Interview with Denise Proctor of baby equipment rental service The Baby Loft

Mum of two Denise Proctor started baby equipment rental service The Baby Loft in 2010 and expects to double its opening year's turnover of £20,000 this year.

How did you come up with the idea?

I was on maternity leave with my little girl, and it struck me that young kids need so much stuff but often only for short periods. When I went to mother and toddler groups, a mum might say ‘I wish I hadn’t bought this travel cot, I spent £1,000 on it and it’s not very practical’. Two weeks after going back to work I was made redundant, so I decided to set up a baby equipment rental service.

How did you fund it and get the idea out?

I funded it myself, putting in around £5,000 of redundancy money and savings. Luckily my husband works in the website space so that didn’t cost anything. On the marketing side we thought Google ad campaigns were the easiest way for visibility and we did some local advertising and now do social media. We get a lot of international interest from people on holiday or visiting relatives, and ideally we want to be on sites like Expedia, but you need massive marketing budgets for that.

What have been your big challenges?

The biggest problem is that while baby equipment hire is popular in the US and Australia it’s not well known over here, so it’s tough to build the brand and educate people. We’re looking at getting a more visible presence in the airports, but it’s hard and time-consuming to get traction there.

Since it’s so tough to get the name out, I thought about Dragons’ Den briefly but I don’t want to give a large percentage of my business away. I would be doing it more for the exposure than anything else.

How have you juggled running a business and childcare?

In the beginning it was difficult. I used to bring my daughter with me everywhere. Some mums quite liked that, she was like my advert girl. When I started delivering to airports and hotels it was harder. The best investment you can make is good childcare so I sorted that and now Olivia goes to nursery three days a week and is with me for two days a week. I also now have people to help me with deliveries as well so it’s taken the pressure off. It’s hard being a mum of two and run a business at the same time but you just get on with it.

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