Claudia North is one of those rare people who know very young what they want to do in life. Her future lay in the business world, she knew, following in her father’s footsteps.
“My father is a serial entrepreneur who has built many businesses in his lifetime, so I always knew that I wanted to be in business,” she said. “I wasn’t sure which industry to work in, but it was very appealing to study business and have so many options of where that would take me.”
Claudia enrolled in a business degree at Australian Catholic University (ACU) after high school and, in her first year, found her passion in two core subjects: marketing and management.
“I really, really connected with those subjects,” she said.
“When I studied marketing, I found that I really loved human psychology and the creative side of marketing. I’m not creative in terms of drawing and painting, but I am creative in the way my brain processes things, and to have that within a business environment really resonated with me.
“And on the management side, I loved understanding about leadership and teams and structure.”
Those interests have remained with Claudia throughout her career, as has what she learnt at university.
“Marketing has changed significantly, but all the foundations I learnt in my degree are absolutely the foundations now and relevant throughout my career, the structure and how I think about things. I love seeing marketing evolve.”
Doing the rounds
Hard work and determination are in an entrepreneur’s DNA, and Claudia is no different.
She started professional work early, gaining experience as a marketing junior for a small business in her second year at ACU. And upon graduating in 1995, she accepted a full-time marketing coordinator role in financial services.
“Working in funds management was fantastic as there were great resources, and I had a fantastic mentor that took me through the ranks,” she said.
“I was able to work across market research, branding, pricing, product development, communications, events and even marketing strategy. It gave me an excellent breadth of experience across various marketing disciplines which was such a complement to my degree.”
While in financial services, Claudia also studied a Master of Marketing part-time.
“I like to master my craft,” she said. “It was important to me to be studying and working in my passion; to extend my knowledge and my expertise and to be able to apply it in my career.”
After learning what she could in-house, Claudia moved across to agencies to “round out the advertising discipline”. She worked in a direct marketing agency, an advertising agency, a media agency and then a content marketing agency, before launching her own business in 2005.
‘My first solopreneur experience’
Claudia came up with the mumi&bubi concept – a solid starter kit for parents transitioning their babies from breast- or bottle-feeding to solid foods – while pregnant with her second child.
She did the branding, product design and development for the simple-but-effective BPA-free plastic trays with lids, but said her big break came when she met with Woolworths.
“I managed to get 20 minutes with the merchandise manager before she left on holiday. I pitched the idea and she said, ‘OK, you’ve got to have your products on the shelf in five months’ time!’
“I quickly had to look at the manufacturing, printing, all that stuff. I ended up finding a Chinese manufacturer, and I built my own website – I still don’t know how I did that – and I sold online too.”
By the time Claudia sold the business, which is still running successfully, mumi&bubi kits were stocked in Woolworths, Babies Galore stores and around 40 independent retailers nationally. They were also distributed through New Zealand, North America and South Africa.
“That’s where I had my first solopreneur experience,” she said. “I understand the challenges of small business owners because I did the marketing, the advertising, the manufacturing – everything. And I found it quite lonely. And I just didn’t feel like there was a lot of support for small business owners.”
Working with small businesses
Jump forward to today and Claudia’s putting her business insights and marketing nous to use helping others. She and her co-founder started with Small Business in 2019.
“We’ve developed Australia’s first ecommerce-advice software platform for small business owners,” Claudia said. “We’ve built the digital platform, we’ve proven the subscription-based model with members over the past 12 months, and we’re ready to scale the technology and the business.
“We’ve also got some fantastic partnerships. We collaborated with the NSW Government for small business month, we have a content partnership with Small Business Australia, we’re working with a government-funded entrepreneur’s program, I was part of the Digital Boost initiative with the New Zealand Government, and I’ve also run masterclasses for the National Retail Association.”
Claudia’s co-founder built the advice platform, runs the operational side of the business, and collaborates on business strategy and product roadmaps with her. She spends most of her time helping small businesses, presenting live classes and developing content to grow the business.
Claudia, who was named among Inside Small Business’s Top 50 Small Business Leaders for 2022, has also written a book to share her ‘eCommerce Growth Framework™’ with other entrepreneurs.
“It’s the culmination of my career and it brings my knowledge into a strategic framework for small businesses to use to help grow their business in a sustainable and a cost-effective way,” she said.
Growing up and giving back
Claudia’s framework draws not only on her vast marketing experience, but also the work she did as Chief Growth Officer at an investment company from 2016 to 2019.
“The big insight for me was that small businesses largely didn’t have the foundations in place to grow their business,” she said.
“Most don’t have their Google Analytics set up for ecommerce tracking, so they might have been advertising but they didn’t have a strong conversion rate on their website. Or they didn’t have a welcome or abandoned-cart-automation series of emails – some of the real basics.
“The second thing I learnt is that traditional marketing doesn’t really apply in the digital environment. A lot of small businesses put money into campaigns, like Cyber Monday, or ad hoc marketing, and algorithms run on always-on marketing, consistent data, consistent investment.”
with Small Business aims to give online businesses the tools to build long-term sustainable growth.
“We’re opening the black box on digital marketing so small business owners can see what’s inside; they’ve got the language, they can ask the questions, and they’ve got the confidence that the money they’re investing is going to give them a return and transparency on the work being done.”
And their mission is far from over.
“In the short term, we will be looking to either partners or funding to accelerate the complete digital vision for the platform, grow the membership base – and take the platform global,” Claudia said.
“Once the SaaS platform has been developed end to end, we want to leverage the platform to support solopreneurs in developing countries so they can effectively and affordably reach a global market.
“Ideally, we’d also like to have a free offering for people to learn digital marketing skills and to be able to connect with a trusted global network of ecommerce experts. Our mission is to significantly increase the success rate of small ecommerce businesses globally by 2025.”
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