May 13, 2019
For those of you with little people out there, you will be familiar with the early morning bed stripping stage following the dogged pursuit of potty training. It was this challenge that gave Diane Hurford a lightbulb moment in 2005 and Brolly Sheets was born. Initially providing big solutions for wee problems, Brolly Sheets now produces items for all ages and includes ranges for Waterproof Bedding, Daytime Toilet Training, Night Time Toilet Training, Adults, and Pets
My business is Brolly Sheets. We waterproof the whole family with products that are cotton, comfy, quiet and functional. The idea to start the business struck me, quite literally, in the head when I kept banging it from stripping my daughter’s bottom bunk bed in the middle of the night. I figured there had to be a better way and designed something myself. We were part of Narrowneck Playcentre at the time and friends there and family started asking me to make one for them and the Brolly Sheet was born. Initially designed for toilet training children (it saves stripping the whole bed at 2 am) I then started designing products for those with special needs and seniors. We now have five websites – BrollySheets.co.nz, BrollySheets.com.au , BrollySheets.co.uk and BrollySheetsUSA.com mainly for kids and IndependentlyYou.com for adults and those with special needs. As well as products to help with day and night time toilet training, our site has plenty of articles and advice on when to start, how to start and when you hit road blocks. I speak regularly at Baby Shows on toilet training – we really are the toilet training experts. In our offices down Devon Lane we have a small amount of stock that locals can come and buy but 99.9% of our sales are done through our websites. We have a warehouse out at the airport where our stock is kept as we send daily to New Zealand, Australia and the US. We also have a distribution centre in the United Kingdom.
We launched a new product range and website recently – Billy Beds. Named after our poodle cross – Billy. I got tired of wet, manky dog beds that were not easy to wash. So I came up with a bed with an easy to change, washable cover that stopped the “doggy smell” getting into the inner cushion. Easy to keep clean and fresh, plus changeable covers to suit your décor. We employed local doggy models Narla and Mabel for the photo shoot!
The biggest lesson I think for any business big or small is to know your numbers and they have to work. If you do not have the margin to pay yourself and pay to advertise, then it is a hobby, not a business. After about 6 months I had a mentor that asked me if I wanted a hobby or a business. This got me looking at the numbers, suppliers, costs etc. I was determined from that day to have a business.
I also learned early on that products are only a small part of the puzzle. You can have the best product in the world but if you don’t have the pricing, marketing, sales and distribution right, then only a very tiny portion of people are ever going to find out about them and buy them. Just because you love a product – unless your customers want it, it isn’t a sound business idea. Test your market! (And not with your family and friends - they will love whatever you do)
It’s great being so handy with a commute of a few minutes. It also makes it ideal for popping up to TGS for school events or grabbing the ferry for meetings in the city. It does mean we shop and eat locally so we don’t travel out socially that often. We have a team of 6 at our office in the village with two driving in, the others either ferry or walk. We have tried to employ locals as much as possible.
I love living here and I love working here. It’s a great community and I feel we really do live in a village where everyone looks out for others. I have lived abroad in the UK, Australia and the States for many years – and until you have travelled you really don’t know how lucky you are. I hope Lake Road doesn’t get any worse. I hope the retail shops we do have can continue to be supported and stay in business. We need to shop and eat locally as much as possible. I hope The Vic carries on – it’s a real institution and we love going there. It’s so easy to catch a movie.