Tracy Morgan runs sustainable kids' toy company Squoodles. What started as an idea in Plunket groups scaled to a 6-figure business in the first 3 years!
Tracy is based in West Auckland with her husband and three boys under 10 (who were the driving force behind Squoodles in the first place). Astrix the Bengal and Cruzy Cat the ragdoll make for a full house to match her full time work spreading the message about sustainable toys and growing her business.
What are three things we need to know about you?
1) I’m the most organised person you will ever meet. I have a rule that I only touch a piece of paper, or open an email, once – and deal with it at that time (sad, but true). This follows through to my role as mum as well….. having three young boys (and the husband too) means there has to be routine and order – otherwise chaos reigns ☺
2) I’m a staunch supporter of others in small business. I do my best to share the knowledge I’ve learned over the past six years with anyone who asks for advice. I love helping others and seeing them succeed.
3) It’s taken me many years to learn that I can’t do everything myself and that it is OK to ask for help. I struggled for a long time to do everything, be superwoman, and not show the outside world (including those closest to me) that I wasn’t coping.
There just wasn’t enough hours in a day to complete what I felt I should be doing. Not being able to run the household and the business, as well as find some time for me within a 24 hour period I saw as a failure.
But once I accepted that there were others who were happy to lend a hand, whether that be cooking us a meal, taking my boys to soccer, or picking and packing some orders for Squoodles – life became much easier, fun and enjoyable. I still don’t ask for help probably as much as I should, but like everything… I’m a work in progress ☺
So tell us about Squoodles! What do you do?
Squoodles is an online business that specialises in Wooden Educational Toys.
Quality, long lasting and good value is a must with our products. We do our best to ensure our products are as eco-friendly as possible, manufactured from sustainable forests and with environmentally friendly stains (if any).
We want the toys you purchase from Squoodles to be well-played with and well-loved and then handed down to your child’s children!
As we have grown, our product range has expanded to include an extensive range of natural wooden musical instruments which in turn has opened up new customers like Mainly Music’s and Wriggle and Rhyme groups.
We also became the NZ Distributor for the Constructive Eating range of products back in 2014 (a year after we launched) and this has been exciting as it gained us entry into special needs schools due to its sensory nature.
We value our customers and love rewarding them with a loyalty programme as well as a goodie bag supplied with every order. We want our customers to feel special and know they are appreciated.
How did you get started in biz?
I was a late starter finding true love ☺ Which in turn resulted in being a late starter with kids, having my first at 36. By the time #2 showed up when I was nearly 39 I was finding it really hard being the official ‘stay at home mum’.
My background was in sales and marketing, repping for a high profile print company – and staying at home with kids was (in the nicest way) just not for me. But I also felt that it wasn’t right to put them into daycare and me go back to my original job.
I was so bored mentally and I needed to find something else to do for ‘me’ to help stimulate my adult brain. The majority of my time was spent at playgroups and Plunket with other mums, and over coffee and many discussions I found a huge gap in the market for affordable wooden toys for pre-schoolers.
This resulted in an overseas hunting mission to find these elusive products .... and four months later Squoodles was launched.
It’s been a huge learning curve owning my own business, and it was never designed to be a hobby business. I wanted to contribute to the family financially and gain some independence back in my working life.
Being able to work from home and have the flexibility to still spend time with the kids has been a lifesaver for me, and I love what I do.
Who do you serve? What gets you out of bed in the morning?
Ha ha – it’s the kids that get me out of bed in the morning! But once I’ve gotten them to school and kindy, the real work begins ☺
Squoodles serves families of NZ and Australia as well as many of the ECE Centres around the country. Attending the Baby Expos around New Zealand has grown our business substantially over the past six years and puts a face to the business.
One of the huge bonuses of these particular expos is that you receive the subscription database of all attendees, which is gold for our marketing.
We send out a weekly email to all our subscribers with the topic varying and this drives our sales for us.
We also love to collaborate with other ‘complementary’ business who aren’t in direct competition with us but who have a similar target audience. It’s always my preference to make friends, not enemies in this world – and as I’ve said, I love helping others. If there is a gain for Squoodles at the same time, then that is a bonus as well.
What have been your biggest challenges?
I was excited when I first started out. I’ve never shied away from a challenge and the thrill of accomplishing something for myself (and my customers) never gets old.
The most challenging part is definitely working from home. It has its benefits, like no rent and time flexibility, but it is also quite isolating not having others right there in the same office or building to talk to.
I miss the quick chats about life in general that used to happen over the coffee machine.
At times when it’s just me here working, it’s quite easy to get distracted doing things that need to be done in the house, rather than the office.
So, I’ve had to set work times to ensure that there is a clear boundary between Mrs Squoodles and Tracy the wife, mother, cook, cleaner, chief bottle washer… you know the drill.
What is your favourite part of being a She Owns It Member so far?
Having a safe platform full of like-minded business women is brilliant. Being able to ask a question, no matter how silly it may sound to you, and being able to tap into other’s experiences, advice and wisdom is gold.
It really helps with decision making, and also reinforcing or re-evaluating if you’re on the right track with your own business. I’ve rsvp’d to my first Meetup next week, and I’m very much looking forward to meeting others face to face.
I love having a written plan to look at, and goals to achieve. By joining SOI as a paid member I’m investing in myself as much as my business. I’m excited for what the future brings.
What's one thing you're proud of from your journey so far?
One thing I am super proud of in the six years I’ve been running Squoodles is taking it from a start-up business to a profitable company with a six figure turnover within its first three years.
I was told by a business mentor early on that a very high percentage of businesses fail within the first 12 months, and that if I could have a profitable business after five years, we had a good chance of success.
By investing in myself and upskilling in areas that I was lacking, we’ve now been thriving for over six years. We have a plan in place to grow even more within the next four years (that’s our ten year plan).
Lastly, what advice do you have for women who are just starting out in business? What advice would you give to your past self?
Starting out…. Wow, it seems forever ago!
But for those of you at the beginning of your journey, my advice would be to make a business plan. Write down what you want to do, how you intend to achieve it, how you intend to finance it, and how much time you’re willing to dedicate to it.
Starting a business isn’t easy – not if you want it to work and make money.
For me, the sacrifice for the first year especially was time away from my family while I was building up the business. The silly thing is that you start the business so that you are able to support your family and spend more time with them, but you can’t do everything at once and nothing happens overnight.
Like any baby, your baby business needs your time and effort to help it grow and thrive, and this is sometimes at the expense of the human children.
But it’s not forever! It’s just another stepping stone on your path to success.
Having your ‘village’ around you to support you and your family at this time is crucial. You can’t do everything alone.
I find with my business, I work longer hours for myself than I would for an employer. But the satisfaction is ten times more rewarding.
Advice to my past self…. Don’t sweat the small stuff! You don’t know what you don’t know and what is meant to be will be.
Where can we find you online:
All of the women in the She Owns It community are doing some seriously incredible things- and they are women just like you! I hope you are inspired to keep building your business know that we are all right there cheering you on!
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