Founder of Lucas Loves Cars, Helle Warming, used to find it very difficult to find good quality toys and gifts for her son. That’s when the idea came to her. She thought, “If I was looking for toys for my boy then others must be too.”
At the time Helle worked in the corporate industry and was looking for a change. She wanted to spend more quality time with her son. So, the idea to open an online retail store emerged suddenly. Helle didn’t quite plan the idea, but with passion on her side and little experience, she launched herself into her Melbourne based small business Lucas Loves Cars.
Today, Helle Warming has been running Lucas Loves Cars for five years and they have recently celebrated their fifth birthday in style. She says, “Despite having started with no experience, I feel like I have come a long way. My first two years in business were all about learning and discovering new things. I was trying to get an understanding of what this field lacked and what I could provide for customers”.
Creating a brand
Helle would spend hours and hours researching and searching for the right toys. But she couldn’t find what she needed. In particular, she was hunting for toys that she and her son loved. Whenever she found a few toys, she would purchase them and test them out before placing them on the website. During the early stages, when the idea of Lucas Loves Cars was still being formed, Helle would paste a butchers paper on the kitchen wall and write down what she first required to start her business.
“I would think about what I needed first: a logo? business cards? colours for the website? I had to figure out how to build it from scratch. I had to undergo intense research to buy what I wanted to stock. For me, the most important part was that the products we sell had to be right. Not the cheap, plastic ones. I wanted to sell the good quality, longer-lasting products”.
Deciding on the product range
Lucas Loves Cars offers a variety of toys for both boys and girls ranging from cars, trucks, dinosaurs, superheroes and tools for kids. Helle stresses; “Quality is number one and design comes second, then third is that they have wheels, or dinosaur designs. We really do work hard to stock quality products. I don’t want people disappointed and coming back to me because their product is broken. I want our customers to fall in love with our range, just as I am”.
Marketing the brand
Helle began advertising in local magazines to promote her small business. She would attend several baby shows to garner attraction from potential customers. Also, she added her business on a number of online directories. Her business has changed dramatically over the past four years. And she thanks social media for her increasing popularity. “A lot of people are now finding us through social media. Being on social media is easy for me. The toys are so beautiful and I love taking photos especially of our products and creatively placing them on display”. Helle has also been collaborating with other businesses to forge a better awareness of Lucas Loves Cars.
Issues facing the business
“I thought that I could do everything all by myself. Thinking that being on my own would be fine. I wanted to work from home. I didn’t really think I needed to have contact with other people. However, that’s not the case. You do need help and you do need to work with people. I did actually need people around me, finding other business people to connect with made a big difference. Another issue I faced was hiring the wrong people to do certain jobs for me. They didn’t have the same priorities as I did and so I was not satisfied with the work. It’s important to have people around you who you trust, so you can get truthful feedback and then sometimes you can use your contacts to get recommendations for people that they have worked with”
How Lucas Loves Cars became successful
“When something goes wrong, you need to be able to adjust to the circumstances. Keep your eyes open. Take that risk”. Helle says that learning new things about business and adapting to various situations has contributed to the success of Lucas Loves Cars. “With the industry I’m in, you have to keep up with the times. Toys are in fashion as well. Even though Lucas Loves Cars is an old-fashioned toys store, the product still keeps changing.” Being able to deal with the ever-changing environment is an attribute every business owner should have if they want to be successful.
One piece of advice for future entrepreneurs
“Join groups. Not on the internet. But in person. Whether it be local or not, it is great to share your stories and talk about your experiences, and also hearing and learning from others. Every step forward that I’ve taken has got to do with the involvement of different business groups. Being surrounded by like-minded people who actually understand what you are talking about is a comforting feeling. It is amazing what people can bring forth to the table that can be useful to you. It’s so different being in business than in the corporate industry. People are learning alongside yourself and it’s easier to learn from their experiences then to try learn it all yourself. Some people will share their journey with you and if you’re lucky then you will all help each other to achieve. Every time I meet a new person, it expands my growth and learning as an entrepreneur”.
TIP 1: Pick a great place!
TIP 2: Set up space to take photos
TIP 3: Everyone loves cupcakes
TIP 4: Branded goodie bags
TIP 5: Prizes
We offered prizes for our favourite social media posts. Many people want to share images and stories anyway so give them an incentive to win something and they love it!
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