“What do mothers want?” is a question whose answer is worth at least one million dollars. Probably even more, if we trust the statistics on the high growth of the market for baby and children’s goods and services for parents.
According to INKwoodReasearch data from 2016, this market is expected to expand by 4.7% annually in the period 2017-2025. According to a research of Grand View Research, Inc., the increase is even 5.5% with the prospect of profits from this market to reach USD 16.78 billion in 2025. Supermarkets, drugstores and pharmacies are the main channels for distribution of goods of the top four companies in the sector, but the Internet culture, e-commerce and innovation are changing the market. There, the driving force is the parents who are representatives of the Millennial generation (born between 1981 and 2000). They are active online users of information and commerce, they want to live green, despite the urbanization and easily adopt innovations that can enable them to be more mobile and successful as parents and as professionals. They have significant requirements to the products and services related to children and spend more on the family. Last but not least, they are in constant search for something new or a long forgotten old one because the familiar patterns of parenthood are exhausted.
I met the founders of four Bulgarian businesses set up by and for mothers in order to find out how they know what their consumers want, how their companies are developing and what is their competition.
Krasimira Hadzhiivanova and Elisaveta Belobradova founded the “Mayko Mila!” media platform about 3 years ago. It was the first in the information niche of the online media that speaks the tongue of the mothers “without shaking a finger.” They support a community of about 82,000 people, they have published two books, they have established themselves as leaders of opinion and are ambassadors of products, business and social campaigns. They also develop sustainably the “Ole Male” platform in favour of mothers of children with disabilities.
Denitsa Gospodinova and Tsvetelina Daskalova created one of the first sites in Bulgaria for places and events for children – “Sofia Igrae” (Sofia plays). Architects by education, but also mothers in Sofia, they have developed a media – information portal for suggestions, events, courses and activities for children, where children-related businesses present their initiatives.
Hristina Lisnik is probably one of the most well-known influencers, involved in the development of the so-called “Attachment Parenting.” She created a library for renting slings, “Slingoteka” (Slingrary), 2 years ago. She gives advice on the topic of baby-wearing and baby care for future mothers; she is an ambassador of different brands and social causes.
Iva Dyankova is the owner of one of the two Bulgarian online platforms for baby and children’s goods rental – “Babyrental”. She started her project three years ago and has helped many parents, including foreign tourists, to travel with less baggage.
All four projects are first of their kind and are created because of the immediate need of the mothers who stand behind them.
“When we made “Mayko Mila!”, the niche of the online media for parents was empty and was waiting for someone to appear and write on the topic with a sense of humour, and focus on the mother without reproaching her,” Krasimira says.
Deni adds that Tsveti and she have been driven by their own needs as mothers to find all places and events for children in one place on the Internet. “We did not have a business plan. I think that if we had spent too much time and effort in marketing research and strategies, we would not have created the site at all.”
Iva learnt from the experience of platforms for children’s goods rental in the United States to create her own business. She based it on her needs as a mother of twins. Hristina shared her “love for baby-wearing and so the circle was expanding more and more.”
In the “from mothers for mothers” business, the online space is probably the most appropriate but also the most difficult for development of entrepreneurship. Social networks and communications, mostly by telephone and messages, save everyone’s time, but the choice of the user is also more difficult because of the strong competition. The answer to the question, “What do mothers want?” may be “the best for their children” but it is not complete. “Every parent has access to the Internet, respectively to information that gives them an idea of what is happening in and outside of Bulgaria. Many people have relatives abroad who share what services, goods and entertainment for children can be found there, so a demand is created, and from there - the supply,” Iva says. But “with all sources of goods, services and information, one has to be able to sift through what is really needed and useful,” Krasimira adds.
Deni, who works with both end-users – parents, and businesses, partners and advertisers, says that they have sent direct mails to different businesses asking: “What do you need? How can we help your business?” “To a great extent what we offer as a business service is based on suggestions, questions and comments from the people we work with. So, it turned out we are selling to a targeted audience, and advertisers have a great interest in it. But the process always includes three parties – the readers, us and the advertisers. If we forget the first ones, if we do not treat them with respect and understanding, we will lose the third ones.”
Krasimira adds that the specifics of the content and the way they present it on the online media are their key advantages when dealing with advertisers. The connection with their business partners happens “on a conceptual level – with responsibility both to the business and themselves and to their clients/audience.”
Hristina adds that she would become a face of a brand, only after she, as a mother, has trust in it. For her, trust is particularly important because in about 80% of the orders she processes, the clients come on a recommendation. “For 2 years, I have had dozens of events and more than 500 individual consultations only in Sofia,” she adds.
For her, as well as for my other interlocutors, their business is inevitably bound to a social mission because it is targeted at the most vulnerable – the children. She provides free counselling for parents of pre-term babies or parents in a difficult situation.
Krasimira says that the social cause “Ole Male” fully corresponds to the philosophy of their business project – to give women confidence. “Social engagements help the business a lot, even if there is no immediate financial return,” Deni adds. The main benefits are the access to larger advertisers and international business partners, better image and trust among end users.
And they, the end-users, sometimes seem over-satisfied,” Iva says. There is everything, yet the question, “What do mothers still need?” remains open. “Every mother knows what the empty market niches are; she just has to ask herself: ‘What do I need?’” And then it’s a matter of organization,” Deni says. Iva needs an online platform targeted at travelling parents to advertise. Krasimira responds almost seriously: “Mothers need to go on a vacation without blaming themselves that the father has remained at home to look after the child for four days. Or at least that’s what we want.”