Sharon Chai is an Elite+ Mompreneur Member based out of Vancouver, BC. She started her company Bamboobino so that she could provide absorbent, super-soft, easy-care wear and accessories for babies and toddlers everywhere.
What inspired you to become an entrepreneur?
I had been using bamboo towels and products for years, and upon finding out about bamboo’s wonderful properties (such as more absorbency and antibacterial nature), I tried looking for bamboo for my own children but couldn’t find any products. It was then that I was inspired to create my own line for my children to enjoy and to spread the word about bamboo to other parents.
What’s the best part about owning your own business?
I love being able to be creative on my terms. That can also be a downside! I also love the flexibility of my time; to have no one to ask permission for a day off, especially when my children are sick.
Can you describe a typical day?
I try to start the day in a way that sets the tone for organization and clarity. I begin with a morning meditation, then a workout. Then I’ll try to get through the first wave of emails (usually from eastern Canada) before waking up the kids for school. After that, the morning rush of breakfast and getting ready for school begins.
Once the kids are at school, the real uninterrupted work starts. Depending on the day of week, I’d focus on a particular area of business, such as finances or business planning. By around 10:00 am, my staff arrive to help me with bookkeeping, post-production, packing and shipping, or design work.
I’ll either continue working with them, or run out to visit a supplier, retailer, bank or to get some supplies. Insert a little grocery shopping or personal errand time as well. In the afternoon after my staff have gone home, I pick up my kids from school and the post office picks up our packages for the day. If I have time, I’ll grab a fifteen-minute nap or energizing yoga stretch before cooking dinner. The evening rush starts from the time I start cooking dinner and ends by the time the kids go to bed. I’ll catch some downtime here—catching up with my husband or watching TV or a movie together. Then, right after a shower, I’m at my computer again, if needed, but usually prefer reading (and falling asleep with the book!)
Who do you count on for help? Do you have a network of family that answer the call?
I have a great team including family members I can always count on for not only the operations side of things but also for emotional support.
Have you ever had to sacrifice something at home for work? Or vice versa?
If I’ve had to sacrifice something for work, it doesn’t feel like it. I love what I do.
What do you do on a day off? Do you even know what a day off is?
On a day off, I love to go skating or spend time outdoors or with the family. Too often my time off includes something work related that comes up, but I’m getting better at shutting my brain off mentally from the business.
Are you active in your community? What does supporting local mean to you?
We have a charity plush panda named Inda, based on our Bamboobino sold on its own and in our gift baskets, we donate all proceeds from panda sales to a child-related charity every quarter. We also donate products for several causes, such as silent auctions for local charities, fundraisers and school groups, and care packages for military families. I also volunteer for schools, fundraisers and help prepare food for the homeless year round.
Name another entrepreneur who inspires you.
Elaine Tan Comeau, Madeleine Shaw and Suzanne Siemens.
What does the future look like for you and your business?
My early vision for the business was to create a high-quality product that would be sold in children’s boutiques and retailers, and to establish a strong brand that would reflect that quality and our core business values. Our vision for the future is still pretty much the same, although some strategies and details have changed.
Any tips for moms thinking of starting a business?
Take a “starting a business” course, then write a business plan. Know your numbers, keep track of your cash flow, and what it takes to make a profit. Visualize where your business will be in 5 and 10 years. Find a mentor – s/he does not necessarily have to be in the same business or industry, just someone who has “been there, done that” and can offer insight, inspiration, focus and advice.