Baby-product e-tailer going beyond selling | Fin24
 
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Baby-product e-tailer going beyond selling

Oct 20 2015 16:10
Jon Pienaar and Mandy de Waal
James Townsend

James Townsend (picture supplied)

No matter how many birth classes you’ve attended, or baby books you’ve read, nothing can quite prepare you for the life-changing event that is having a child.

Having a baby can be very costly and stressful: you only want the best for your child, but how do you know if you’re doing the right thing?

Military man turned entrepreneur, James Townsend-Rose was studying for his MBA in 2011 when his baby was born. At the time he had left the UK army, and wanted to start his own business.

“Being a new father steered me towards the parenting industry – probably because I was spending so much money – I thought this was a huge opportunity,” he says. 

He saw a real opening in e-commerce. “It’s super convenient,” he enthuses, listing the advantages that online retail offers moms and dads: “Parenting is an expensive period and e-commerce prices can be more keen.”

Online stores don’t need to have brick-and-mortar outlets, which allows them to be a lot more nimble in the way they do business. The big convenience, of course, is that new moms get the items they want delivered directly to their front doors.

BabyGroup was started in 2012, with a focus on differentiating itself through service: a personalised touch, individual attention and a strong community.

Townsend-Rose maintains that BabyGroup’s greatest differentiators are customer excellence, community and content. From the start the online store’s focus was mastering social media in general and Facebook in particular.

Before founding BabyGroup, Townsend-Rose spent six years in the Cavalry Division (which is the tank division) of the British Territorial Army.

He did tours in Iraq at the height of the Iraqi War, followed by a combat tour in Afghanistan.

But when he met his wife-to-be, Townsend-Rose decided to change careers. He had joined the army for adventure, travel and an outdoors-type career, but the prospect of marriage and children made him much more risk-averse.

After their wedding, Townsend-Rose and his wife took a year off to have an “adventure” – driving from England to South Africa by car. Once the bride and groom got to Botswana, Townsend-Rose had decided to broaden his education with an MBA, and enrolled at the University of Cape Town. The happy couple arrived in the city five weeks before the course was due to start.

During his studies, Townsend-Rose met his future business partner, Henri Holtzhausen, who helped him decide on, and set up, the online baby-goods business. Two and a half years later, the business is going strong, and has built a solid brand, supplying baby products to parents across SA.

This article originally appeared in the 13 August 2015 edition of finweek. Buy and download the magazine here.

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