Talk about young, cool and super stylish business mammas. Kate and Bec are all that and loads more. Having two young kids each and the desire to dress their babes in cool get-up was the catalyst for Hipkin, the girls third baby.
Kate started Hipkin two years ago and then got her school bud Bec on board 18 months ago. Together these ladies make finding unique kids fashion pieces, outfits and entire wardrobes, easy and enjoyable. Bliss. Who doesn’t love someone who sources the cool clothes for mini humans?
These cool clothes come from the depths of Soho in New York, to the corners of Scandinavia and then home to Melbourne. The ladies get their mitts on items that no other kid in the playground will be wearing. Gotta love that.
We took a few minutes to pick the brains of these clever ladies…
Where did the idea for Hipkin come from?
When my first born (Milla, 6) was born, we were sent a lot of clothes from our overseas friends, labels that at the time weren’t available in Australia, quite edgy street wear. I can’t tell you how often I would get stopped in the street and asked where I got her outfit from. The idea began to germinate; there are so many amazing kids’ labels overseas, particularly in Scandinavia, and they just weren’t available here. I recognised a huge gap in the market, particularly for parents who are into unisex, durable, super cool clothes for their kids. So I started daydreaming about starting my own online store and then decided to give it a crack.
What were the first steps you took to turn the idea into a reality?
I went and bought a moleskin and starting sketching out a business plan. I spent a lot of time brainstorming with my husband Ian and my best friend Sarah Gilsenen, who is a fashion designer and knows the trade. They were both incredibly supportive and really encouraged me. I knew what I wanted creatively but what I really needed was a business brain, and Bec was the first and only person who came to mind. That’s when Hipkin became what it is today.
They say never go into business with friends. How do you manage your friendship and partnership?
It’s actually really easy. We are a great combination, we have clearly defined roles as we bring totally different skill sets to the business. And because we both have young children and busy lives outside of Hipkin, we both understand the pressures each other is facing and have a mutual respect. It sounds trite but we really do have a synergistic relationship, which contributes to the success of the business.
Starting a business is time consuming and expensive – especially when you both have families – how did you handle this?
In the beginning we were very diligent about mapping out the business, with a strong vision for the first 3-4 years in particular, and our main focus was being clever about our brands and the look and feel of the site, as we were determined to stand out from day one. We took most of our inspiration creatively from Scandinavian design, as we both love that clean, fresh aesthetic. There are so many things that go into starting an online business, everything from the creative development, to e-commerce, getting the ordering right and of course marketing, and we were operating on a pretty modest budget, so we basically educated ourselves on every aspect of the business and, with the help of our husbands, delegated well and did it all ourselves. This included doing all our own flat-lay photography, keeping the website fresh and up to date, dealing with our suppliers and customers at all hours of the day and night. And for the first 8 months we ran Hipkin from Bec’s place, which worked well with our young families, but we very quickly outgrew that space and had to find what is now Hipkin HQ. So initially there were lots of late nights building and launching the site, a lot of running around and a lot of juggling. But we both believe that our careful planning, a great business plan and some well-placed structures meant that our family lives weren’t overly disrupted. Also our kids are our ultimate inspiration and are a huge part of Hipkin.
What are the best and worst things about running Hipkin?
We both agree that working for ourselves is the best decision we ever made. In a way it’s the best and worst thing about running Hipkin. We work very hard, we have nobody to fall back on and when life gets in the way we really have to work at keeping all the plates spinning. But none of that outweighs the benefits and satisfaction we get from creating and building on our own vision. We love Hipkin, our customers mean a lot to us and we love the interaction that comes with having an online business. Watching Hipkin grow and succeed is hugely rewarding and energising.
We have built our entire brand through social media. It is an instrumental tool for us. It enables us to cultivate our image without being mediated by advertising, and to connect with our market in a really honest way. Hipkin has a really specific sensibility, we are all about kids being wild and free and expressing themselves naturally. We favour unisex, durable street wear over impractical fashion pieces and have always steered away from the over-styled, mini-me kids’ market. For us it’s about kids being themselves; raw and a little bit feral. Once we had established the Hipkin feel, we naturally began to attract our market. Word of mouth has been catalytic for Hipkin, which we believe reflects our point of difference and the unique level of service we offer.
What are your hopes and dreams for Hipkin?
Ultimately we want to continue building the Hipkin brand, both here and overseas, and to align ourselves with industry leaders in online retail. When we started Hipkin we knew that there was a huge gap in the market and our success attests to that. We are growing each day and we are really excited about continuing to evolve as a business. We are also really proud to be a Australian business employing Australians we think the days of low cost global businesses selling to Australian consumers without any real contribution here are slowly coming to an end. Oh, and we are really looking forward to our new intern Ryan Gosling starting next month.