lady startup

Melinda's side hustle turned into over a million sales. She told us the 8 secrets behind her business success.

Thanks to our brand partner, Kollektive

14 years ago, Melinda Farley's life looked very different from what it is today.

Life was incredibly busy for her in the early days of her business – juggling being a young mum to two kids and dealing with a fast-growing brand. Even though her business was doing great, she decided for personal reasons to sell it in 2013. 

Then four years later, she and her husband bought back her brand for $100,000, putting all their hard-earned savings into giving it another go.

They transformed it into Kollektive, an Australian distributor for premium, in-demand baby and children's brands in Australia. Today, Melinda is thriving as a founder and entrepreneur, her business making over seven figures a year, with a well-sized team of employees under their belt.

Melinda tells Mamamia the moment she felt she had shifted from a side hustle to a thriving big business was when she was able to leave her day job and focus full-time on Kollektive. 

"When my husband and I could leave our old jobs, that was a big pinch-me moment. Also, when we could hire our first staff member," says Melinda. "It had become a serious operation, those growth ridges were game-changers."

With a wealth of experience and knowledge, here are Melinda's 8 secrets behind her business success.

1. Find a market and tap into it. 

From the very beginning, Melinda could see there was a market that other businesses hadn't yet tapped into – Australian parents who had disposable income and cared for European aesthetics, sustainability and style.

So, she used it to her advantage.

"Identifying there was an opportunity in the market was important. If you then capture that market, feed its appetite and nurture it, you see results," she explains. 

2. Feedback is a gift.

Looking for feedback from mentors, business leaders and especially your clients/customers is key. As so many entrepreneurs say: "Feedback is a gift".

It's also through talking to customers that Melinda has learned what they love most about Kollektive – in particular what brands they want to see more from.

"Our most well-known brand is BIBS," she says. For context – BIBS has an assortment of colourful high-quality dummies, recently taking out a Canstar award. 

Melinda's current favourite is the BIBS trial pack of dummies. On offer are three latex nipple types (round, symmetrical and anatomical) to fit different preferences. And that's a great one to have in the hospital bag. 

A best seller is the Night Glow, which has become so popular that they rolled out the product into 700 plus Woolworth stores to meet demand. As for a new brand at Kollektive that's getting lots of love – the educational toys from Oli&Carol.

"They're natural rubber sensory toys for teething and bathing that are designed to look like real fruits and vegetables with no holes," says Melinda.

It's seeing positive responses from her customers that Melinda loves most, as well as tracking what products are resonating most in terms of sales and interest.

Often Melinda – like so many lady startups, doesn't have the time to reflect on success and all she has achieved despite being a finalist in the Young Entrepreneur of the Year awards last year and a judge for the Mumpreneur of Year Awards.Melinda tells Mamamia it's something she's getting better at, "taking moments now to acknowledge how far we've come as a business and team".

"We're all works in progress, and especially as parents, it can be hard to balance it all. With four kids now, I'm finally at the stage in the business where I can delegate, spend less time worrying about the details and be at home," she notes.

"Having a business is not for the faint-hearted. But there's method in the madness, and riding the wave is often the best thing you can do. Remember your inspiration, the growth ridges, the passion, and the rest follows."

3. Establish your network from the get-go. 

Once Melinda knew her target market and her vision was crystal clear – the networking began.

"It was a hard slog in the beginning, especially trying to get meetings and win contracts," she tells Mamamia, adding that her 'beat down the door' approach seemed to get results. 

"I'm proud that obviously our reputational force now brings the big brands to us rather than going out to find them. We must be doing something right for that to happen, given we built the business in a very human-centric way."

4. Investing in branding is a must. 

They say don't judge a book by its cover, but humans simply aren't built like that.

When it comes to presenting your brand to the world, you want it to represent who you are and what your business is all about. The strongest way to do this is via branding. So make sure to invest time, thought and money if needed into it.

"There's nothing I appreciate more than really well-executed branding," says Melinda.

5. Know when to outsource. 

Another sign of savvy business is knowing your strengths and weaknesses. 

Melinda says that outsourcing for your weaknesses can lead to greater efficiency. It's something she's learned first-hand.

"I hire people that are skilled in the spaces I'm not. It's okay not to be all things to people, and it's important to have the humility to know that especially as you grow," she says. 

"So for me, investing in specialists who know about intellectual property, trademarks and other legal intricacies is super helpful. No one wants to learn the hard way by not asking for help, as it will ultimately be an expensive lesson."

6. Keep the customer/client in mind always.

A big aspect of Melinda's success comes down to how her team engages with people.

Between wholesale buyers, online customers, multi-national retailers and small gift shops in regional towns, it's about being "humble, attentive and caring about values".

"We have over two and a half thousands points of sale so we make sure our systems are sophisticated and professional. It's great to invest in processes that add to a customer or client's experience."

7. Money shouldn't be the sole driving force. 

Today, Melinda is in her late 30s and has a business that is thriving financially. But for Melinda and her husband, making money was never their number one priority. 

"We always set out with family flexibility in mind. We never wanted to make lots of money – we wanted to have the flexibility for our family of working together. So if you're in it for money from the beginning, you're in the wrong place.

Image: Supplied. 

8. Always build two or three steps ahead.

When it comes to running a business, a lot of founders speak about often feeling 'in the weeds'. This relates to being entangled in the day-to-day details. And although that's important, an entrepreneurial mind should always be looking a few steps ahead. 

"In high growth periods, it's crucial not to lose track of what your business is about," notes Melinda.

"It's vital to build systems, processes and teams in anticipation of the next major growth phase. I'm always thinking 12 months ahead of the business."

"A smart entrepreneur should be somewhere in between a microbiologist (right in the weeds, caring about the details) and an astronomer (stargazing and looking at the bigger picture). It's a hard mode to get into, but when you reach that sweet spot, that's where the magic is."

Kollektive is the exclusive, official distributor for popular, in-demand baby and children’s brands in Australia. Shop their entire range online

Feature Image: Supplied. 

Based in Moorabbin, Victoria, Kollektive is the exclusive, official distributor for popular, in demand baby and children’s brands in Australia. The team at Kollektive ensure customer ‘kare’ is our utmost priority. We proudly deliver world leading brands to Australian families. Experience, passion and entrepreneurial spirit sets us apart. Proudly representing: BIBS® Denmark Trixie, Oli&Carol, AeroMoov, Play & Go, BEING Skincare, Copper Pearl, BABYink, PETink, EcoNaps Ecoriginals, Petunia Pickle Bottom, Bombol & more.