Funny thing happened this week. Alice was off daycare sick again - that's not funny but it will come into play later on.
So if you’ve been following this blog for any amount of time you’ll be familiar with my other love ‘TinyOffice’. TinyOffice is our ‘pandemic pivot’. Matt, my lovely husband had spent the last 5 years developing a prefabricated building system and as our first proper project was about to launch early last year the pandemic hit and we were left wondering what to do with our lives!
With everyone working from home, and us having first hand appreciation of how that can be nightmarish if you have small children - we decided to take all of our money and energy and package up Matt’s building system into a product. That product being TinyOffice. We built a prototype and officially launched in December 2020. It has been a pretty wild ride since.
Like most entrepreneurs we are learning on the job. I can’t do enough “business made simple” courses to keep up with what we need to know! This stage of any start up is the hardest part - or at least I hope so. I feel like all of our eggs are in one basket - we moved to a bigger factory so we could build more studios before we could really afford to do so!
Big risk for big reward right?
It takes a certain amount of relentless optimism to lead a business. Matt has more of it than me - I’m the one who’s panicking about bills needing to be paid. Matt just says that ‘we’ll be right’ and so far he’s not wrong.
We got our first official TinyOffice order recently and it was paid in full on the day rent for the factory was due. The universe obviously doesn’t want us to give up. And neither do the people we talk to. So many people love the idea of a TinyOffice in their backyard. We had just underestimated how hard it would be to sell them. There are an extra 10 steps in the process that we were unaware of when we started - things like negotiating with partners, council permits, even the amount of time people take from thinking ‘yes I’d like that’ to actually committing to the purchase. Every new connection we make with a potential customer we learn something new about our process, we iterate, rejig and re apply. It’s a never ending process of getting slightly better each time!
It's a long game but most good things in life are.
Take building our new home for example. We have a tiny bit of land in Ballarat that we’ve been wanting to build on for the last 6 years. The pandemic last year led the government to offering a building grant of $25K if you had a signed building contract before December 31st 2020 and the value of our land skyrocketed as all of the city folk headed for regional destinations. All of our planets were aligning. We might be able to build our first show home for HUCX (our company that makes the prefab panels) and better yet, a beautiful family home for us to live in.
We got a draftsperson onto the plans in June 2020 and started looking into this grant - the first hurdle was I was from NZ. You aren’t eligible for the grant if you’re not Australian. $750 later and my name was reluctantly removed from the land title. I needn’t have bothered because the time it took our draftsperson to get the plans ready, then the SEVEN months the council took to approve our design we missed the deadline by over six months!
We got our council permit a few weeks ago and are now getting construction drawings done, our builder lined up and then we are off to the bank! It's been so long in the making that I forget about it most of the time - it's just this constant thing that needs to be done - like exercise or eating.
This is when the story gets funny. So, Matt’s plan all along has been to build quality, affordable residential homes. Ours is the first, however at a party a few weekends ago we were catching up with a friend who mentioned she had just purchased a bit of land and has been disheartened by the “bulk build” experience so far. I mentioned that if she was building earlier next year we might be able to help her out. Next day she is one the phone to Matt and we are lining up our second residential building!
Few days ago we got a call from a friend of a friend who heard we are building these amazing prefabricated houses. They happened to be in town yesterday and wanted to come in for a chat. By 3pm yesterday when I left to pick up Frank from school we were locking in the next steps for potentially our 3rd residential building!
We’ve gone from scraping together every last cent to build a tiny studio to being asked to build three full houses! If there is ever a moment for imposter syndrome to pop up it is now! At least that was how I was feeling! Matt just looks at me, confused by my reaction, because this was his plan all along! Jerk.
After picking up Frank I rushed back to work to see how the meeting concluded. I felt we had really impressed them and was looking forward to Matt telling me so. Instead he was angrily mopping the floor… Alice, our 4 year old who had been off sick from daycare, had come down stairs at the end of the meeting (she’d been upstairs watching telly while we worked). Matt thought she’d come to say hello, she’s very cute so it was going to be the cherry on the top of this really exciting meeting we had just had.
Instead she shat herself! An epic, through the pants, down the legs, gastro shit that went everywhere! She has been sick the day before and we thought it was a 24 hour thing - turns out it was more of a 48 hour thing. Poor button.
Needless to say the meeting didn’t end quite as we’d hoped. It’s funny really, it doesn’t matter how hard we try there is always something that happens that is totally out of our control. I guess that's why relentless optimism is so important! We can look at it this way, as long as no one shit’s themselves in the next meeting it will be better than the first!