Written on the 24 January 2017 by Lin Evlin

WHEN CoziGo founder, Emma Lovell, decided she wanted to make a sleep and sun cover for strollers and airline bassinets, she did not really know what kind of a ride she was in for.

"I had absolutely no production experience, no retail experience or design background and no contacts in the industry. I can't draw either so it was really hard to describe an idea that was just in my head," Lovell (pictured) says. 

So she set out to make a box about the size of a bassinet, used plumbers tubing and fabric from Spotlight together with double sided tape (as she did not know how to sew) to make her very first prototype.

She confesses, "The first prototype photographs are pretty embarrassing."

Despite this, Lovell had something which she could at least, show to people to help them understand her product idea. 

Fast-forward about 5 years and Lovell has her CoziGo (formerly Fly Babee) products stocked in major retailers such as Baby Bunting and Baby Kingdom as well as online. CoziGo was also featured on Shark Tank where Boost Juice founder Janine Allis agreed to invest $75,000 in her business, and her company has won numerous accolades including the Wholesale Business of the Year prize at the 2016 My Optus Business Awards.

Lovell spoke to Business News Australia about her experiences with honesty and candour and she made no bones about the challenges and multiple setbacks she encountered on her entrepreneurial journey.

Steer clear of one-stop startup agencies

Her first testing encounter was when she found a one-stop shop agency for startups looking for trademarks, patents, design and manufacturing assistance.

Lovell says she does not recommend startups going to these one-stop shop style agencies.

"It was disastrous and I would never recommend going to these sorts of agencies to anyone. If you want to patent something, go to a patent specialist, if you want something related to design, go to a design specialist," she says.

"You end up getting an agency which is a jack of all trades and a master of none and that was my experience."

Lovell soon realised it was never going to work with this agency so she took her prototype, which was about 85 per cent complete and decided to look for a manufacturer herself.

Be careful with your approach to manufacturing in China

However, she quickly found that dealing with Chinese manufacturers was not a cakewalk and she cautions new start-ups or inventors to be careful when dealing with Chinese manufacturers particularly when it comes to quality control.

"It is not the easiest country to deal with or the easiest people to communicate with. What people have to be careful with when they are dealing with China is that their idea of good enough is not necessarily the western idea of good enough," Lovell says.

"When they say that they understand, it's often the case that they don't understand. They don't like telling you that they need you to explain something again."

These were not the only set backs which Lovell encountered in her startup journey.

Quality control is key

Just after appearing on Shark Tank and advising the judges that she was stock ready, she discovered that her first shipment of stock was full of unusable product.

"The stock from the first order was bent, broken and badly made, I had 15 prototypes because I was fussy and I wanted to get it just right but when my first order arrived on my doorstep, it was just a bunch of trash."

She attributes this disaster to her not organising quality control and not going to China to inspect the products herself.

"Now I have an established manufacturer that knows my product.  But I still go to China to check on the product and I still pay for quality control.  These are particularly critical."

The $25,000 initial stock was written off and to add insult to injury, Lovell was required to pay an additional $2,000 to get the unusable stock into landfill.

"I think at that point, most people would have given up to be honest with you," she says.

But she did not, and despite the numerous setbacks, she ploughed on with the support of her husband.

Believe in yourself

"When you passed a certain line, you've put too much time, effort and money into it, you just have to keep going.

I just believed in myself really," she says.

And it was this incredible self-belief that pushed Lovell to where her business is today.

"I don't want to be one of those people that says I had a really good idea once and somebody ripped it off me or I had a great idea and just didn't do anything about it," says Lovell.

"I want to show my kids that it is worth being brave, and also I love being an adventurer. You can't backpack all your life so you've got to think of other ways to be an adventurer."

Author: Lin Evlin Connect via: Twitter LinkedIn





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