Two months after giving birth to her daughter, Isabelle Delacave arrived in Australia to find a lack of quality, retail baby products. The scarcity inspired Isabelle, now a marketing manager for Spanish business school IE in Sydney, to launch a start-up.
From Belgium with Love is an e-commerce platform that sells high-quality baby brands from Europe to Australian parents. The venture is small, but the way it mixes social media with targeted editorial gives it clout in the increasingly competitive e-retail market.
Virtual shopping is disrupting the retail industry and opening up opportunities for entrepreneurs like Isabelle. The challenge for the MBA will be to develop an international supply chain, and to keep costs down.
Isabelle graduated from IE’s MBA in 2005. After graduation she worked as a financial analyst at CarVal Investors, the fund manager now owned by US conglomerate Cargill. In 2008 she moved to Babcock & Brown, the investment group, where she worked as a real estate fund manager as the crisis erupted.
Isabelle, a mother who is fluent in five languages, is dispelling numerous stereotypes as she brings a slice of Belgium commerce to the southern hemisphere.
What is your assessment of the MBA market in Australia?
The MBA concept is growing strongly. Businesses in Australia are realizing that managers need to learn from overseas markets to be competitive on a global scale. Therefore, they are looking for business education in a diverse and innovative environment – at international universities.
You worked as an asset manager and financial analyst. What are your key takeaways?
I worked in the real estate market in Spain prior to the financial crisis. I saw very highly-leveraged property assets losing their value drastically and investors defaulting on mortgages from big financial institutions. I learned the risks of highly-leveraged property and the effect on a country’s economy.
How has your IE Business School MBA been of benefit to you since graduation, particularly when running a start-up?
Entrepreneurship is the DNA of IE. I carry part of that in me. I have to admit that, since graduation 10 years ago, I have always wanted to start up a business.
You have said you spotted a gap in the market for From Belgium with Love. Can you tell me about that, and how the company was founded?
Prior to giving birth to my daughter I was shopping around for baby products in Belgium and found that there was an abundance of lovely, high quality brands and beautiful products. When coming to Australia with my two-month old baby, I found that the offer in store was very disappointing.
Other mothers in Australia were asking me where I had found all my beautiful baby accessories.
How do you source the products and what challenges are involved in bringing them to Australia?
The Belgian brands that I am importing are highly recognized in Europe and highly in demand. They are made in Belgium with high-quality fabrics, incomparable to the low-cost products that can be found in the large retailers in Australia.
The challenges are the transport costs and delays. As for all importing businesses, the key is getting your logistics right and setting prices accordingly.
What challenges have you faced as a mother trying to grow your business?
Working moms tend to feel guilty when not spending enough time playing with our children. However, I learnt from one of my closest friends that you don’t have to spend every minute of every day with them for them to understand that you love them.
My daughter is very little, only two-and-a-half years old, but she already understands that I have a life beyond being her mom, and she is proud of me for investing in my future.
You have a blog on the site. How useful has editorial been as a marketing tool/to drive web traffic?
Content is key to attract customers and create a community around your brand and your business. My target customers are working parents, so my intention is to focus the topics on my blog on subjects that interest them, and create a discussion on the challenges and solutions around parenting in modern society.
How powerful a tool has ecommerce been compared to opening a physical shop front?
For busy parents, shopping online is essential nowadays. Social media has the power to generate traffic and customers to your virtual shop.
Moreover, the possibility to shop online on a smartphone just adds to the benefits of e-commerce. Virtual shopping is a must for all retailers. [But] it is a very competitive space.
Written by Seb Murray | MBA Entrepreneurs Via businessbecause.com