Bombed Out Breakthrough
When Hannah Pereira started making bath bombs at home from a kit she bought on eBay, she had no idea the hobby would turn into a multimillion-dollar ecommerce success.
“I had no money at the time,” Hannah confesses.
Starting with nothing, Bath Box is now turning over around $120,000 a month and is projected to bring in $5 million in the next financial year after making $2.2 million in the past 12 months during COVID.
“I never expected it to be what it is today,” Hannah says. “My dad always jokes, I don’t understand how you can make $2.2 million in a year with a $7 bath bomb. It blows his mind, and we laugh about it all the time.”
The 27-year-old American dropped out of uni where she met her husband who was on a student exchange in the US, which prompted her to move to Australia.
The self-taught entrepreneur was flitting between jobs in waitressing, freelancing and childcare when she decided to set up a website in 2017 to sell her handmade products online using Facebook advertising.
The encouragement of members of a Facebook group called Melbourne Gal Pals boosted Hannah to keep going, along with friends and family. “They really encouraged me to do more. I had people who wanted to buy stuff and it took off from there,” she says.
Hannah’s husband has since quit his secure job in finance to work full-time in the lucrative Bath Box business along with her sister-in-law who works on the brand’s social media.
Up until three years ago, Hannah was making the bath bombs out of her garage, but now runs the operation out of a factory in the outskirts of Melbourne with an army of production assistants to help in the thriving business.
An initial investment of bulk product was enough to fill cash-poor Hannah, in her early 20s at the time, with self-doubt and fear before the business took off.
“At the beginning it was a hobby. I didn’t spend too much money on it. But I remember when I bought my first big round of bulk materials wholesale for $8,000, I was so nervous at the time,” she says.
“What if it fails?” she had questioned herself. “It was fear. Having the encouragement of family and my partner is really what helped me break down that barrier and believe in myself to just go through and do it.”
With entrepreneurship comes persistence and overcoming roadblocks. “There are always heaps of challenges, but I think the most important thing is to use those challenges and lessons to learn,” Hannah says.
“As an entrepreneur, a quality you need to have is to adapt quickly, knowing when to manoeuvre and switch or quit doing something at the right time is the most important thing.”
More time at home during the COVID pandemic has bolstered the self-care and at-home wellness movement while dramatically changing the way we work and shop.
“Taking a bath is something that is pretty high in people’s list now,” Hannah says. “What helps us is that people in Australia are actively looking at ways to relax at home during the pandemic.”
While so many retailers are suffering in the economic blow of the COVID disaster, Bath Box pulled in a couple of million dollars and counting as people stayed at home and spent more money on self-care. Vanessa has been known to buy a few Bath Box bath bombs, too.
“With the COVID pandemic, people now have to stay home, they have to be shopping online and, even more so than before, getting all their necessities online,” Hannah says.
“With more people being forced to stay home, they’re looking at alternative ways to spend their time, with more stress and mental health and more people wanting to relax, they have to do that in the confines of their four walls at home.”
It’s not just the younger generations glued to their screens shopping online and consuming social media, either. “Even an older demographic is being forced to purchase online and it’s only just going to continue down that path,” she adds.
Hannah considered going into bricks-and-mortar retail and tried it out with a pop-up store at her local shopping centre for Mother’s Day.
“It didn’t really turn out as expected. I thought maybe I needed to get out in front of more customers face-to-face, maybe it would help me sell more products, but I was surprised at the low foot traffic,” she reflects.
“Ecommerce is really the way going forward,” Hannah says. “Without my laptop I could not be where I am today.”
Bath Box relies heavily on Facebook and Instagram advertising with so many people glued to their feeds. “If you can be a really good marketer and use social media, your opportunities are really endless,” she adds.
Hannah tried to travel down a different path to her main competitors, the biggest of which is Melbourne-born mega-brand Lush.
“I advertise bringing luxury and the spa experience to your home,” she says. “What really differentiates me from other people who make bath bombs is when I brought in the bath accessories – a bath caddy and bath pillows.”
Hannah knows all about the sacrifices that come with having a self-funded start-up.
“I was able to expand in the beginning through self-funding because my husband and I ate ramen noodles and used our money to invest in our business,” she says.
Going out and eating out tend to get shifted down the priority list as you think twice about where you’re spending your money.
“There is a lot of sacrifice that is made in the first year of having a start-up,” she says.
Hannah says “hard work, determination and sacrifice” are the key drivers that go into starting a successful business.
“You just have to say no to everything, you know, weekends out with your friends and movies and eating out. You want to save every single dollar to put into your business so that hopefully later on you can reap those rewards and those benefits,” she explains.
“That’s what it comes down to as an entrepreneur. You have that determination and that passion and that knowledge and belief in yourself. If you feel you can do it, anything is really possible.”
Cs get degrees
Going to uni is a message that’s drummed into high school students, but Hannah reiterates that it’s not necessarily the path to success, and she is proof of that.
“There are more opportunities out there than just going to uni. I never felt like I had any other choice. There’s such pressure on young women to pursue that,” Hannah says.
Her message to young people is to take the time to figure out what you want to do with some trial and error. “You are young and have no responsibility. Now is the time to try new things, to find out who you really are. When you’re 18, do you really know who you are, do you really know what you love and what you like?” she says.
“Travel, try a business hobby, try pursuing your passions and see what happens, because you’re going to spend the majority of your life working, and if you don’t love that how can you love your life?”
She says it’s important to have a passion for what you pursue. “At the end of the day, when you’re an entrepreneur you’re selling a product or service to somebody and if you’re passionate about that then customers can believe in that message,” she says.
“You have to do something that you’re passionate about, whatever that may be.”
She adds that it’s really important to have mentors to guide you and to know you have time to figure things out. “If I had to go back and change anything it would be take my time a little bit more on certain things and have more mentors,” Hannah says.
“I didn’t have a lot of mentors. I wish I would have branched out and networked a lot more. I had a lot of trial and error that I could have avoided.”
In the end, Hannah says “competition doesn’t mean anything”.
“One thing I wish I knew when I was younger, in terms of being afraid to start your own business, is competition means nothing. Everybody thinks that there’s so much competition in business but really there’s no more competition than finding a job,” she says.
“If you look at the amount of accountants or graphic designers or doctors or lawyers, they’re all competing for that same position. There is so much competition even in that space,” she points out.
“If you have determination and have that supporting family or friend base then you can do it. There’s going to be competition no matter what you do. If there isn’t then it’s not worth doing,” she says.
Having your own business means the ability to work on your own terms and make as much money as you want.
“The best thing about having your own business is that you’re in control of your own surroundings and you’re in control of your own happiness,” Hannah says.
“So many people say to me, if I could just make $100,000 a year I would be happy but they’re not really in control of that a lot of the time. When you’re an entrepreneur you can just work harder and make more. You take on that responsibility when you know you are fully in control.”
Hannah is also able to spend as much time as she wants with her friends, family and husband which is what matters most to her. “Those things are so gratifying. I am so lucky because there are so many people that wish they could spend time with their family and I’m so blessed to have that,” Hannah says.
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