Kim Vespa, Director and Co-Owner of Boobie Brands who are best known for their Boobie Bikkie lactation cookies is a serial entrepreneur with a corporate background in Human Resources. Kim is also the Co-Founder of Punk Angel which formulate a range of kids natural hair care products, and previously designed and commercialised a line of maternity accessories that were sold in over 100 retailers in Australia and internationally.
Boobie Bikkies is an extremely successful business, supplying to almost 200 retailers in Australia and has just expanded to New Zealand. Boobie Bikkies won Gold Medal Winner for Best Mum Product in the My Child (magazine) Excellence Awards 2017. Kim and her team have collected a slew of awards, the most recent being Finalist in the 2017 Australian AusMumpreneur Awards.
As a serial entrepreneur, what is the common thread that you have used to drive your success in business?
There are two things that stand out for me as common threads. The first one is internal drive. For me it is a pretty basic concept – if you want something to be successful, grit is the defining factor that can get you there. Yes of course you need to have everything else line up, to have the right skills, experiences etc, but I believe in the notion that success can be achieved because people around you run out of steam, and your grit, determination and passion, will see you through.
The second is kindness. Business can be tough, and I don’t mistake kindness for being naïve or a pushover, but true kindness leaves everyone remembering you, your team, and your brand for the right reasons.
How did you come to be a Director of Boobie Brands Pty Ltd?
Life is a crazy ride isn’t it?! I knew Pinky McKay for many years both professionally (we would do the expo circuit together in the same industry for some time) and personally (Pinky is the mother-in-law to one of my best friends). So we would cross paths at work events and over birthday cake, and we always got along and always took an interest in what each other was up to.
Sarah (Pinky’s daughter) and Pinky ran Boobie Bikkies together from its inception and then in 2016 when Sarah’s husband took a role in Dubai, the business structure needed to change. They approached me to join their business, and at the time, I was running my own HR Consultancy and had just gone back to study. Plus I had my two boys, with one still at home with me, plus I was running a start-up kids hair care brand called Punk Angel (which I still love and work in today). So life was pretty full. But to be able to work with Pinky, to be part of such an amazing brand and to be part of its future growth was something I could not pass up – so I jumped at the chance. Now the three of us own the business together.
Boobie Bikkies has grown into an incredible success story, and also recently expanded to NZ. How have you navigated the stages of growth in the business, and what have you had to specifically consider in taking the brand overseas?
The Boobie Bikkies story has truly been incredible. From the Founder being a woman over the age of 60 (imagine that!?) and to commercialising a new category in the health food space, to growing to a brand that is now a household name in the breastfeeding world is a pretty great achievement. One of the most important things for us as a business is to stay true to our value and offering.
At the end of the day, with our products being a fresh baked food item, there are just things that we cannot do that other manufacturers can do. We can’t just produce an endless supply of biscuits and store them in a warehouse waiting for a sale. We can’t just start exporting all over the world on a whim. Factors like best before dates, storage and temperature are all huge factors for us, and are equally important when we consider both domestic and international sales.
So for us, strategy and measured growth has helped us be sustainable and grow without too many growing pains. Also, wholesaling direct (as opposed to wholesaling via a distributor) has also been extremely important in our success because we get to determine our pricing and profit models.
Also backing ourselves in terms of marketing spend has been crucial. Media, especially social platforms play a huge role in our success and our growth. This is an area that we spend a large amount of our budget on. But more so, we have invested the time and effort to curate an amazing and an incredible community where mothers can come to a space that is safe and either have a laugh, learn something new or just feel supported.
How does your corporate and HR consulting background influence your leadership at Boobie Brands?
I do feel blessed having my background and now being a leader in my own business. I spent almost 15 years coaching and advising leaders on how they should be interacting with their people, and how they should be moulding their own businesses. In this time, I also learnt about best practices (and the not so best practices) within the corporate world, which I will truly value and take with me throughout my working life.
Having a corporate background has definitely been beneficial for me in so many ways, and my career was hugely rewarding. But nothing beats the feeling of being able to shape the culture of your own team and steer the direction of your own business.
What has been your greatest challenge?
I think the greatest challenge for me was working through how I was going to be a mum and a business leader simultaneously. I’d often wonder about how I was going to do what I did after I had my babies. I knew that I could not, and did not, want to give myself over to my employer at the sacrifice of being the hands-on mum that I wanted to be. So transitioning and finding the balance between motherhood and career has definitely been the golden trophy that I have been chasing (I don’t have it exactly down pat yet, but I am pretty close!).
What are you most proud of?
I am most proud of not accepting the status quo, especially as a female, and having the belief in myself that I could travel down a different path than what was laid out in front of me and that this alternative path would lead to happiness and fulfilment.
What’s one piece of advice for future female leaders?
Let your work define you. Work harder than anyone else in the room, if they didn’t know who you were before, they soon will.