I cannot believe we are nearly at the end of 2022, what a first year in business it has been. When you run your own business it is often hard to remember to look back and reflect on what has happened as you are so busy moving forward to the next goal, the next product the next whatever. 2022 at Hoopsy has been full… Not sure how to describe it, there have been ups and downs, moves, sunshine, snow and more. Read on to find out about our first year in business.
Officially Hoopsy as a company started on 7th December 2021, so the end of 2022 marks just over 1 year old, but as most of you know the Hoopsy journey started much earlier in 2021 with my first IVF donor embryo transfer, and I can say WITHOUT a doubt that I did not see myself being where I am now, with a baby of a different kind!
The highlight this month was getting the final version of the test from our manufacturer, I remember holding it in my hands and thinking, REALLY is this it? Will this actually work? Seriously why has no other company thought of this concept? I knew before talking to any other women that our product was going to be huge and that Hoopsy would become a household name, it’s strange, it is a feeling I had then and one that I still have today. I was still working in a paid job 4 days a week in January.
Hoopsy started with myself (Lara) and a friend Preethi, but in February Preethi decided that it wasn’t for her, she wanted to focus more on digital/tech and decided to leave, hard at the time, because I have to be honest I was enjoying having a co-founder to work with, chat to, bounce ideas off and more. But looking back the right decision for us both. The cofounder situation has now gone a full circle with Cortina joining the Hoopsy team officially as a co-founder in November! More on that later. I was still working in a job 4 days a week this month.
This month was all about the tests, all the packaging was finalised. I got all the certification paperwork from the manufacturer and decided while putting together all the TGA bits that I would apply to sell our eco pregnancy tests in the UK (they were already approved for Europe), very surprisingly the registration letter for this came through in a week.
This is when I submitted our application to the TGA for approval in Australia, it was something I thought would take a matter of weeks (according to their website), only to be told that it would be months, probably six months due to COVID tests being prioritised. The TGA process is not super clear and I did the submission myself, looking back I wouldn’t recommend that it has caused us delays due to my lack of experience and the confusing system that they have, basically when they ask one question they are actually asking three! But on every journey, you learn…. I usually just hope that it is a cheap learning experience! After realising that it was going to take so long to get Australian approval I decided to launch into the UK market first, and on 14th April I placed our first order with the factory. It was also in April that I realised that I was going to run out of money, I had been self-funding to this point, so I decided to raise money via an Australian Equity Crowdfunding campaign. This was the reason that I reached out to Cortina, a friend from a startup program I did, I needed a second director for the business to be able to run the crowdfunding and she was a perfect fit.
A few BIG things this month, I finally (it felt like finally to me) went full time working on Hoopsy, without pay (I was still self-funding at this point). I also flew to the UK, after making the decision to launch into the UK market first I decided it would be easiest to do this while being on the ground, luckily I had family to stay with. On May 10th our expression of interest for our Equity crowdfunding round opened, and 4 yes FOUR days later it closed due to an overwhelming response to it. A good problem to have, but then the next few weeks were spent getting all the offer paperwork finalised, if I did an equity crowdfunding round again I would get all the paperwork together before I started to save time, and also reduce the time between the expression of interest and the offer opening, I felt ours was far too long at a month. I also didn’t know exactly what was involved before I started and so didn’t have things like a lawyer who knew about equity crowdfunding lined up – tip there is a great guy at Lawpath (Australia) called Damin who is YOUR man.
The offer for our Equity crowdfunding raise opened, this was stressful, after the success of the expression of interest I expected it to be full within days. I was staying with my brother, my sister-in-law said the night before it went live (in Australia) that we should put some champagne in the fridge for the morning! Unfortunately, that champagne wasn’t to be drunk for three weeks (basically until the end of the campaign). Getting backers was hard, the platform had IT issues which didn’t help, every morning (UK time) I would wake up hit refresh and hope! My money was getting VERY tight this month, I had poured nearly AU$70,000 (approx GBP37,000) into the business and had just $8,000 left in my bank account. Things were looking up on the retailer side, I had my first meeting with Boots this month, they loved the product, but the next range review (for products on the shelves in my category) wasn’t until April 2023 – they were not going to order this month!
Our Equity Crowdfunding raise closed on the 6th of July, we had raised AU$233,000, it was a MASSIVE weight off my shoulders knowing that we could actually afford to ship the product from the factory to the UK! I hired our PR agency this month, Aubergine, and they started generating some amazing press for us. The first few boxes of the tests arrived in mid July, I had a few customers lined up – Kamsons, Chemist4U, Plastic Freedom and Peace with the Wild. What was super exciting was getting the first few orders in on our website from people I don’t know! Dr Alice McGee also approached me this month loving what we are doing and wanting to be involved, an obstetrics and gynecologist doctor, it is so fabulous to have a doctor on the team. The other exciting development this month was finally paying myself after we got the funding money in, paying yourself in the first year in business is important, as all the research shows that you need to earn a living wage to reduce the stress on your personal life.
The big excitement this month was getting onto Superdrug online, customers wouldn’t be able to see us on the site until November, but being on such a big site with lots of traffic is a big win. It was also this month that we started running Google shopping ads, but as it would transpire after spending AU$2000 they just didn’t work for us at all, an interesting learning. August kicked off the start of trying different marketing tactics to find the one that would generate the best results for us. I also took a week’s holiday this month in Italy with my brother, sister-in-law, and niece (little Lara), love Italy. Then flew back to Sydney.
A second meeting with Boots this month, and they requested it, surely a good sign? I met the online team as well as the in-store team, turns out that there is a different person who decides what goes on the website versa in-store, they also talked about their new marketplace to launch in April time, which we could be included on. We heard back from the TGA this month with NINE pages of feedback – arrrh. I hired a consultant to help me with answering the questions, he told me the challenge with getting feedback is that once they find one thing not right then they go over everything else with a fine tooth comb, so things that might have gone through are questioned 🙁 I applied for the Amazon launchpad program this month, and we were accepted, which basically means that we get additional help with our Amazon account for an extra 5% commission. September was also a month of enormous overwhelm for me, so I hired a full time virtual assistant based in the Philipinnes – the best decision I made.
I got confirmation this month that our USA company has been set up – world domination is coming! LOL, now for our tax number then FDA filing…. I got new product photography done this month, the first images I had done in June I thought that they were good, but the new ones take the brand to a whole new level! Sometimes in your first year in business, you do cheaper options to just get things happening until you can afford what you actually want. I also pitched 4 times this month in Sydney and Melbourne and won ALL 4 pitches! Wow, it totally blew me away the winning and also the feedback I got from the audience. They LOVED the product and what I am trying to do, I got so many offers of help completely unsolicited, it made me realise the power in speaking and pitching more to drive the brand.
The clocks changed in both the UK and Australia at the end of October, so now I needed to do UK calls from 8-11pm, this is happening 3 or 4 nights a week, and is hard. Sales in the UK are happening, but not as fast as I’d like, we haven’t got many more retailers onboard and haven’t found the right way to drive online sales. I looked into getting a sales team/distributor to help me, after interviewing two companies, neither of whom would commit to a sales target (what is with that?) I decided that I need to be in the UK to push sales, it is just too hard from Australia unless I turn into a vampire and stay up all night! Decision made November 11th, flight booked for November 24th, no point hanging around. 6 months in the UK to focus on sales/marketing and networking – tapping into the network of women who have been there and done that. November 30th third Boots meeting, in person this time at Boots HQ, they are still working out the range review for April 2023, I’ll hear by the end of December… Finally, Cortina came on board as co-founder this month leading the new product development and strategy, so exciting.
This month has been a whirlwind of networking and meetings, for the first three weeks I was going to 3-4 events a week. I met some amazing people who were so generous with their time, including James from Innox, Leila from Naytal, Cheyanne from Lets Talk Gynae and lots more. We finally got our USA company tax number this month and started the FDA process. We researched and contacted lots of fertility acupuncturists, coaches, yoga, and nutritionists to add to our affiliate program. I met with Gaia IVF insurance and we set up a partnership, watch this space. I hired a marketing person to set up an online fertility community (coming in Feb 2023). So far being in the UK is really paying off. It is 31st December as I write this and I haven’t as yet heard from Boots, keep your fingers crossed that we land a listing in Boots in our first year in business.
To sum it all up I started the year with Hoopsy working in another role full time, to now a team of three (including me), an outsourced PR company, social media person, doctor, and bookkeeper. Been featured in the media over 55 times in 6 months. Changed co-founders, have an amazing mentor, have raised cash and now have 3 companies instead of one. And last but not least I launched a new product into the market with sales both online and in stores, not bad work if I say so myself! 🙂
What’s Coming in 2023?
Good question, so so much! A new free online fertility community, expansion into Europe, the patent for our second version of the pregnancy tests will be filed, lots more networking, pitching, a capital raise, more retailer listings and lots lots more. Let’s face it life in a startup is never quiet, which is why I love it! What I am looking forward to most is EVERYTHING. Have a fabulous 2023.