything comes packaged with a free card, we will put the message on it if it’s going directly to the customer or we can just pop it in blank otherwise all of the boxes have a Baby Shower Gift brand card on the front of them, they’re all sealed with a Fleur De Lis sticker and everything inside the box is tissue wrapped so it’s a nice experience for the end receiver.

Ryan: Okay and this is live now?

Catherine: Yes it is live now.

Ryan: Excellent so you can go to and see the product range that Catherine’s put together here and if you’re looking or know someone who needs a baby shower gift that’s the place to go, that’s a free hug for you there Catherine.

Catherine: Thank you (laughs)


Ryan: Okay so we’re now half way through the year, running up to Christmas because this is kind of the start of what retailers start thinking about for Christmas at least, certainly not consumers. What’s your plans for the next six months of that run?

Catherine: So we will be delivering spring, summer into shops in September and then I’m going on maternity leave for five months.

Ryan: Oh congratulations.

Catherine: Yeah so I’ve got a business manager starting, actually tomorrow. So I’m just going to spend the next couple of months training her up and getting her – she’s younger than me, she’s on Instagram so you’re gonna see us popping up on Instagram soon. Just keeping evolving the business, the range, the stock and working on our strategies for different revenue streams.

Ryan: So that’s one of the hardest things as a business owner, is actually giving up your baby to go have a baby. What are some of the things you’re putting in place to give your replacement the best chance of success?

Catherine: Well basically I’ve done a marketing strategy for her going through what I have worked out are our main revenue streams and options so we’ve got the outlet shop, we’ve got the baby shower gifts website, we’ve got the main website, we’ve got the wholesale division of the business so I’ve gone through and set up targets for that and suggested ways of how we’re going to achieve it. There’s definitely ones that are going to be easier to tackle than the others, our wholesale over the last couple of years we’ve intentionally pulled it back because we weren’t happy with the number of our stockists and we didn’t want to supply them anymore. We had a number of shops change hands and the new owners weren’t particularly capable so we want to re-grow our wholesale division back up to where it was but we’re targeting where we want the brand to be rather than being happy to supply anything.

We’re being a little bit more selective about that now so that’s obviously a big job we need to work with our digital people to get our catalogues all ready, I’ve done a lot of the sales reping myself for the past eight years and that’s not something that I want to do as much anymore, I don’t want to be in my car as much and anyway from the family as much as I have been. So we really need to have a really strong digital strategy to get shops ordering, we need to be following up with them on the phone and by email as well but it’s a matter of just consolidating those ideas and focusing on what we want to achieve and when we want to achieve it.

Ryan: It’s a real big step for the business is to make sure it can keep going while you’re not there. Will you – do you intend to come back or if this, if your marketing strategy and business strategy plays out the way you want it to, will that actually free you up for more time to work more outside the business on it than inside it day to day?

Catherine: The business after eight years I’m really fortunate that we run it very efficiently, I only work 16 hours a week currently out of the office here which gives me time to do more than everything so it’s never been – well it was for a few years – but for a while it hasn’t been a full time role so i have a lot of time to do other things, I do have other interests outside of my business as well. So yeah I’m just going to see how things go, I’m pretty cruisy about it to be honest.

Ryan: Well it’s a great story that you’ve shared with us today from the very early days of Pureborn through to launching this new site for Baby Shower Gifts and the next stage which is to bring someone in to kind of take over from where you’ve got the business to.

Catherine: Yep, she’s gonna be great.

Ryan: So well done, and I look forward to seeing where she takes it in the future.

Catherine: Cool, thank you.

Ryan: Thanks, Catherine.