Episode 015: Phoebe Adams - Our Little Foxes

Entrepreneurship wasn't on the radar for Phoebe Adams, until she felt the frustration of not being able to live up to her full potential.  Even an early failure wasn't going to stop her from chasing her dream.  Now, with some seed funding secured, Phoebe and her co-founders at Our Little Foxes, Luis Lequerica and Donna Armstrong, are working harder than ever to reach their ambitious goals.

A year on after conceiving the idea for Our Little Foxes, the thing Phoebe is most happy about is the great, vibrant community that has developed around her business,which helps to keep them going and strive to do better.  While great products are important, it is the experience that is the main focus for Our Little Foxes.  Getting the experience right will be the catalyst to the exponential growth that Phoebe is seeking.

While Phoebe is extremely happy to have raised seed funding now, earlier failed attempts at raising funding have provided valuable lessons.  Having pitched for funding relatively early, Phoebe almost glad that they weren't successful as she believes they were not ready.  Landing funding too early may have seen them not invest it wisely or be as lean as they are now.  "We could have put ourselves in a difficult position by not spending in the right way."  So now that funding has become available after building a solid customer base, Phoebe is more confident that they will use it wisely and get the most out of every dollar available to them.

Everyone is talking about being an entrepreneur... it feels really accessible

Leaving university, being an entrepreneur was not on her mind.  In this day and age, though there is so much awareness around entrepreneurship.   Phoebe says "Everyone is talking about being an entrepreneur and it feels really accessible.  It doesn't feel that it's something that other people do."

As a career, Phoebe worked in marketing, including digital marketing, where she worked for various publishing companies and corporates.  While she loved what she did, and loved that there is so much innovation that can be done, she found that there was a lot a fear around taking risks with innovation in marketing strategies.  It finally got to the point where she felt she was not having the impact that she wanted.  Becoming disheartened in her chosen careen prompted Phoebe to reassess her goals.

Phoebe took the plunge and launched her first business, 100 Foxes, which ultimately failed, but provided important lessons and gave Phoebe the desire to follow her entrepreneurial desire.  Phoebe picked herself back up and launched her second startup, Our Little Foxes.

Having several years of experience working for corporates has helped Phoebe to develop a sense of discipline and an understanding of the importance of values and culture.  She confidently states that the team at Our Little Foxes have their values "firmly entrenched in everything that we do.  We hold ourselves accountable to our values all of the time.  It's not just something that's on the wall, it's actually something that we live by."

Phoebe's sales background has been a big help as it taught her how to talk to people and how to build relationships, which she feels is instrumental in a startup.  While she admires people starting straight out of uni, she is happy that she has gained real experience.  In addition to the experience, the work that she has done to build her network has given her an advantage, being able to reach out to the network on LinkedIn that she has cultivated over the years to connect with people who have been able to provide guidance and assistance.

100 Foxes was Phoebe's first foray into entrepreneurship, and as she was so invested in it, both emotionally and financially, she was genuinely concerned when it wasn't working.  Self-doubt began to creep in.  Having been an avid subscriber to a number of box delivery services, subscription commerce was if interest to Phoebe and after noticing how excited her daughter was when the boxes were delivered an idea began to form.

After outlining her idea to her husband, Phoebe put 100 Foxes on hold and made the critical decision to test her new idea out.  She built a landing page in half a day, ran some ads on Facebook, and even though she didn't have an actual product as yet, she garnered more sales in one day than she had in 6 months with 100 Foxes.  In first month she had 115 sales without even having a product.  Like a veritable phoenix, from the ashes of 100 Foxes, Our Little Foxes was born.

Starting really fast meant that quick decisions had to be made.  Without the having tested the actual product, Phoebe and her newly formed team put together what they thought people would like and then used feedback to make the product better.

Done is better than perfect
— Phoebe Adams - Our Little Foxes

Phoebe's whole belief has been "Don't over think it.  Done is better than perfect.  Just get something up there.  Even if it's not fully thought through.  Even if you don't know how you're going to market it.  Don't worry about it.  If you get interest, then start developing it."  

In order to gain early traction, Phoebe Launched with a great value offer.  The first few months of operation was considered a marketing exercise.  "It was never about making money, it was about getting product market fit and nurturing customers and seeing how we could make them happy."

While a subscription model is attractive due to the anticipated recurring revenue, there are challenges.  Finding the right frequency of subscription is one of the difficulties that a business is faced.  Our Little Foxes found that people found it difficult to understand buying a three month subscription, and then getting charged again on the second and third months.

In addition to raising seed funding, Our Little Foxes has also been accepted into the Telstra Muru-D accelerator program, which provides access to support from industry leaders.  Through this program, Our Little Foxes are focused on testing, targets and milestones.  The real benefit of going through this program is through the expectations around setting and achieving goals, which ultimately helps you to become more disciplined.

Phoebe applied to Muru-D because she felt she lacked experience as an entrepreneur and looked at it from the perspective that they had nothing to lose.  The application process was challenging  because Our Little Foxes don't seem like a technology startup, however they rely heavily on technology to improve the customer and the creative experience.

Their approach is centred around not wanting to plonk kids in front of the TV, and so are looking to use technology to get kids from around the world connecting with each other through creative ideas.

While seed funding has been secured, it wasn't a quick process.  "Applying for funding is a full time job" Phoebe says.  "Identifying funds that you want to talk to, going through the application process, meeting people for a coffee, pitching, doing follow up, providing information.  It's a very intensive process."  While the process may be time consuming, it also provides a valuable opportunity to really learn about what investors are looking for.  Every presentation provides an opportunity for feedback on things like how to demonstrate the size of your market, or the lifetime value of your customers, or your growth plans.  Phoebe feels it is also important to "have lots of different perspectives, and then make decisions around what's important for you.  Its only doing it that will get you there."

If you don’t get feedback then you can’t learn

Phoebe recommends to start going through the process as early as possible so you can learn as early as possible.  Our Little Foxes first ever pitch was to Sydney Angels two months into the business.  While unsuccessful, they were close to being able to pitch at Sydney Angels' investment dinner, and they received great feedback which they took on board.  "If you don't get that feedback then you can't learn and you can't incorporate it."

At one point Phoebe was asked whether she thought it was the right thing to do and whether they were too early, however she was adamant that it was the right step.  Phoebe wisely advises to be prepared for knock-backs, develop a thick skin, and look for the next opportunity.

Phoebe has some ambition plans for Our Little Foxes, looking to grow from 400 subscribers to 50,000 subscribers in the next two years.  The strategy for achieving this growth includes getting the experience right and relying on the customers to help grow the brand.  Phoebe's underlying goal is to impact 1,000,000 children, not just subscribers but people connecting through their community.

Despite the success she has had so far, Phoebe still has a fear of failing and a fear of not being perfect.  Her best advice for others is to not let fear stop you and to just have a go.  Don't spend too much money too early, but just keep trying things.  "Take a step and don't worry about failing.  People don't like other people seeing them fail, but it doesn't matter."

Right now, Phoebe is looking to find the magic in their product and experience and asks for anyone that wants to try the product and give honest feedback, to reach out and let her know.

Takeaways

Don't over-think

As Phoebe says "Done is better than perfect".  Make decisions and go with them.

Don't be afraid to seek help

You can't know everything, so surround yourself with people who can help give you the assistance you may need.  Don't be afraid to ask.

Be prepared for knock-backs

Develop a thick skin.  You are not going to make every sale or be successful in every pitch attempt so don't take it personally when someone says no.  Take every knock-back as a learning experience.

Contact

Phoebe can be reached via the Our Little Foxes website, or on LinkedIn.  If you are interested in testing the product from Our Little Foxes, get in contact and be a part of the Our Little Foxes journey.  Your feedback will be invaluable.

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