Australian baby brands, Bubnest and Riff Raff Baby, were started by parents who had an unmet need and made the decision to start their own business to address gaps in the market.

With the help of technology like Shopify, the brands have been able to grow their business, reach their target market and expand.

Retailbiz (RB) spoke to Bubnest owner and founder, Astrid Schwartz and Riff Raff Baby CEO and founder, Emma Kruger about what inspired them to create a baby business, how they responded to heightened demand during Covid and are now overcoming challenges around rising costs and inflation, as well as what’s to come in the months and years ahead.

RB: What was the inspiration behind your business and how did you address gaps in the market?

Astrid: I always wanted to build a platform from which I could make a larger impact on people’s lives. I am passionate about creating flexible working opportunities for women, allowing them to also take care of other commitments such as family. 

The inspiration for starting Bubnest came after a friend in Sweden recommended I get a baby nest. I couldn’t find one in Australia, so I made one myself and it turned out to be the item I used most when my child was a baby. My first born had an allergy which sent us to hospital in an ambulance a few times and it got me wondering about the chemicals in baby products. I wanted a safe, chemical-free space for him to rest. I used the nest all the time and friends started asking me about it. There was clearly a huge gap in the market for a product like this, and I knew I could meaningfully fulfil that void for like-minded parents.

Bubnest owner and founder, Astrid Schwartz.

Emma: Riff Raff’s mission is to deliver magic moments and lasting memories to families all over the world through exceptional customer experience and industry-leading product solutions. Our core product, the Riff Raff Comforter was born out of a terrible holiday experience where my young son vomited all over his favourite lovey. The toy was not washable and had to be thrown out. But this was his beloved pal and came with him everywhere he went. The loss resulted in many tearful nights and a stressed-out mum and dad on what was supposed to be a relaxing family holiday.

I thought about why this type of product would not be washable. After some research I was in disbelief that no such thing existed on the market in Australia, which stuck as a valid business idea I could create while on maternity leave. The Riff Raff Sleep Toy was born; a baby comforter that not only has the added soothing benefits of white noise and musical lullaby but is also machine washable. After a lengthy process developing the product, it quickly gained praise and glowing reviews from my small network of sales. I knew I was onto something special and needed to get my comforters into the hands of more mums across Australia. I built my Australian based ecommerce team from the ground up and the business has now helped over 250,000 parents globally.

RB: How did purchase behaviour among parents evolve during Covid and what’s it like now?

Astrid: Demand for our products increased a lot during Covid. People were spending more time at home and had spare money to spend online. I also found that consumers valued Australian-made products a lot more. We were getting such a huge influx of sales that we couldn’t keep up with demand and had issues getting materials from our organic mills in India due to supply chain disruptions.  

Competition has also increased a lot since Covid with many new businesses emerging as people realised they could purchase cheap items online and take advantage of shortages by selling them for a markup. 

Emma: Being a 100% D2C brand operating on Shopify, Riff Raff benefited from the rise in ecommerce during Covid lockdowns in Australia. The business saw 30% revenue growth in 2020, followed by 50% growth in 2021 and was able to establish itself as Australia’s number one best seller of baby comforters by creating an organic online community of over 180,000 who have developed a strong connection to the brand and love for the Riff Raff Sleep Toy.

With the use of a referral program, a strong review program, user generated content, risk free returns and easy to reach free shipping thresholds, Riff Raff was able to quickly build trust in the mummy community and reduce any hesitation to purchase online. Despite growing market concerns over cost of living and inflation, a Riff Raff comforter is viewed as an essential item on any baby registry list. The brand continues to track at 30% YoY growth and is actively expanding into new regions like the US and UK, and new industries with the introduction of Riff Raff Pets.

The Riff Raff Baby product range.

RB: Why did you choose to leverage technology like Shopify to support your business needs?

Astrid: We have used Shopify from get-go and have never looked back. It is easy to navigate and has allowed us to grow without having to change the platform entirely. We want to be able to quickly change things, or add items to our homepage, which we can do easily through Shopify, without having to outsource a third-party expert to help. 

Emma: Our business has operated with Shopify since the start and the choice was an obvious one for a mummy founded company with no ecommerce experience. The need was for a platform that was easy to learn your way around with great online support and help docs to tackle all the new business requirements that arose along the way. As the business has grown, we have migrated to a Shopify Plus plan which has allowed us to seamlessly create regional based storefronts, all housed under the same roof.

RB: How are you overcoming challenges associated with cost pressures and inflation?

Astrid: People are certainly putting more thought into purchasing, or only purchasing smaller items. Our brand is premium, and we only use high-quality, all-organic materials. But we are finding that in times like these, consumers want cheaper alternatives, even if that means compromising on quality. Even in times of high inflation, we have decided to keep prices the same. We want our customers to be able to afford products for their babies that are healthy and plastic-free. 

Emma: As a business Riff Raff has had some ambitious growth goals this year that have not gone unaffected by the impacts of rising inflation. The brand has reinforced the importance of stable growth, maintaining a healthy minimum return on investment for our marketing endeavours into new regions and within our existing market.

The Riff Raff marketing team has also had to find new ways to bring joy and value to our community through customer surveys to find out exactly what matters to them and delivering this in a uniquely Riff Raff way. This has seen the introduction of a new Sleep Toys character (Banjo The Bear), limited edition releases for seasonal gifting or collecting, more benefits via our ‘Very Important Parents’ rewards program, unique opportunities to give back to charities, and offering brand or industry expert partnerships.

RB: What projects do you have in the pipeline to enable continued growth?

Astrid: Our strategy going forward is to stick to our values of quality organic products that are healthy for bub, mum and the environment. Since 2015, we have manufactured baby nests in Australia and are considered experts in the space. We could easily have changed our strategy and started offering cheap products out of polyester to boost sales, but this is totally against everything we believe in. We will continue filling the gaps in the market where no organic alternatives are available. We’ve already done this with organic play mats, nursing pillows, and pregnancy pillows. It’s a challenge to only work with premium materials, especially in times when cost of living has increased, however we will stay here and continue being the sustainable healthy alternative for new parents. 

Emma: We like to keep our cards close to our chest so that we can surprise and delight our audience, but we can tell you a few of the exciting developments already underway including expanding into the Pets space, launching in the US and UK, andmore limited edition releases to test new product viability and allow our raving fans to keep growing their Riff Raff Sleep Toy collection.