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Mom from South Africa Creates The Nanny Notebook for Parents and Caregivers!

One of the things I love about the Mom Invented Community is hearing from Moms around the globe. It confirms that Moms worldwide are creative, innovative and coming up with great solutions to everyday problems. Julie Kemsley is from South Africa and has created The Nanny Notebook to help parents communicate better with their babysitters, nannies or family members who help us raise our kids! Please read more to hear how she brought her product to market.

Mom Invented: Why did you start this company?
Julie: I first started working on The Nanny Notebook when I was faced with returning to work when Thomas was 6 months old. When I couldn't find a nursery (pre-school) in my neighborhood that I was comfortable with, I decided to employ a nanny to care for Thomas in his own home. I wanted to create a means of easing the repetitive conversation I was having with Tom's nanny every day. The answers to questions such as "when last did you give him a bottle" or "when last did he nap and how long for" were essential to know, but repetitive to have to ask. It was also difficult for her to remember all the details and timings.

I also wanted to create a product that would put mom's more at ease by including essential first aid and emergency contact information, and having everything stored together in one place.

Mom Invented: Tell us about you & your family.
Julie: My husband Marc and I were high school sweethearts and have been married for four years. We have one son, Thomas, who is eighteen months old and growing up far too quickly!

Mom Invented: What was your 'aha' moment when it came to starting your business?

Julie: Meeting my graphic designer and turning everything I had brainstormed on paper and made it into something brilliant and tangible that I could take to a printer, and ultimately to the market.

Mom Invented: What process did you follow to develop a prototype?

Julie: After the graphic design had been completed, and the printing company selected, I requested a mock up of the book. A mock up is a completely blank (white paper) simulation of your end product. It gives you a great idea of the final look and feel of the product and allows you to make any final decisions or changes with regards to paper type, weight and quality. Once you have finalized the material for your book, you can request a proof - which is a full color print out of your book (often printed digitally) and finished by hand. Finally, color proofs from the lithographic printers enable you to see exactly what the end product is going to look like, giving you the opportunity to make any changes to the colors in the digital version of the book.

Mom Invented: How did you determine your product’s marketability (is there a need, would people buy it)?
Julie: I did a lot of online research, as well as investigating what was currently offered to parents worldwide. When I realized that there was nothing available to parents in South Africa, I leaped at the opportunity to create something special that would hopefully ease a few people's lives and turn into a keepsake they could treasure forever.

Mom Invented: Were there any setbacks in product development that had to be overcome?
Julie: The mock up made me realize that the paper used to create the four dividers was completely unsuitable, allowing me the opportunity to change the dividers to a thicker card stock that was later laminated as well.

Mom Invented: What was the biggest learning curve in terms of developing your product?
Julie: For me it was learning to trust the people I had decided to work with. I invested all my personal savings in the first print run at what felt like a great personal risk - but the end product was outstanding and I learned that I should have trusted my printing company from the start.

Mom Invented: What secrets have you learned in terms of publicity and marketing your product?
Julie: That the best tools are sometimes free! Thanks to advice from Tamara in The Mom Inventors Handbook, I was able to draw up my own Press Release prior to the launch of The Nanny Notebook. That press release was subsequently accepted and turned into articles featuring the product in various local newspapers.

Best of all though was that sending the press release to the country's leading parenting magazine publication, resulted in the book being featured in their "What's Hot" product list in their February 2011 issue!

Other free marketing avenues such as Facebook and local parenting groups proved invaluable for increasing product awareness.

Mom Invented: What was the biggest learning curve in terms of marketing your product?
Julie: That when you are dealing with publications like magazines, not only will they usually not tell you when your product is going to feature, or ask you to check what is going to go into print - but that the turnaround time can sometimes take as long as 6 months - during which information on your product can change (including the price!).

Mom Invented: How did you finance your business? How much money have you invested so far? How do you feel about that?
All of the financing has been from my and my husband's personal savings, or money we have drawn out of our house bond. We've invested around $15,000 to date, with no profits yet to speak of! I honestly believe that The Nanny Notebook is a fantastic keepsake and a great tool in any parents toolbox, so I don't regret a penny spent this far. At this point in time I am still running at a loss, but should begin to break even as I sell the remaining stock from my first order of books.

I am still working full-time (although I work from home in the afternoons) and can't see this picture changing for at least a few more years until The Nanny Notebook is on many more stork party gift wish lists!

Mom Invented: What has been your greatest success or high point with your product or business?

Julie: That has to be when The Nanny Notebook was described in the February issue of Living & Loving magazine in South Africa as "The best thing since nannies themselves." The Nanny Notebook was listed among the top ten for a Product Innovation award at a recent Baby Show in Johannesburg which was another highlight.

Mom Invented: Have you experienced a low point in business? If so, how did you get back on track?
I think the lowest point in the business so far was when I attended an expo in my home town, and the product was not very well supported. I later realized that the show was not aimed at my target audience, which was a good lesson to learn in the long run.

MomInvented: How have you managed to juggle the roles of business owner and mom? What falls by the wayside?

Julie: As I am still working - time is more precious than ever. I try to make a conscious effort to spend quality, uninterrupted time with Thomas every afternoon, and focus working on my business in the evenings after he has gone to sleep. I find that apart from the afternoons with Thomas, I practically live on my laptop and need to make an effort to sometimes put it away and focus on my family.

Mom Invented: What has fallen by the wayside?
Julie: Every single television show I used to watch, as well as cooking fancy meals during the week. Quick and easy is the usual order of the day!

Mom Invented: Who has been your biggest source of inspiration? What keeps you going?
Julie: Without a doubt Tamara Monosoff has been my biggest inspiration! I would never have carried through with the entire process of getting my idea made into an actual product without the lessons learned and the inspiration received from The Mom Inventor's Handbook. Thank you so much Tamara.

Mom Invented: What surprised you most about the process of starting your business?
That at the end of the day it is not really about making a lot of profit for me. It is rewarding enough to have created something I believe in and can be proud of. The amazing feedback I have received from mom's who are using the book has also reinforced for me that having your own product and business is about so much more than the money involved.

Mom Invented: What advice would you offer other moms developing their products/ideas?
Julie: You will think of many different ideas before you stumble across "the one"! I think when you discover a product that is special, unique or better than all the competition, something inside you "clicks".

Listen to your gut, and go for it!

Thank you for sharing your story, Julie! You can learn more about Julie Kemsley's The Nanny Notebook here.

If you have a great story to share about your product or business, we’d love to hear it!

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6 Responses »

  1. Who cares that there is a lady of colour on the front? Yes I will dare to say it. Most nannies are still of colour. Creches are mixed races. Yes so the cover could've been of all people and the baby being of colour. Apartheid has nothing to do with anything. Everybody thinks of apartheid. So tired of it really. Now to the point, great book! Well done.

  2. Hi Elaine and Tasha.

    The Nanny Notebook has tried to be as ethnically inclusive as possible. Yes, the Nanny on the cover is an African lady looking after a Caucasian baby, but inside there are illustrations of a Caucasian nanny with an African baby, an African granny with her grandchildren, a Caucasian nanny with a Caucasian baby and a Cape Malay mother with her child. The Nanny Notebook has nothing to do with racial stereotyping and just wants to provide a helpful service to ALL mothers.

    Kind regards

  3. I have to agree with Elaine's comment; I thought it was a cute idea -- until I saw the graphics on the notebooks. It's really offensive that all of the nannies would be of color, caring for what appears to be caucasian children. I think that should be reconsidered, no matter what country/continent you are advertising to.

  4. I don't want to be negative, but this product shocked me a bit. It seems very obvious that all the nannies pictured on the covers are ethnic minorities, while the mothers are white. There are similar products like this where I live in California, that are completely neutral and avoid these ethnic stereotypes. The inventor is from South Africa, you would think the dismantling of apartheid would have sent a message.

  5. Excellent story!:-) Thanks so much for sharing!


  6. I love 'The Nanny Notebook' and wish there had been a product like this when my daughters were going up!
    Good Luck and well done Julie

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