How to be at the top in your e-industry?
With Marta and Olga, the founders of Bebe Concept.
In the first episode of our podcast, Zofia Komada presents the story of a unique business – created with passion by women – for women, mothers, families and children.
Marta and Olga, the founders of Bebe concept, talk about the beginnings of the brand, its dynamic growth and how to become the best in their business.
ZK: Bebe is one of the biggest and key multi-brand online store for women and babies in Poland. I talked to Olga and Martha about the beginning of their business, about the conclusion which they draw and about the plan which they already have. Get to know the success story of Bebe.
ZK: So how did your adventure with e-commerce start actually?
M: That was an idea which came actually from Olga, I would say, because she had some kind of idea of running a business together with me and I used to create jewellery. So this was something completely else we were somehow connected to selling things because our father, he’s got a shop. It’s not really an e-commerce shop because it’s rather like a brick and mortar sale. But still we were somehow connected to running a family-owned business. So Olga approached me with this idea of creating a shop together and the idea was to do something for women for children as we are both mothers. This is somehow something that connects us and this is something that we’ve got in common. So, yeah, that was the idea I guess.
ZK: So that was a vision to create a family business as well right?
M: Yeah, definitely.
O: We always knew that we wanted to do something together. We are very close to each other, so yeah.
M: There was a time when we were somehow separated because I used to live in Austria and you know she used to…
O: And I am younger.
M: Yeah, so when I came back to Poland I started a family. I had a kid then I got pregnant again. She also had a kid in the meanwhile. So like, I would say that motherhood was something that brought us back together and we’ve started spending much more time together. So yeah, that was an idea that we should do something which is connected to motherhood, but we also never felt like, you know, this should be something typically childish
M: Yeah, like mommy style. We wanted to create something, I would say new, to the Polish market because I never saw such shops here. I saw them in Scandinavia. It was like the concept of making a multi-brand store was quite popular abroad. In Poland I never really experienced this kind of shopping where you can buy all the things in one place. All the things you would desire, let’s say. So, the things for yourself like some homeware and some home accessories. I don’t know, like, you know, also gifts for someone and also stuff for your baby which are also like I would say premium or eco-friendly maybe. That is the right word. We wanted to use this also eco-friendly approach. That was really important for us to create a place which is not only selling things, but also selling the whole concept of being more conscious when buying things. And yeah, I think this was the main idea behind it.
ZK: So that was the beginning of all history. So the industry in which you operate is extremely competitive and we can definitely agree with that. But what is the key for you as an owner of a store in such a competitive industry?
M: Well, we try to…
O: We try to be ourselves all the time. Like, we try to create the place that we um…
M: Yeah it’s not, you know, it’s not only the shop for us and I think this is the most important thing that makes us kind of unique. Because, yeah, like you said, it’s like the competition is growing. Every single year there are new shops which are quite similar to ours. And of course we are not, you know, we were not the only ones. We didn’t create e-commerce. Come on. It’s like, it’s not that we invented something super special. But I think what makes it special is that we are really honest about it.
M: Yeah, we’re transparent and we never really um we are not so commercial about it. I don’t know if you understand what I mean but for us it’s something else. We really want to recommend things which we can stand behind, which we can honestly sell to other moms and which are also in use in our own homes. So, this is what makes it quite special, I guess.
ZK: So, it’s not only a business but it’s also your life actually.
O: We are trying to create a world like…
M: Yeah, for our customers.
O: Yes, it’s the lifestyle, everything.
M: Yeah, the whole.
O: Not only the shop. It’s not only the shop.
ZK: And a few days ago your store celebrated the third anniversary, so first of all congratulations. How would you summarise this part of time?
O: That was a really special day. Actually we got so many great…
M: Messages also from our customers. Like the ones who are with us from the very beginning. But you know when we looked back and when we tried to summarise the whole period of time and all those three years…
O: Crazy, crazy three years.
M: Let’s say, you know, for me the crazy thing is that it feels like it was just yesterday. I mean this is a cliche to say that, but this really is true and so many things happen, because our business is growing really fast. It’s evolving super fast. We have to keep up with the pace of this thing we created, because it somehow lives its own ife. You know, it’s really dynamic and we never kind of expected it would be such a success from the very beginning.
O: And also the pandemic, you know, this whole Covid thing. It’s crazy.
ZK: What about Covid and your stores?
M:Yes, so, first, I guess everyone was pretty afraid and we didn’t know what to expect because I guess Covid had a very different impact on various businesses. You know, it always depends what kind of business you run. For example, our father, who also owns a shop, didn’t have a really good year last year. It was quite a difficult time.
O: Because he has a brick and mortar store.
M: Yeah, and for us, as an e-commerce shop, it was an explosion. It really grew so fast and it was also very challenging for us, because on one hand we had so many new customers who were searching for things online and on the other hand we had all those suppliers and producers who were not really able to produce enough goods. Because there were many obstacles in their ways, you know, I don’t know, some delivery problems and stuff like that.
O: Yeah, production problems.
M: Yeah, that was really difficult for many many suppliers. But I guess all those three years behind us, they were pretty crazy but I think, this is like, this is a huge motivation when I saw, when I see that, you know, during such a short period of time actually. Because three years is not much, it’s not like we are 30 years on the market, you know just three years.
O: Like our dad actually.
M: Yeah, and then we see how many things happened so many things changed. We moved our boutique, we moved the website, we moved our warehouse. There were so many dynamic changes in this way.
O: We have about 10 employees, before that we did all ourselves.
M: Yeah, we did everything by ourselves and we never really asked for help. Even though we were working with small kids.
O: I was pregnant and then yeah.
M: Yeah but now we are also building a team which is super important I guess. It gives us the space to…
O: It’s difficult, yeah.
M: Yeah, it’s also very difficult. Yeah, for me it is actually really difficult because I’m super emotional. I feel like it’s a small family, you know. But it gives us the space to move on, to grow. This is really important for us as well.
ZK: And Martha you mentioned your boutique in Warsaw, so I’d like to ask about this, because in addition to a thriving online store, you also have a stationary boutique in Warsaw. So this is definitely the omnichannel approach and what advantage of this kind of business philosophy did you see?
M: Actually this is quite crazy because we thought when we started, we believed we will remain only e-commerce, like only online shop.
ZK: And then something happened.
O: No, after I don’t know one month or even less. There were so many requests to see all those things.
M: So I guess maybe the reason is also that we import a lot of brands which are nor really popular in Poland and people actually wanted to touch them, to see them, to check the quality, because these are mostly like premium brands. So also the prices are not the lowest ones. So you know people just want to get to know the product. So for us it became obvious that we have to open a physical shop. Yeah it’s also a big success for us, because we never know, when we didn’t actually know what to expect. First we thought ‘okay’.
O: That was the first actually that was the first brick and mortar store, like that.
M: Like that, yeah. Because there were some online shops but I guess we were the first ones who just said ‘okay let’s create like this multi-brand store.
O: And suddenly pregnant.
M: We went from all over Poland. They came and they visited us. There came and they visited us. There were some of our customers who came, you know, they just booked a whole weekend to come to Warsaw just so that’s…
O: Opening day. No, no, no the opening day. Do you remember that?
O: Oh my God that was crazy. I don’t know how many people came, but…
M: Yeah, we thought there’s going to be just friends and you know some
O: Our family.
M: Yeah, but there were so many customers and you know, it was so crazy.
O: Because our first boutique was really small. It was like a really really small boutique.
M: Like 20 squares you know. Like one quarter of what we’ve got now. Yeah it was a tiny place and all those people, of course it wasn’t a pandemic back then, so it was fine to have a small crowd inside but still it was so surprising for us and so positive. You know really motivating to go this way as well to grow this also this
M: Yeah, this channel of sales, not only the e-commerce ones.
ZK: And now we are talking about Poland, but I know that you’ll want to move through another market, so why is this so important for you? What is the key aspect in this approach?
M: Well, we don’t want to reach their limits somehow, you know, of course Poland is a really big country and I can see also the big change in the customer in Poland. Like people are much more conscious of what they choose for their kids, for themselves. So in our market, I guess, there is still a lot to say. On the Polish market, you know. But we also see that, what you said before, there is a big competition in Poland and it is not always a fair competition. It’s sometimes really challenging to break through some situations. Like, we just photo, okay, let’s not get stuck here.
O: Of course our idea from the very beginning.
M: Yeah we always wanted to move on, to grow, to reach other markets, also because we import a lot of stuff from various countries. Like you know there are things from the United States. There are things from Australia, from Canada, from Poland as well. So this is also really attractive for people, for foreigners. You know that, they can actually enter a shop where they can get everything they like from different countries. So it makes it quite desirable for foreigners, I guess. And, yeah, that’s why we always knew that this would be actually a really good idea to translate our website. There were some obstacles on our way. We wanted to do it also before but the platform which we used was just too poor, let’s say.
O: We had the English store but we needed…
M: It didn’t work properly.
O: So we needed it.
ZK: But it wasn’t perfect?
M: Yeah, it was far away from perfect actually, so, yes so…
O: That’s a disaster actually.
M: And that was also one of the main triggers for us to move to another platform.
ZK: Yes, so I’d like to ask about these technical, technological aspects. Because i know, not the visual layer of the story is extremely important and this is something which we can definitely agree with, but also I’d like to speak a little bit about this technological sources which you actually have because two months ago you moved to Shopify Plus and I’d like to ask about your main motivation.
M: Well, I guess Shopify plus is something we need when we think more serious, more seriously about having a multi-channel and multilingual shop. It gives all those opportunities to translate your shop to open those channels and also it’s got a lot of tools also for us
O: Also this, that you can change the checkout. It’s a big big advantage.
M: Yeah the personalised checkout and other features and also for us as people who are behind it, who are using this platform, it’s also really intuitive and easy to use. Also the support of Shopify is amazing. Every time we have
M: Yeah any kind of problem actually, they are super responsive and they are like answering seriously within minutes. So this is great.
ZK: And when we are talking about the online store, the shopify plus online store, we are also talking about the whole ecosystem. So there’s maybe some points which also are very important for you? According to this e-commerce ecosystem
M: Yes, definitely. We’ve got like we’re not only on Shopify. There is also a canal: the Pim. Is it called Pim?
M: So yeah I don’t know the English word. It’s correct?
ZK: Yes, yes.
O: But it’s from English or…
ZK: Yes, product information.
M: So, it makes it super easy for us. You know, this whole infrastructure is quite complicated for us, because like, when it’s a multi-brand store you’ve got such a variety of products, such a variety of…
ZK: And many of them right?
M: Yeah, definitely yes. It’s still growing the count, like we’re still counting.
O: She’s not stopping you know.
M: Yeah, I’m responsible for the ranks
O: For looking for new brands
M: New brands, new products.
O: Marta is a shopaholic actually, so she’s finding all the time new brands.
M: Yeah, that is true but we also try, you know, to make this offer really attractive and to find some new solutions for parents or in general for our customers, for people. So, that’s why I’m still adding something new which I find really attractive and, like I don’t know, life-changing. So that’s why we need Pim. That’s why we needed to, you know, to coordinate all those behind the scenes processes and also I guess it will make it much easier also to translate the website. You know, to translate everything.
O: There is an app which is helping with that. It’s just one click and it’s done.
M: So when building such a big store like ours, I guess, I can say it’s big. I mean from the back side, it’s quite big already. So, yeah it’s necessary to find solutions which make it easier.
O: So to edit it.
M: More fluent.
ZK: And so when we are talking about the online store, what is the most important for you from the owner’s point of view, according to the online stores?
M: Well I guess for me, I can say, for me it’s really important that even though it’s for us, from behind, it’s really big and you know, there’s a lot of work behind it. What I wish for my customers is that it’s really effortless to shop. For me it’s really important that the interface of my shop, that the whole process of purchasing new things is quite intuitive and it’s easy.
O: To search for the products.
M: Yeah, the search engine is super important actually. Also as a customer, you know, I like to see, for example it’s, for me it’s really important that, let’s say I’m buying something and I also got some recommended products to the thing I’m choosing. You know, for me it’s super important because, let’s say I’m buying some device, which I’m not really, um I don’t know it so well. So I don’t really know if I need something else to make it work properly. And then there is this whole sector of recommended accessories or something like this. This is great and this is what we’re creating also on Shopify.
O: And also the collection tree is really important to make it intuitive.
M: And this is not easy when you have a multi-brands store because you’ve got so many collections and such a variety of products.
ZK: How do you deal with this kind of problem actually?
M: Yeah it took us actually a few weeks.
O: That was a brainstorm really how to do it, how to create the whole menu.
M: We had to foresee what is coming, you know because, okay we built the, let’s say the project, this user experience project. Like over a year ago and so we had to think ‘okay so I’m creating this category, what is probably going to be there in, like, let’s say half a year or one year. Are there some products which I’m possibly adding in a few months’. So this was really important to really brainstorm a lot, like which direction we are going and what are the products that will possibly appear on our website. We had to create all those categories of course we can still edit them and add them at some point. But it was quite important, you know, to build that tree of categories with some idea behind it. It wasn’t supposed to be a freestyle. It had to be really, like thoughtfully created.
ZK: I’m really curious if you could choose only one page of the online store which in your opinion is the most important. Which of them will it be? Like the home page, product page.
O: In our store?
O: I think product page and also maybe check out. This is also important, but the product page actually is for me the most important page.
M: I don’t know, actually.
O: Product page.
ZK: With all necessary information.
M: Yeah, definitely. That’s really important, but also…
O: That you can also choose another colour of the product. That they are connected.
M: Yeah, this is quite important, definitely.
O: It’s easy and also all the information, you know, you need to know about the product they must be really…
ZK: What do you wish for as owners of a thriving online store for next year of your own business?
M: Well for next year that’s pretty easy. I would say we wish that our success from Poland will be also an international success. That would be amazing. Although we’re aware that it’s something completely else and that is going to be a lot of work because it’s like one thing is knowing your own market and your own country and you know having some connections here and I guess it will be quite challenging to repeat it.
O: Also to reach markets like France.
O: I don’t speak french.
M: Not at all.
O: And Spanish also.
M: Yeah, but this is, I guess, our biggest dream for next year.
ZK: And challenge as well.
M: Yeah, definitely, and motivation and ambition to just go abroad, to go to some European markets with our offer and yeah we hope to find also some great customers in Europe.
O: I hope they are waiting there.
M: Yeah, you know, but when I think about it Poland is like 30 something million people and Europe is like many times more. So I guess there are some possibilities.
O: And our range of products I think…
M: Is quite attractive.
O: Yes, it’s attractive to other customers also, not only Polish.
M: Yeah, so this is my dream for next year.
ZK: So I’m wishing you all the best and thank you very much. That was a pleasure to listen to your story.
O: Thank you.
M: Thank you so much.