A ‘mompreneur’ success story11/7/2023
Becoming a parent is the start of an exciting new chapter in anyone’s life. For Sharon Chai, owner of Bamboobino, motherhood also sparked the inspiration to found her own business, creating eco-friendly bamboo and cotton children's clothing, bedding and related accessories.
Today, Bamboobino is an award-winning local line of children’s clothing. Based in Vancouver, it was one of the first companies in Canada to introduce bamboo fabric products for children. When they started in 2007, many people weren’t aware of bamboo textiles, and early media coverage on the business shone a spotlight on Sharon as an ambassador for bamboo fabrics.
For Sharon, the inspiration to launch her line of soft, eco-friendly children’s products arose naturally from her own search for bamboo kids clothing after discovering that bamboo had ideal qualities for textile products for young children, such as high level of absorbency and hypoallergenic properties.
She was surprised that it was difficult to find bamboo products for her own children. In fact, the business’ logo, a relaxed panda, was inspired by her infant daughter who, as a toddler, slept on her tummy.
Putting a plan into action
Starting a small business requires a lot of hard work and planning, and for small business owners who are also moms, careful time management is essential.
“As an entrepreneur and a mother, I know how the challenges for moms who are also entrepreneurs can be particularly daunting. Balancing the demands of running a business while also caring for children requires time management, flexibility, and resilience,” shared Sharon.
Born in Malaysia, Sharon had an international educational journey that eventually led to studying in British Columbia and earning a degree in Communications from Simon Fraser University. Before founding Bamboobino, Sharon spent over a decade employed in the banking sector as well as working as a costumer, using her skills as a seamstress in the film industry. Founding her own textile product business that combined products she believed in as a mother with her previous experience and education was a natural next step.
Attending school across different countries gave her a unique perspective, an appreciation for different cultures and the value of diversity within the workplace. She says that the support of other ‘mompreneurs’ was crucial for her own success, and she’s proud to have a team that is predominantly made up of women at her company.
“I have hired people from a variety of backgrounds, including moms and expecting moms, students, seniors, women unable to work conventional jobs, new immigrants, and refugees,” she explained. “I love getting to know my staff. They bring a unique perspective to the workplace. And having a diverse team means that we are better equipped to meet the needs of our customers, who come from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences too.”
In addition to designing appealing and functional products, Bamboobino manufactures locally, and Chai is committed to paying workers a fair wage and giving back to the community through product donations and through the sale of their plush panda, a six-inch baby-safe toy stuffed panda. Proceeds from the sales of the plush panda have helped support, single moms, neonatal intensive care unit wards, summer camps, low income families, military families and schools.
For mothers in business, Chai pointed out that there are a few major challenges, including lack of support and financial pressures, since start-up costs for a small business can be expensive. Since moms are often juggling multiple responsibilities, she maintains the biggest challenge is time management. “Finding enough time to devote to both work and family can be difficult. So many times, I’ve wished there were more hours in each day.”
Sharon’s tips for mompreneurs starting a small business in BC
Starting a small business in BC can be both exciting and challenging, especially for women who may face unique obstacles and barriers. “Personally, I have found that staying organized and prioritizing my time has been key to overcoming these challenges. I’ve also learned to be flexible and adaptable in the face of unexpected challenges, which has helped me to maintain a sense of balance and control in both my personal and professional life,” said Sharon.
Below are Sharon’s top tips to other women starting a small business in BC:
- Do your research – “Before starting your business, take the time to research your market, your competition, and any legal or regulatory requirements that may apply to your industry. This will help you to create a solid business plan and avoid any costly mistakes.”
- Build a strong support system – “Starting a business can be lonely, and having a supportive network of friends, family, and mentors can make all the difference. Seek out other women entrepreneurs who have gone through the same experience and can offer guidance and encouragement.”
- Embrace your unique strengths – “Women entrepreneurs bring a unique perspective and set of skills to the table. Don't be afraid to lean into your strengths and use them to your advantage. Celebrate what makes your business unique and find ways to stand out from the competition.”
- Be prepared to work hard – “Starting and running a business is hard work, and success is rarely achieved overnight. Be prepared to put in the time, effort and dedication required to make your business thrive.”
- Take care of yourself – “It's easy to get caught up in the demands of starting a business, but it's important to take care of yourself, both physically and mentally. Prioritize self-care activities like exercise, meditation or spending time with loved ones to help manage stress and maintain a healthy work-life balance.”
- Make sure you’re covered for the unexpected – “One of the key advantages of small business insurance is that it can offer peace of mind and financial protection in the face of unexpected events. By having the right coverage in place, I feel confident that my business is protected against potential risks, and that I have the support and resources I need to recover quickly in the event of a loss or setback.”
How BCAA Small Business Insurance can help your small business
At BCAA, we know that every BC business is unique, and one size does not fit all. That’s why BCAA Small Business Insurance is a great option for BC businesses like yours. As BC's Most Trusted Insurance Brand*, we provide customized coverage to protect you against the particular risks faced by your business. Plus, business owners with a personal BCAA Membership can save up to 10%. To get a quote, visit bcaa.com/smallbusinessinsurance or call us at 1.888.268.2222.
*BCAA, in association with CAA, was ranked the #1 Most Trusted Insurance Brand in Canada by the 2023 Gustavson Brand Trust Index.The material covered in this article is provided for general informational purposes only and does not, and is not intended to, limit or extend coverage, or constitute legal or insurance advice. BCAA Small Business Insurance coverage is determined by the insurance contract.