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If you like stories about foreign countries, first-time parenting and entpreneurship you’ll love this interview.
I look at the websites of every new signup at LessAccounting, and I’m often amazed at all the cool things our customers are doing. I ran across Natalia’s ecommerce site, CultureBaby, a month or two ago and reached out to her and I decided to email Natalia to learn more about her business.
So meet Natalia, founder of CultureBaby, and self-proclaimed “nap-time entrepreneur,” She’s a mom entrepreneur, which is two full-time jobs but she balances the two.
Allan: Give some back story on CultureBaby?
Natalia: I started a blog at Culturebaby when I became pregnant. I wanted to challenge myself to remain intellectually engaged in spite of baby and plan on how to raise the baby in that same spirit of doing cultural activities, eating diverse foods, etc. When the baby came, I received a gift of a pair of baby espadrilles (sandals) from a Spanish friend. We’d gotten other gifts from other friends abroad. It hit me that every culture has a way to celebrate a new arrival, often with a traditional product. I wanted to give people access to these items because Americans in particular are a pretty diverse bunch–we like choice from a global marketplace.
Allan: Tell me about living in Morocco.
Natalia: Morocco is amazing. Challenging, exciting, exotic, frustrating. People are incredibly friendly, particularly with kids.
There are hassles and limitations of course…but the good far outweighs the bad. One of my favorite things about being here is losing myself in the medinas and souks–the ancient markets. If you can wade past the tourist schlock, there is some really exciting artistry being practiced. I have had several things make to order, too, so you can exercise your inner designer.
Allan: Can you tell me more about, “There are hassles and limitations of course”? Maybe a few examples?
Natalia: The hassles and limitations have to do with being a non-Moroccan in Morocco. People automatically think you are made of money and so the price automatically doubles. And the usual administrivia of life can take a lot longer. Don’t get me started on the multiple ministries of increasing uselessness that you need to visit to get a car registered. And you just don’t have access to many of the things you’ve gotten used to, like organic foods, safe playgrounds, etc.
Allan: Give me a favorite moment while living in Morocco.
Natalia: I was sitting at the Terasse des Epices, a rooftop restaurant in Marrakech, sipping my mint tea in the heat while gazing at the snow-capped Atlas mountains. It was peaceful, ill my kid stuck his potato salad in my glass. Back to reality.
Allan: What’s harder, dealing with a toddler or building ecommerce traffic?
Natalia: Um…toss up. A toddler is more predictable. At least there you know that if he doesn’t nap, you’ll have a bad afternoon. With an e-commerce site, so much is unknown. What will customers respond to? Will this investment in design/seo/social media/pr bring in customers? The hardest thing I find about running an e-commerce site is getting noticed. You feel like you are screaming into the ether sometimes. My kid might not always do what I say but I think at least he knows I exist. You can’t always say the same for your would-be customers.
Allan: I really love this blog post you wrote: — Finding a balance of parenting and entrepreneurship is tough. How do you know when it’s break time?
Natalia: Thanks. Well, the days that my kid physically slams my computer shut and says, “Play mama,” I usually figure I’ve hit my limit! I don’t think there is any hard and fast rule. It depends on the day. On days when there is a lot going on with CultureBaby, I call in back up in the form of my husband, sitter, etc. I have to be realistic and honest…I need X hours. Once the immediate is dealt with it is often tempting to keep at the less pressing, but I try to make a complete ‘to do’ list and set it aside for the next day.
Allan’s Takeaway: In parenting and life, learn your breaking point stress level, identify your threshold, and find someone who can shield you from it until you can regroup.
Allan: Your son is adorable, what do you hope he’s like when he’s older?
Natalia: I hope he’s curious. I hope he doesn’t lose his excitement at learning something new (he gets this look on his face like you just gave him the deed to Disneyland). I hope he’ll try anything at least once. I hope he still gives and receives hugs like they’re going out of style. I hope he doesn’t start to get embarrassed about singing along to music in the car. I hope he’ll be confident enough to talk to adults and smart enough to listen. I hope he’ll see the value of classic things (like Tin Tin comics, vinyl records, the Beatles, P.G. Wodehouse). I hope he’ll break the rules at bedtime by staying up to read under the covers with a flashlight. I hope he likes Vietnamese pho, unagi sushi and escargot, or I don’t know what we’ll talk about.
Allan: How are you marketing CultureBaby?
Natalia: Not as well as we might. We are developing positive relationships with key bloggers and like-minded businesses. We network with other entrepreneurs and attend events. We do all we can on social media and try to offer our customers more than we ask of them…free information before asks.
Allan’s Notes: I think it’s common as entrepreneurs to think we’re not doing “it” right. Certainly there are things we can do better, but because this path/these decisions are not obviously clear we doubt ourselves.
Allan: What things have you learned since starting CultureBaby? Any costly mistakes? Costly can mean time, money or additional stress.
Natalia: Our first big mistake was choosing an ecommerce host that required extensive design input to make even the smallest change. With Shopify, we can do so much by ourselves. Same with our initial investment in a large, traditional accounting firm before we found LessAccounting. It is always tempting as a new entrepreneur to look to experts and rely on them to do it for fear you might make a mistake. But experts charge a premium and often, you need to wade through the tall grass, get lost, make mistakes and come out the other side with much needed experience. Without it, you’ll make bigger errors when the stakes are larger.
Allan’s Notes: Make cheap mistakes before making expensive mistakes.
Allan: What’s your favorite CultureBaby product?
Natalia: Right now? Probably our Moroccan leather booties, since I was there at their birth and got to select the leather and fabrics myself.
Allan’s Notes: I found this awesome video called “Birth of a Bootie”
Allan: Natalia, how can our readers help CultureBaby become more successful?
Natalia: We are always looking for more customers, but we also love to hear from like-minded bloggers or potential partners. If you would like to be one of our CultureBaby moms (example) or would like to recommend a product you think we should be carrying, we’d love to hear from you.