A VICTORIAN entrepreneur raked in $100,000 in 10 weeks after discovering a simple solution to a common problem faced by new mums — bald babies.
That’s right. Because babies spend so much time lying down, the friction caused by rubbing the backs of their heads against the bedding often causes hair loss.
Nikki Bardis came up with the solution — silk cot slips — and mums are going crazy for it. “Ask anybody that has a child, they’ve noticed bald spots,” the 34-year-old from Mount Eliza on the Mornington Peninsula said.
“When I was pregnant with my first daughter I went shopping for all the very best I could buy for her, which was organic cotton sheets. But every time I picked her up from her bassinet I saw a little cluster of hair and she was starting to get a bald spot.”
Ms Bardis, originally from Scotland, recalled that her grandmother swore by silk pillowcases — so she bought an adult one and tucked it into the bassinet as an experiment.
While it solved the hair-loss problem, she said: “It wasn’t very practical, it would move around.”
Silk pillowcases were growing in popularity — one Australian manufacturer is predicting sales of $50 million in the next few years — but Ms Bardis realised there was a gap in the market for a range just for babies and toddlers.
“I thought at that point I should do something about this,” she said. “But life gets in the way, I was busy with my first baby and learning how to become a mum.”
But the idea kept coming back to her.
After her second baby arrived, she began seriously considering the product. The 34-year-old had already seen success with her business Beach Candy, a line of Turkish beach towels, so had experience with textiles.
She sold Beach Candy last year and used the money to bootstrap her new business, SilkyTots. “It took me a lot of time to get on top of everything, a lot of sample runs to make sure everything was absolutely perfect,” she said.
“Silk is an expensive product so we wanted to make sure it was very, very well made. I wanted to design it to be in line with the SIDS safety guidelines which is no loose fabric in the cot, so it had to be secured.”
Ms Bardis started by playing around with samples from her local Spotlight before trialling prototypes with Chinese factories.
“I got about 10 different factories. That took a long time because each one took about six weeks,” she said. “My advice for anybody is get your prototype perfect in Australia then send it there for them to copy. Trying to communicate (changes) they would say, ‘Yes, yes I understand’, but it would be wrong.”
SilkyTots finally launched in May this year. By August, 10 weeks later, she had amassed 5000 followers on Instagram and completely sold out of stock, with back orders for the $85 cot slips now piling up.
Ms Bardis has now done more than $120,000 in revenue and is on track to hit just over $500,000 in the first 12 months. That’s without factoring in US and UK expansion.
“It just exploded,” she said. “It’s still gaining momentum. We have lots of repeat customers, lots of referrals, lots of mums that buy for their baby, then come back for their toddlers then come back for themselves.”
She credits the “mum market” word-of-mouth.
“Everyone wants what everyone else has and they all trust each other’s opinion,” she said.
SilkyTots also makes silk pillowcases for toddlers and children who get “matted, bird’s nest hair” and is moving into bedding, silk sheets and doona covers.
“It’s not just for bald spots,” Ms Bardis said. “Silk is very good for the skin, eczema, also asthma because silk is uninhabitable for dust mites, mould and fungus. It’s much healthier. It’s crazy that nobody has done this before.”
Ms Bardis said her message to any parents with an idea they think could solve a problem was simply that “you need to be confident, follow through and do something about it”.
“I had so many ups and downs along the way but I just reminded myself to trust the process and kept pushing,” she said. “It is possible. Even if you have little experience, the hardest part is deciding to commit.”
She’s not sure it will be a $50 million business. “But why not?” she said. “People are having babies every day.”