Today we’re talking with Dong-Maria, owner and founder of BabyDonkie.com.au. This gorgeous mama has been keeping busy running one of Australia’s leading baby & kids online stores for the past 5 years, all whilst raising four children and working full-time. It’s exhausting just writing that!
Dong-Maria is going into her 6th year in online retail this year, a feat only a small minority of business owners achieve. Today she shares a few secrets with KidStyleFile on creating a successful business, and reveals a few of her own personal favourite brands.
How would you describe BabyDonkie?
At BabyDonkie, we have our own individual way of curating stylish and gorgeous products for our store. We focus on stocking organic and ethically made labels and strongly support Australian design. We love pops of colour, playful prints, original design, timeless interiors, minimalist style and beautiful yet functional toys.
Why did you start?
I love shopping, looking for new labels (especially design-led pieces) while hunting down a good bargain. When I had my two boys, I found myself buying quite a bit online, both in Australia and overseas. I started selling a few things on eBay to see if others liked what I liked – and they did! My intention was to start a business that would eventually allow me to spend more time at home with my kids.
For other mums looking to start their own business, will you share with us how you actually started? What was the very first thing you did?
I started by registering BabyDonkie as a business name and on social media. What made it start to feel real was engaging a designer to work on my logo and website graphics.
You’re coming into your 6th year of business. Congratulations! Do you have any tips for other mamas in business on lasting the distance?
My tips are that you have to find what makes your business different to everyone else and you must be open to learn and adapt. Even though you may be running your business solo, it’s really important to have a support network around you.
Have there been any moments where you wanted to give up?
I’ve been running BabyDonkie mostly whilst working another full time job except for when I’ve been on maternity leave. In 2016 I had started a new demanding role and it was very difficult to juggle work, family, pregnancy and BabyDonkie. I was doing the bare minimum to keep BabyDonkie running. For a while we had the assistance of an au pair. It worked itself out as I’m now at home with my youngest and focusing on BabyDonkie so it can grow.
What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in the last 5 years?
I’ve seen a lot of new online stores opening over the last 5 years, which is great for the consumer. I think businesses have had to really differentiate themselves to remain front of mind to consumers. Social media and social proof is also a big influencer in how people shop. I believe also that consumers care about how and where products are made and who they are buying it from. So shopping from small businesses and buying products that are fair trade has been an increasing trend.
Who have you been most excited to see shopping at BabyDonkie or mentioning you? Who would you love to see shopping at your store?
I love all my customer orders! But I do find it nice when fellow biz mums shop from BabyDonkie.
Have you done any great collaborations in the past? Are there any collaborations you’d love to be a part of in the future?
I’ve recently had a few collaborations with @yougivemegrace which I’ve really loved. Her work is bright and fun and full of colour. The most recent was to celebrate Grace’s 2nd birthday which had a unicorn theme. The shoot [by @jokimphotography] was beautiful. Image gallery below.
What’s coming up next for BabyDonkie in the next year, and 5 years?
I’m making a lot of improvements in the background to make the business run smarter and more efficient. I’m really supportive of local talent so have made that a focus during the next buying season to look out for new Australian brands. In 5 years time, I would still love to be running my business But as we will no longer be a “baby” in the business we could evolve into a lifestyle store. Time will tell.
Describe your family and your typical day to us:
Myself and my husband Kiet, our 4 children Lincoln, Archer, Olivia and Benjamin. The older kids are at school or daycare/preschool (3 days) so I spend 3 days with Ben at home working on the biz. There’s the usual school drop off/pick up and running errands during the week too. On the weekends, we spend most of our time together as a family either hanging at home or visiting relatives. My husband loves to cook so we usual have family over for dinners on the weekend as well.
What are your own personal go-to brands? Country Road, Gorman, Mister Zimi
What are your own 3 style must-haves? A gorgeous go-to dress, the perfect striped tee and a great pair of boots.
What is your favourite item from BabyDonkie? So hard to pick just one! I’d have to say right now it’s the Olli Ella Playpa. One of our newest products which is a lot of fun for the kids, looks good and a great price point.