Podcast Ep 90: Born from the ashes of their family’s previous business Mothercare Ireland, siblings Ben, Laura and Jonny Ward are spearheading a new venture called Kaliedy.
Online business Kaliedy offers a large range of feeding products, baby essentials, nursery items and toys. It focuses on supporting Irish parents and parents-to-be with a great website, customer service and back end offering. It is also the exclusive Irish stockist of the beloved Early Learning Centre toys.
Co-founder Ben Ward spoke to ThinkBusiness about Kaliedy’s ambitions and plans for the future, including returning to bricks and mortar retail.
“We have a great breadth of products, great brands, loads of toys as well as feeding products, travel systems and more. We cover the whole gamut. We like to think of ourselves as a one-stop-shop”
The innovative online baby and nursery store is one year in business.
The team of siblings including Ben, Laura and Jonny launched the site in the aftermath of the liquidation of Mothercare Ireland as a result of the global Covid-19 crisis. They had inherited the business from their father David and were determined to keep flying the flag.
A family business for families
Ben worked for Mothercare Ireland for 18 years, starting in buying and then covering a wide range of roles from logistics, store operations and finance. He believes that while the business is no longer with us, they did a huge amount right and the family are continually innovating to build on the best parts of the business with Kaliedy.
He explained that when the UK division of Mothercare went into administration it had an impact on the supply chain with the result that no stock was available for the Irish division. “We were left with no option but to put the business into liquidation. It was an extremely sad ending for what had been a brilliant business started by my dad 30 years ago and that at one point traded with 18 shops around the country.”
But like a phoenix from the ashes the Ward siblings are determined to build on their dad’s legacy with Kaliedy.
Ben explained that the key to the birth of Kaliedy has been the maintenance of relationships with previous suppliers.
“I think that the way we did wind up the business [Mothercare Ireland] was done in as straight a fashion as possible. We didn’t burn any creditors and we kept everyone well versed in where we were in terms of our stock issues; both with creditors and our staff, some of whom had been with us 30 years. It’s very upsetting as a family and personally and it’s not a nice process for anyone to go through when a business goes to the wall. But we kept great relationships with our suppliers and we were able to start up again with a new venture, an online business called Kaliedy.”
The name Kaliedy is derived from the word kaleidoscope and the flash of colours that signify the parenting journey. “That journey is great fun but can be daunting. It’s a big step to go on when you have your own kids. So we wanted to capture that kind of vibrancy and colour in the name.
“We’ve been trading for 12 months and it’s been going well as customers seem the love the products. We’re an Irish brand. People love the next-day business promise for delivery as well, so it’s been working very well for us as well.
“We have a great breadth of products, great brands, loads of toys as well as feeding products, travel systems and more. We cover the whole gamut. We like to think of ourselves as a one-stop-shop.”
The key to retail is the detail
Ward says that the time spent with Mothercare has served the siblings well in terms of how to run a business. “We learned loads and all aspects of retail. Retail is a very broad church in terms of what you have to get right in order to make it work and make some money.
“At the centre of it all is the customer and trying to deliver a good customer experience. While we don’t have the same store footprint we used to have, a lot of the same skill sets are required. A big part of it is logistics, fulfilment and having good systems in the back-end. It’s all well and good having a nice shiny website, but if you can’t do a good job in terms of pick, pack and dispatch – especially when you have a ‘next business day’ promise – it relies on good systems and good people. And we have great people who are all competent and very motivated.”
The elephant in the room for all online and offline retailers is Amazon, which is expanding rapidly in Ireland with new fulfilment centres. Ward believes the way Irish brands can fight back is by being good at what they do.
“The delivery aspect is huge. I think the immediacy that people want to have is next-day delivery and, better still, we’re trying to move towards a tighter window from where our cut-off is currently 2pm for next business day, we’re trying to work towards a 6pm or 8pm cut-off by next year.
“You have to be cognisant of what they [Amazon] are doing. But we do have advantages in that we’re Irish. Another advantage is that not all the brands want to be on Amazon because inevitably it means a race to the bottom from a price perspective.”
Ward believes that if Irish e-commerce retailers can tighten up the delivery window, they will fend off any threat from Amazon Prime.
The future of Kaliedy, Ward says, is to be a predominantly online business with a growing bricks and mortar presence.
“If you are spending up to €1,200 on a travel system for your first child, the likelihood is that you’d want to be able to go into that store and touch and feel the quality. And we’re conscious that while we are online and we do deliver a great customer service, we do have a gap where people want to look at the wheels they are buying. So, we are looking at the right timing, the right place and the right deal as well.”
He said the past year was quite an experience, particularly when it came to the administrative headaches that came with Brexit and serving customers in the UK where Kaliedy also has a growing market..
The plan is to look at selling into Europe as well and the key to that plan will be identifying the right courier partner. “We have been looking for partnerships with hubs on the continent to fulfil orders in Europe in a timely fashion.”
In the meantime, the siblings have been focused on ensuring the right systems are in place and removing pain points that prevent a good customer experience, including return and refund policies.
“Going from a well-loved brand name like Mothercare to starting a new website and trying to get people to take a chance on you is probably the hardest part of starting.”
The key is ensuring the customer experience is consistently first rate. “And that’s where the systems are so important, and scalability is important as well.”