Interview with Rosalie, owner of Milk&Honey
An inspiring story how along with a beautiful baby boy a dream business was born
Tell us about yourself
I was born and raised in Hong Kong. I studied graphic design in the States and have been working in identity design/branding for more than 10 years now and it’s what I love to do.
After I had a baby, I decided that I want to focus on my family. I became a freelance designer and started Milk&Honey. Once you become a parent you start looking into baby clothes and think “Maybe I can do it”. That’s how it all began.
Tell us more about your business
I was looking for boys clothes for my son, and it was hard to find what I liked. So I started with sourcing more boys stuffs or something that’s unisex, which I think there must be other moms that feel the same as I do. But once I looked into the brands, the girls clothes are just too pretty to not include in our collection.
I’m very into beautiful prints, illustrations and sometimes I tend to go for more of an urban style, so there’s a bit of both styles in the shop. I’m not so much a fan of bright colours, so what you see in the shop mostly is either black/white or something with more neutral/soft colours.
We started with newborn to two years old, and have expanded the range to 6 years old this season. The brands that we source are mainly from USA and Europe. We are also trying to add more organic brands to our collection in the future.
So going back to the beginning, how was the idea born and and what were your first steps?
It started when I was trying to buy some cute clothes for my boy before he was born. As a first time parent you always try to give the best to your baby, and realised that Hong Kong has limited offers to “non-boring” organic clothes. That’s how I came across my first organic brand - Piupia. I bought it for personal use and really loved the quality, so I contacted them to check on the minimum order quantity, to find out it was something affordable for me. I then started building the website, I have a bit of basic knowledge using Wordpress, so I took my time to learn the different tools which helped me save on cost.
What was your biggest motivation and inspiration when you decided to start your business?
Definitely my family. I wanted to have more flexible hours and also to find my son some great quality clothing.
So once you’ve started, who were your first clients?
Friends! As a startup it is important to get a support of your circle.
Do you remember how long it took you to get to the point when you started to sell to the people you don't know?
It was when I started doing fairs. Once people see the clothes they build trust and interest. I did my first fair in Discovery Bay and it brought my first “unknown” clients.
Also in the beginning, I didn't have on-line transactions on my webpage. It was only by bank transfer. I realised that it is hard for some people to do a transfer. So I did a research and added PayPal on my site. Shortly after I saw that I had some new clients.
And how long would the delivery from your website take? If I order clothes today, when will I receive it?
I mail the order the next business day. For local orders, Hong Kong post is very efficient, it arrives in 2-3 days. If the customers want to track their parcel, then there’s an extra charge for courier which arrives the next business day.
For international orders, I check on the shipping cost for their specific order and get back with a cost for shipping (registered & speed post). Then the orders will be shipped out the next business day upon receiving the payment.
Which marketing tools did you find to be the most successful? Which methods worked the best for you to acquire new clients?
I think for startups is going to different fairs where people can see and feel your products.
Except of the fairs, any other tools you would recommend?
Instagram, having customers posting about your products and tagging you really helped with sales. That’s how most of our overseas clients know about us. Hashtags is also a great way to get to the target audience.
Yeah, I love Instagram, it’s my favourite social media platform. I search for a lot of things using #.
What is the most challenging part of running your business?
Being just an on-line shop is difficult. You need to constantly remind people that you are there. People tend to forget. You don't get “walk ins”, unlike a real shop.
Wouldn't Instagram be an opportunity to remind people about your shop?
Yes, but nowadays people follow so many accounts that it is difficult to capture their eyes. People, including myself, just scroll down sometimes. But I found that it’s the word of mouth on Instagram that help the most, more than posting on your own account.
I’m planning to have a spokesperson for my brand, something like a brand ambassador. I’ve started contacting different people to see if they are interested, on which terms, so everybody can be happy. Because one thing I want to make sure when running a business is that people I work with feel comfortable and happy.
Creating harmonious atmosphere in the work place is truly amazing. What about some other challenges?
A lot of people would prefer buying cheaper brands, which I totally understand. Babies puke a lot, and when it gets to toddler years they tend to get so messy doing just about anything. It’s hard sometimes for parents to have the will to buy more expensive clothes when they are so short lived.
I find a lot of people buy them as gifts, so the next thing I am planning to add is gift wrapping. I am looking into creating my own prints. Something I would find suitable for representing my brand. But there are some logistics problems to address.
And how were you picking the brands which you decided to bring to Hong Kong?
When I first started, I looked around for organic brands. I was looking for clothes for my boy and fell in love with them. So it was really handpicked. I searched on-line for some clothes that I like, and checked their quality. I also checked that no-one else sold these brands in Hong Kong when we signed the agreement. Or at least no-one did them at the time.
What is it that you love the most about what you are doing?
I think it is a balance of me being a designer and also a mom. It gives me an excuse to do ‘research’ on all the beautiful products for my son (laughs).
Also I get to work at home and it is great. Oh well, it is good and bad. Sometimes your toddler just won't leave you alone, he doesn't care if you are working. I close the door when I work, but you know, it’s only that helpful. But at the same time I get to see him grow and that's amazing.
I still work a lot as a graphic designer (especially for food and beverage and the hospitality sector). But I hope in the future I will be able to create my own line of baby/kids clothes. That’s a goal. I want to build up my customer base for now. Minimum order quantity is often high when you want to produce your own products, but hopefully I will get there soon.
That sounds like an awesome plan. Good luck with it!
What are the advantages and disadvantages of having your own business?
You can manage your own time, especially since I have 2 jobs. The bad thing is also about the time. With a kid some things are out of your control. You get so busy sometimes I have to work till really late at night. But dinner time is always a family time for me, I never work over dinner. Yet will pick up where I left off after baby is asleep.
Being a very intuitive person, I just do whatever I feel most of the time. It is hard for a person like me to think ahead, plan what’s coming next. I’m just learning step by step. Of course, you can always seek help in different areas, but there's also a budget to manage.
And what was the biggest discovery of running your business so far?
So many different people would have such different experiences and ideas, and it’s not always how you imagined it to be.
As a woman, you most probably have something to say about work - family balance. Please share your ideas with us.
You just have to know your priority. My first priority is my family, I always respect my family time, the quality is important to me, so no work whenever I’m with my family. And I try to set a certain amount of hours to work a day. You need to know the workload you can handle while maintaining a promised quality of your service.
What would you recommend someone who is debating about starting their own business?
If it won't kill you when it doesn't work out, just do it. You never know exactly what will happen before trying. If you set it aside and one day you see someone who did it instead of you, you will regret not trying. I heard a lot of these stories with people saying, “Oh, I thought about doing it, and now it is such a successful business”.
It is a lot about leaving your comfort zone, I understand. But you can always go back and find a regular job. If you have the passion and can afford to start your own business, do it. If you can’t afford it right away, start little by little. I don't believe in overnight, easy success, it is always a lot of effort. Even if it will take you longer, as long as you are focused and you know you want to do it, you will get there.
What is your motto?
Be thankful for what you are now, and keep fighting for what you want to be tomorrow.
Thank you so much for sharing your story! I am sure, many ladies after reading your interview feel determined to look for their personal balance in life!
You can check out all the beautiful clothes here: