Meet Lani Small. The founder of Malt Maternity, a company offering a chic maternity pyjama range for soon-to-be mums, is one of those business owners who has become the change she wanted to see.
When Small was pregnant with her son Ethan, she yearned for bright, fun, maternity pyjamas that were flattering and offered breast support. When she couldn’t find any, her mother, offered her a piece of advice that was destined to change the family’s future forever: “make your own.”
From those three simple words, Malt Maternity’s Night to Day range eventually came to exist.
The maternity range can be worn as pyjamas but they’re also stylish enough so that no one knows you’re wearing them during the day. This makes for one less thing expecting mothers have to worry about during what is one of the most important times in their life.
In the very beginning, Small says it was important to get the ‘boring’ business stuff out of the way first. We’re talking about getting a quality accountant involved to help with the business’ structure, a branding specialist and an IP lawyer. From there, she found textile designers to help design the fabric as well as a manufacturing agent.
“I will say that I severely underestimated just how long it would take to go from concept to a launched brand.”
Haven’t most business owners been there?
The founder says her small team, which comprises of her mother and at times, her husband, are aware of what they know and equally, what they don’t know. She’s also found a number of Facebook business groups helpful in terms of providing advice and expertise.
Based in Pilbara, a small town located north of Western Australia, Small has found delays in getting samples and dealing with postage issues to be an ongoing battle.
“People don’t understand that I can’t just pop out to pick something up or even what services I readily have access to. Most people are pretty good though, they’ll jump onto Skype for a meeting and emails have been a life saver!”
Some of the biggest challenges Malt Maternity faces are those largely shared by other small businesses.
Raising capital and managing cashflow… those doubts that can creep into every founder’s mind when they spend huge amounts of time working alone. And of course, there have been mistakes and many valuable lessons along the way as well.
All Malt Maternity garments are manufactured in factories that are ethically run and are regularly inspected. Small works with a very well respected manufacturing agent based in Brisbane who’s armed with many long-term relationships with various factories to adhere to these expectations.
As for memorable moments in business, there is a clear standout for this founder:
“Honestly, getting our first customer was amazing, I will always remember her. She was so supportive and just loved the pajamas!”
We couldn’t speak with Small without asking for her thoughts in terms of the fashion industry in Australia and how it caters for the average woman’s needs.
“I think the biggest thing is that there is no such thing as an average woman. All you can do is try and look after your particular demographic to the best of your ability and really understand what their needs are.
“I think there are a lot of really exciting small fashion businesses out there. People who have a passion and great products.”
Sarah Cannata is the founding editor of This Woman Can.