Interview with KeaBabies Founder: Jane Neo
“In order to inspire my children to strive for what they wanted, I should prove to them that I am also working hard to add value to more people and do the things I love while living my dreams.”
A successful entrepreneur and creator of the growing international baby and maternity lifestyle brand KeaBabies, she is also mom to 2 boys and needs her daily fix of milk tea.
In light of our KeaBabies third brand anniversary, I managed to get the opportunity to do a long overdue interview with Jane to find out what keeps her going:
What motivated you to start this company? I mean, we’ve all read the ‘About Us’ story on the website, but is there anything more to the story that you would like to share?
My husband, Ivan and I were running our seminar and events marketing business for the past 5 years before we started KeaBabies. Being an introvert myself, I am not a public speaker, so naturally, I was only running the marketing and operations part of the business which was mundane and not what I wanted to do for long. We were blessed that our business was doing great back then and we would have achieved financial freedom for the rest of our lives if we worked harder, be financially prudent and invested our money diligently for the next few years.
But at the back of my mind, I had always wanted to create and start something of my own, to add value and inspire people on a greater scale.
After giving birth to my two children, thoughts flashed through my mind of my children’s future. Would I want them to just sail through life with comfort and avoid challenges? Or would I prefer they work hard towards their goals and dreams, no matter what it takes?
So I decided that in order to inspire my children to strive for what they wanted, I should prove to them that I am also working hard to add value to more people and do the things I love while living my dreams.
That is what pushes me on every single day to work hard and give my very best to our customers, team members and stakeholders. Since then, it has been my dream to bring KeaBabies to the world stage, no matter what it takes. I don’t know how things will turn out and it may take us 10, 20, 30, 40 years, whatsoever… We are going to do it.
Because I know that if we keep giving the best to our customers, some day, we are bound to get noticed.
What was the hardest part in the brand’s early stage of growth?
Everything was hard. Especially when you are starting up in a very established niche with many internationally renowned brands. In the initial stages, we had to be prepared to throw in lots of money for the business, for marketing, establishing trust and connection with our customers, building our brand community and stashing loads of product inventories. Furthermore, being in the baby and maternity industry, all our products have to be baby safe and of better quality than any regular product.
As such, all our products have to be certified by reputable organizations, and require lots of quality checks and man hours to do so. All these drive our costs much higher than we expected.
Besides the business part of the growth stage, I guess the hardest part is gaining our customers’ trust.
I remembered during the early days, we received a few complaints regarding a minor manufacturing defect on one of our products, which we later found out that it was due to an issue with the fabric factory. As all our products are covered with KeaCare 365 days warranty, our customers could get a 1-for-1 free exchange or a full refund if they didn’t like our product. So we managed to make things right and regain some trust from our customers. However, as a brand owner, I take full responsibility and I felt really bad for our customers to have gone through such a bad experience.
To prevent such incidents from happening again, we have since stepped up on our quality checks to ensure customers receive the best quality they deserve. We have also made customer satisfaction our most important pillar in our Brand Promise.
How do you differentiate KeaBabies from other baby and maternity brands out there?
When I first came up with the idea, Ivan was rather against going into the baby niche, because it is really hard to compete against big and established brands in the market.
I have studied the market and felt that as parents, we would have to pay a huge premium for baby products from renown brands as we tend to be worried about quality issues with products from some random unknown brand. As for renown brands, they usually specialize in a certain category of baby products.
The problem that I faced as a mom was that I had to research thoroughly on different brands for different products which proved to be a hassle as it was time consuming.
I was very much inspired by Uniqlo’s approach. Uniqlo is a global clothing brand which designs and manufactures modern everyday clothing using their proprietary fabric technology. Their main goal is to democratize all clothing by making it durable, accessible and affordable for everyone. Whenever I shop at Uniqlo, I never have to worry about the quality and returns, I sometimes don’t even look at the price tags because I trust the brand on their pricing policy, which is always kept affordable with comparable quality.
I want KeaBabies to become a great brand one day, where our customers put their full trust in us on prices, value, product quality and satisfaction.
We strive to keep our prices low with great quality products and we want to offer the widest range of baby and maternity products selection, so that parents can shop with ease, saving more time and money. We hope that all the time and money saved would be put to greater use to provide better quality family life for our customers and create wonderful moments together with their loved ones!
With so many products in the pipeline, which are you most excited about?
Everything! I am still very hands-on with handling all the product creation, development processes and marketing content of the brand. Behind every product we roll out, we spend a lot of time sourcing for the best materials, testing the product, using it ourselves, and thinking of ways to improve its features. We also conduct market research and surveys to get more feedback from parents and professionals.
When we are finally fully satisfied with the outcome of the product, we will then proceed to confirm it in our pipeline.
Every product creation is like a piece of art to me and I really want to bring the best to our customers. I hope that our customers can feel a deep connection with our brand through our products whenever they use it.
Every product and brand message from us focus a lot on creating wonderful moments together so that our customers can get reminded to treasure every moment with their loved ones.
You are not only a founder, but a wife, and a mother. How do you manage all this? Can you tell us how your regular day looks like, and any efficiency or productivity advice?
Ivan and I are really lucky to have our parents help take care of our children when we need to be away for work. I make it a point to spend at least 1-2 hours of quality time every night after work with my kids. During this time, I become one of them, their friend and playmate. We sing, dance and play crazily and sometimes make a mess of the house.
We usually play pretend, read books or create our own mini adventures around the house. I know, most parents will find it tiring to keep up or complain about cleaning up the house afterwards. I usually get my kids to clean up together by suggesting, “Come on, let’s keep your toys together, mommy will help you with it”. Instead of saying, “Please help mommy clean up the toys”, which suggests that they are doing you a favor after they have created the mess, we want to go the other way round.
Kids love to feel helpful or useful, it makes them feel like they have become big boys/girls, so I always suggest they help around the house, as much as possible, like putting their eating plate near the sink by themselves, helping me transfer the groceries into the fridge etc. My kids share part of the household chores by keeping their play area clean and I get more time to rest. I learnt to treat them as a friend rather than bossing them around everything and they will start to be more cooperative with you.
Every weekend is reserved for quality family time, we will make sure to put our work aside and focus on our family. I make plans for at least 2-3 fun activities every weekend and I will share a sneak peak of my plans (using YouTube videos and loads of exaggerated descriptions about the fun things that we are going to do, you know, kids need scenes to start imagining their fun time) to them a few days before, so that they have something to look forward to.
Whenever my kids complain about not wanting to attend pre-school the next day, I will always remind them that there is a time for school, work, fun and play and get them excited by reminding them about what we are going to do this coming weekend. They get so excited in anticipation for the day to come that they forget about being upset with school. Works wonders!
As for work, as an entrepreneur, you have to be able to identify your team members’ strengths and weaknesses and put them to the best use. Allocating the right resources to the right people saves you a lot of time and effort. I am fortunate to have a great team that supports and watches my back whenever I am busy with my family and kids.
As for my marriage, this is the most important aspect of my life because without the support and love from my wonderful husband, business partner and best friend, I would not have been able to manage our family and business so effortlessly. He is in charge of the sales, distribution, finances and business networks of KeaBabies. If I am the soul, he’s the body of it all.
Being parents and working partners concurrently can be quite challenging. At work, he’s the boss and at home, I am. It’s an untold mutual agreement between us. Our secret sauce to our marriage is a Friday weekly date night. My kids will stay with my parents every Friday, and we get our alone time together. A lot of my friends say they are not comfortable with not having their kids at home. But I think it's really important to set aside an evening of quality time regularly just for your partner, to enjoy each other’s company and keep the romance alive. A great relationship keeps the family going strong.
I hope you enjoyed my humble sharing. You may or may not agree with me. It doesn’t really matter, please do what works for you and I am sure you know best. :)
I am really glad that KeaBabies is turning 3 this year, but we still have a long way to go. With that, I want to thank all our customers, the KeaCommunity members, moderators, ambassadors and KeaBabies team, because without all your love, support and trust in KeaBabies, we would’ve never made it this far.
I hope to see you around for future KeaBabies Birthday Bashes!