I first came across Suzanne Acteson and Habitots in 2013 when searching for kids interiors products for a giveaway with Mother & Baby Magazine.
She was a busy mother, owner of the boutique online homewares store habitots.com.au AND running an advertising agency in Melbourne. Somewhat inspiring!!
Suzanne spoke about her dream for Habitots, centred around the tagline “play. laugh. learn.” Habitots wasn’t to be just an online store, but a creative hub for children and parents.
Fast forward six months and Suzanne had left the agency to focus on creating her concept store in Albert Park, where children and parents literally play, laugh, learn (and shop, and drink coffee)
I’m delighted to feature Suzanne on Tubu Kids and ask some questions about how she crafted this vision into a reality.
1. Can you describe how you took the plunge, to leave ad-land and launch your vision?
I'd dreamed about my idea for many years and realised it was going to be easier to start working on it while I was still working in advertising. I scribbled, planned and started to create what would eventually become Habitots while in hotel rooms, on planes and in the evenings and weekends at home.
Initially, I launched the website and started sourcing products, working out how to run a retail online business. I fell in love with the creative freedom the business gave me. Timing is everything and when the time was right (and with a number of contributing factors at the agency), I left the full-time grind to venture out on my own.
2. How was your first month?
Exhilarating, liberating and free. I probably didn't accomplish very much in that first month but just loved walking my son to school, not being pressured to meet deadlines or targets and just being able to take a big breath of fresh air. I felt alive again.
3. You’ve obviously had to juggle a lot - what was your craziest moment?
The run-up to opening our shop would have to be the craziest... It was multi-tasking at its best. Dealing with building permits, council permits, leases, loads of new product, a new website, new staff... the list goes on and on. I'm not quite sure how I did it but I did get lots of help from my husband and have a few more grey hairs!
4. What mentors / go-to sources of inspiration have helped you through your journey?
I often look to other entrepreneurs and business women to give me inspiration - hearing their stories is always motivating. I've met some great women through Business Chicks and was lucky enough to take part in a Leadership trip to Uganda a couple of years ago, where I met some amazing people. Watching them realise their dreams gives me motivation to chase mine.
5. What are your favourite platforms for connecting with new teachers and suppliers?
Social media is king, particularly Instagram. I've found some amazingly creative people, brands and businesses. It's another great network for ideas, meeting people and also connecting with customers that we tap into on a daily basis.
6. It must be very rewarding seeing the buzz from the kids taking part in your classes. Any standout feedback from them?
We've had incredible feedback from kids and parents alike and this is what's it's all about. Children as little as 1 year old adore our art classes and our teacher Karyn has developed a loyal following of little enthusiasts that ask for her by name when visiting our store!
7. What kids’ room trends are you seeing through sales in your store and online?
Whilst people do look for trends in colours, designs and through new brands, the basics such as good quality, stylish storage, shelving and bedding are hard to go past. People don't want things they're going to throw out in a year’s time so they want to invest in items for kids' rooms that are going to last and grow with them.
Colour-wise, pastels are still strong as are copper and monochromes as they fit into existing decor and are not too 'child-like'.
8. How do you balance work and family life?
I simply couldn't do what I do if my husband wasn't super hands on and flexible in his work arrangements. We are a team that divide and conquer and key to this is communication and understanding of who is doing what and what the other has going on.
My laptop is always on the kitchen bench so I can jump on and tackle a few emails or get a few things done in the evening. In between, I access our social media accounts and email via my phone whenever I can. At the moment that may be while I'm feeding our newborn or in the middle of the night... I'm not very good at switching off to be honest.
I love the flexibility that running my own business gives me though - picking the kids up at school, going away early for the weekend, staying in my pyjamas and doing work until lunch are things I was never able to do when working in advertising.
9. What’s the best part about the next thing you’re doing?
I get such a buzz out of the ideas I have in my head for Habitots and can't wait to get my teeth sunk into them!
I'm not very patient so without a plan I sometimes jump ahead to the fun stuff... but the fun stuff keeps me going when issues come up or when I have a tough day.
10. Tell us about five faves from your store...
- Sack Me! donut cushion - kids LOVE this cushion
- Fabgoose bambi blanket - my ultimate blanket for babies and kids, it's so so soft and 100% cotton
- Wavy storage - so handy for laundry, shoes, kids toys
- Funky cushions - such an easy way to update a room
- Indoor/outdoor beanbags - easy to wipe down, perfect for inside or out
Suzanne has reached the final rounds of voting in the Ausmumpreneur Awards 2015!
She has been recognised for the Emerging Ausmumpreneur of the Year and the Retail Award, which is voted as a People's Choice Award.
To vote, click here and choose “Suzanne Acteson, Habitots” in the dropdown box.
Images: Danielle Trovato Photography