Over the coming weeks The Chamber of Commerce is sitting down with each of the winners from the recent Westpac Waikato Business Awards to find out what they did to stand out from the crowd. This weeks “Winners Insights” is with Hannah Porter, Owner of Bear & Moo, the winner of the 2020 Porter Group Micro-Business and Air New Zealand People’s Choice awards.
One woman’s trash is another woman’s treasure and when Hannah Porter realised just how much she was spending on disposable nappies for her two boys she saw a golden opportunity for a business to be born.
Bear & Moo is the child of this dream, an online retail website specialising in reusable cloth nappies and other baby products. The name Bear & Moo comes from the nicknames of Hannah’s two boys, Mister Moo and Hadley Bear. Hannah had been looking for a product-based business to start while she was on maternity leave and, with the support of her husband, took the plunge to become a small business owner in June 2018.
Two and a half years later, Bear & Moo has grown into a business capable of supporting Hannah’s family, with customers all over the world. When Bear & Moo launched there were few affordable options for reusable cloth nappies in New Zealand, all at high price points and with a tonne of industry jargon to learn before being able to use the product. Hannah used her expertise in communications to remove these entry barriers.
“There were two key problems we wanted to solve: make it more affordable for people to give it a go, and not to over complicate it. We wanted to really break it down, make it simple and approachable for people to give it a go.”
This philosophy was the bedrock for the business. Bear & Moo initially only offered one type of reusable nappy, with a range of cute patterns of course, and provided simple, introductory articles on the website to ease customers into the world of reusable nappies. The low entry barrier proved popular and regular orders started to pour in.
Customer relations has been a strength of Bear & Moo since the beginning. Regular blog posts, newsletters and active social media has built a strong relationship between Bear & Moo and its customers. Its mantra that “kindness is key” and a relaxed, welcoming nature has succeeded in building a community of parents that support and encourage one another and proactively recommend Bear & Moo to friends and family. This is evident in Bear & Moo taking out the Air New Zealand’s People’s Choice Award, against many larger businesses with much larger customer bases.
“Sometimes I forget that this is a real business, because I love it so much, but People’s Choice is such an amazing award to win as it tells me we are doing right by our customers. They value us and we value them. They know we are putting them at the forefront of everything we do. Getting emails and messages from customers telling me they had voted or telling me why we should win was really awesome and great encouragement that we are on the right track.”
It was Bear & Moo’s first time entering the Westpac Waikato Business Awards and a huge milestone for the young business taking home two of the coveted awards.
“We’re really looking forward to receiving our feedback. Winning Micro Business of the Year proves that this is a viable business, and we have massive opportunity for growth. Bear & Moo has plans to keep expanding and developing our brand; the judge’s insight will be invaluable in assisting us with this.”
Dealing with the pitfalls of 2020 were a trial by fire for many businesses, but Bear & Moo consistently used it as an opportunity to learn and connect with its customers. Deemed an essential service, Bear & Moo continued to operate during the lockdown and stayed active with its customer base, communicating that only urgent orders would be processed and encouraging customers to keep safe and healthy. It was a time when the community around the business really came together.
Bear & Moo skillfully navigates the world of sustainable business by making it easy for customers to start their reusable collection but also understanding that is not feasible for everyone and refusing to guilt those who cannot switch to 100% reusables. This realistic, modern approach to business is part of what has made the company so successful so early on and has proved a hit with customers.
“People are aware of their waste, their use of plastic, the rubbish that goes to landfill etc, and they want to make a difference. Making change needs to be achievable for people, hence why we never put pressure or expectations on our customers to go full-time or do everything. I think they appreciate the relaxed nature of the way we do things. Doing things the sustainable way isn't always the most cost effective but for us, it's worth it as it goes with our ethos.”
Bear & Moo has done remarkably well in a year fraught with peril for business. Hannah and her team have shown that in time of crisis and uncertainty customers are supporting those businesses that prioritise relationships and communication. Creating a community of customers and supporting them when they need it has seen the favour returned. The Waikato Chamber of Commerce would like to congratulate Hannah and all of Bear & Moo for a successful year, we are glad to see you get the recognition you deserve.