Australian mother Hana-Lia Krawchuk was sleep-deprived and at breaking point.
Her newborn son Elijah was only sleeping for 45 minutes at a time.
It was awful,” Krawchuk says. “I was really, really desperate for sleep and my quality of life back. I went shopping and bought every sleep product and swaddle product I could get my hands on.”
“They unravelled and I saw my son with wraps over his face and the others with press studs and velcro just didn’t stay closed,” she says. “I also noticed he slept better if he was swaddled with his arms up and all the other swaddles swaddled him with his arms down.”
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There has to be a better way
Krawchuk had studied fashion and textile design and worked in fashion for a number of years so when she couldn’t buy a solution to her sleep problems she decided to make her own.
ade it and sewed it up and gave it to two friends to try,” she says. “They said ‘You’re not going to believe it, but our babies slept through the night for the first time’ and I thought, wow we are onto something pretty amazing.”
The Love To Dream swaddle looks a bit like a strait jacket for babies. A zip makes the swaddles easy to put on and the babies hands are tucked into little wings on either side mimicking their natural sleeping position.
Krawchuk got a first run made, her husband wrote the copy, she pulled together packaging and started calling up buyers and visiting them with her son in tow.
From the start Krawchuk patented the winged arm design of the Love To Dream swaddles.
“We have a very strong IP strategy,” Krawchuk says. “We make sure whatever we are launching is innovative and if we are faced with copycats it can be protected.”
The couple put in A$50,000 (NZ$53m) of their own money “and that’s all we’ve put in so far,” Krawchuk says. Now both work full-time in the business, which employs 15 staff. Love to Dream is on track to sell 750,000 products this financial year. With a minimum price of A$39 a product, turnover will be over A$30 million (NZ$32m).
“We are looking forward to tripling the business in the next three years,” Krawchuk says. “We just signed a distribution agreement with a significant company in China and we are gaining great momentum in the US, South Korea is a booming market for us and we have new product development as well.”
The swaddles are available in New Zealand, too.
Recent product development includes Love To Dream’s just launched onesie style sleeping bag aimed at toddlers, which is already sold out in many locations.
A Business of Tomorrow
Love To Dream’s fast growth has caught the attention of Westpac, which this month named the business as one of its 20 high-potential Businesses of Tomorrow.
Krawchuk receives a A$100,000 professional services package and will participate in a tailored mentoring program and a global study tour.
David Lindberg, judge and chief executive of Westpac Business Bank, said Love to Dream is recognised as a market leader for its “revolutionary” sleeping system.
“The business is consistently innovating to ensure it meets the needs of new families,” he says. “Love to Dream is already exporting to 29 countries and has the potential for further expansion.”
Fast growing pains
Krawchuk attributes Love To Dream’s fast growth to the business’ international outlook.
“You have to look at your business that way and look to sell to the markets where you get the most traction,” Krawchuk says. “Australia is crucial as our test market and our most loyal market but we understand the value of export.”
But Love To Dream is an exception amongst Australian small businesses with Export Council of Australia statistics showing of the 2.19 million small businesses in Australia, only 52,000 export.
Lisa McAuley, chief executive of the Export Council, says success as an export business requires the same elements as success in any business: careful planning, risk mitigation and a lot of hard work.
“One of the biggest risks is ability to meet fulfilment,” McAuley says. “Can you meet demand if your business takes off? How can you take control of your brand, your IP and your customers experience? That is something a fast growing business needs to prepare.”
This is a lesson Krawchuk learnt first hand when she first launched the business and kept on selling out of product.
“The exponential growth in the beginning was challenging and we couldn’t anticipate the market demand for the product,” she says. “Part of the solution was to start manufacturing in Australia to substitute stock when we were out of stock in China.”
A business that restores sanity
Baby Elijah is now nine years old and has a five-year-old sister. As Krawchuk and her husband juggle the challenge of being business owners and parents one thing spurs them on.
“Our business is selling baby garments to help babies sleep,” she says. “But the result of it is that we restore sanity in homes and give people back their quality of life when they can sleep.”