16/09/2010 - 00:00

Bebitza blanket liberates motherhood

16/09/2010 - 00:00

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When Bree Tinecheff completed her economics degree shortly before having her first child, she aspired to work for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

When Bree Tinecheff completed her economics degree shortly before having her first child, she aspired to work for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

That quickly changed when four months into motherhood, Ms Tinecheff discovered her newly acquired business skills could be put to use in developing a product for new mothers – the Breastfeeding Blanket.

She had found there were few modesty-wear options available online and none in retail outlets, so went about developing a shawl style item that completely covered the mother while still allowing visibility of the baby.

She went about applying her economics know-how to the business and moved quickly to patent the product not only in Australia but also in the international markets she had her sights set on – the Middle East, UK and US.

“My economics degree helped me … knowing about patents, knowing you can’t sink a whole pile of money into something if you don’t have any protection,” Ms Tinecheff said.

Five years after starting the business and with her products in every baby goods store in the country, Ms Tinecheff said those patents have been integral to the business’ success.

“I can categorically say if I didn’t do the patents I would have been copied ten fold by now,” she said.

By getting the product into all baby stores nationally, Ms Tinecheff grew public knowledge of the product and is now moving into stocking the product in the major department stores nationally.

Operating the business on her own was a challenge, given the growth and subsequent size of the business, and she recently hired a staff member to be what she calls the “nuts and bolts”.

Eighteen months ago Ms Tinecheff moved the business into the Middle Eastern market, part of her international expansion strategy to build distribution channels she had from the very beginning.

She said she was fortunate to have a contact in Dubai to help her establish good relationships in the United Arab Emirates, but that developing the business took time and effort.

It took Ms Tinecheff eight months and three trips to Dubai to get the deal signed.

“It’s a reality check for anyone who thinks you can do business via email, you can’t,” she said.

“You need to be prepared to go to another country. If you want to do business in another country you have to know what they are like and what their culture is like but you also have to be prepared to meet people and say, ‘We are in this for the relationship, the business relationship’.

“The best thing to do if you are selling a product in another market is to go there and do an expo. You talk directly with the mums, you see what their lifestyles are like and see things you would never think about.”

She said by knowing the market and her international distributors, dealing with the more difficult side of business had been made easier.

“Business is hard, you have got to be the intermediary. It is awful when things happen like you have a price increase because the dynamics change so you need that friendship and relationship to be able to deal with the business side of things,” she said.

Ms Tinecheff has established distribution of the product through Mothercare in the UAE, a UK-based company.

This is part of her expansion strategy; by having a relationship with the Middle Eastern arm of Mothercare she plans to get the products distributed through the UK, a country in which she lodged a patent on the product five years ago.

By developing strength in the Breastfeeding Blanket brand by way of broad and deep distribution, she was then able to expand the range of products.

Ms Tinecheff said the time recently came to rebrand the company to the more generic name Bebitza in order to cater to the expanding product range, but she was concerned about compromising the brand awareness developed over the last five years.

“The Breastfeeding Blanket brand is limited in what would be appropriate in other products you could bring out,” she said.

“It’s hard, I have grown the market using the blanket in the last five years. I wanted to take advantage of product knowledge and awareness of the Breastfeeding Blanket brand, which is why I didn’t go ahead and just write Bebitza on the Breastfeeding Blanket.”

For now her plans remain around pushing the products into the US and Ms Tinecheff will attend a trade show in order to develop distributor relations before using the last of her four lodged patents.

 

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