CrowdInk had the opportunity to sit down (virtually) with Mike Wilson, founder of TinyMe.
Having studied Industrial Design at RMIT University under their Bachelor of Design (Hons) degree, Mike Wilson began his career nearly twenty years ago as a designer for Southern Cross Ceramics. After this experience, Wilson left this job after seven years and in mid-2006, founded his own e-commerce company, TinyMe, making cute, personalized, custom toys for children.
How is TinyMe innovating in the personalised products for kids space? What is the competitive edge?
We’ve built up a great team including graphic and industrial designers, mechanical engineering, mechatronics engineering and a great software development team all in house. This means that we can increasingly tackle more ambitious projects and solve bigger problems. New product for us involves everything from the user experience in choosing, customising and visualising, the design of the finished product itself to designing and building the software and hardware for producing product cost effectively as single items (on scale). In a nutshell our competitive advantage is our team and company culture working on product.
CrowdINK: What have been some of the challenges in expanding the business to international waters?
Mike Wilson: Ah International expansion challenges, let me count thy ways… here’s four… 1. Building a logistics model to ship cost effectively and with speed.
2. Understanding new marketing channels and how the behave very differently from local channels.
3. Consumer, Privacy and product safety laws all differ from market to market.
4. I think 80’s sitcom Different Strokes said it well, “ Now, the world don’t move to the beat of just one drum, What might be right for you, may not be right for some. “ . Not surprisingly we’ve found, even with globalisation, local markets have different product and design preferences and we need to adapt to these. Quickly.
CI:What advice would you give to Australian SME’s looking to expand out of Australia?
MW: Focus. Find out as quickly as you can which products and which channels show potential and zone in on these. Hint: it might be 1 product and 1 channel. While everything else is gong on try and treat that product as it’s own start up. Measure it, adapt it and do whatever it takes to get traction. Then move on to the next product or channel.
CI:What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs looking to start, run and grow a business in the ecommerce space?
MW:Start building a following and customer base early. With a decent social and content strategy you can start attracting potential customers before you even have anything to sell. You then have real people to validate your product ideas and confirm what they see as actually valuable. Then when you do launch simply out deliver in an amazing way (ideally while maintaining profitable unit economics) adapt as quickly as possible and scale. Simples.
CI:What are some of the big highlights for TinyMe in 2017 and beyond?
MW:We’re mainly focused on R&D and continuing to build out the team, and bringing some amazing products to market.