Crowdfunding has multiple benefits for the business startup
By Ingrid Green
It would be an understatement so say 2018 was a big year for Julia Christie.
What began in 2014 with an idea has led to multiple awards, a successful and growing business and plenty of happy parents to boot.
It all started with Julia’s firstborn – specifically his fingernails. A couple of trimming attempts with conventional tools ended in disaster – nicked fingers, tears all round and a massive dose of mummy guilt.
“Everyone said ‘everyone does it; [nail clippers] are horrible things’. One friend said she has to wait until her kids are asleep. I thought that’s ridiculous, that’s not acceptable,” Julia says.
The mission was on to find a better way.
Julia decided she wanted something that would go across the nail, rather than down onto it.
“I woke up at 4am one morning and started doodling.”
And the Nail Snail was born.
Five years of business management, industrial design, research, manufacturing and marketing; a successful patent bid and crowd funding campaign followed.
“Had I known how much work it would be from the get-go, I probably wouldn’t have started it. It becomes all-consuming. It’s like a fourth child for me.”
But it’s paid off.
Last year the deceptively simple little tool reaped an envy-inducing haul of awards: Business Intelligence Group’s BIG Innovation Award, AusMumpreneur Product Innovation Award (gold), Australian Good Design Award and Beauty Shortlist Mama & Baby Editor’s Choice Award.
“It confirms that the hard work you’ve done is actually valuable to other people, and it’s also a measure of legitimacy,” Julia says.
As was the patent.
“Patents are only given to completely new inventions, so nothing that’s even vaguely close is coming out or being developed.”
The last patent on a nail trimming tool? 140 years ago.
But it’s the personal stories that Julia really loves.
“I’ll be at an expo and I’ll have a customer come up out of the blue and go ‘My child has ADHD; [nail trimming] used to be a horrific experience. Now I’ve got my Nail Snail and it’s really fun’.
“I get emotional thinking I’ve actually changed one parent’s life. Their parenting journey – that we’re all going on – has been improved by something that I’ve done. That’s just as golden as the awards.”
Julia used crowdfunding company Kickstarter to get off the ground.
Finance aside, it provided exposure and a gauge of how the product would perform in the market.
“I didn’t just need money, I needed customers to sell the product to. Kickstarter can reach all over the world.
“It was a smart way to start.”
It worked. Julia had a successful business on her hands.
There are, of course, challenges – on a daily basis, Julia says. The product sold out shortly after it went nationwide, leaving customers and distributors waiting on their purchase.
“It was a good problem to have but it was a very, very stressful time.”
“In the space of 12 months I went from 30 stockists (basically from me door-knocking) to over 350, plus I’m in four different countries as well.”
She’s not planning on slowing down any time soon.
“I would love to be in every chemist and pharmacy in Australia. I would love to be in every baby store, and I’d love to be internationally distributing to every developed nation in the world – and developing nations; to be in paediatricians’ offices, hospitals and midwife teams. Anywhere there’s a nail clipper, I want a Nail Snail to be instead.
“That’s the goal, but I have to grow it at a rate I can deal with.”
She also wants to use the company’s success to give back to the community. She plans to release regular limited edition Nail Snails online in special colours and donate a portion of the proceeds to charity. Currently a jacaranda-purple snail is available, with $2 from each one sold going to the Light For Riley Immunisation Foundation, an organisation dedicated to educating families on the importance of vaccination.
“I thought as soon as I’m able to do it I’d like to start doing that. Each colour will represent a different Australian charity related to babies and parenting.”
Julia’s tips on starting a business
• Get a great accountant – one you can trust, and who knows their stuff. Help with setting up processes correctly right from the start and advice on financials is invaluable.
“You can be the marketing guru, but if you’re spending more than you’re earning then everything’s going fall in a heap."
• Everything costs more than you think it will.
“When I did my packaging design, the graphic designer said ‘The barcode will go here’. I was like: Barcode? Of course I need a barcode.”
It was easily sorted with a quick Google search, but the $800 fee was unexpected and untimely.
“That happens over, and over and over again.”
• Start a big company. "Think, learn and act like a big company right from day one. I wanted my product to be taken very seriously; to be seen as an international product."