The next LivePlan customer we’d like to feature is Ocean Zhang, who is co-founder, alongside his wife, of Baby Town. Zhang, a former biochemist, was inspired to launch an expansive, one-stop shop with high-end specialty products for expecting moms, babies, and toddlers when his family had a hard time finding the baby products they were looking for after their son was born. Ocean shares his story and how LivePlan helped him secure a $1.2 million dollar loan as well as a lease to launch and grow his exciting new store.
What inspired you to start Baby Town?
We had a baby and had a hard time finding the quality and options of baby product that we were looking for.
What market problem are you solving?
Baby Town is going to be a one-stop shop, similar to Babies R Us, but with the added benefit of specialty lines that don’t or won’t sell to the big boxes. Many of these products are accessible to people online only, Baby Town will bring these specialty products to the shelf alongside traditional essentials.
How many people do you expect to employ?
35 to 60 depending on the season. We expect to launch with 35 full-time employees and to increase that number to 60 seasonally.
Have you found that writing a business plan has helped you in your business? Yes, definitely! We couldn’t have gotten our loan without a business plan. We couldn’t have gotten our lease either without a business plan. The property managers required a detailed business plan, which we delivered. They were incredibly picky about the numbers. We needed to prove our sales forecast was well-grounded in reality and that the store would be profitable.
Oh gosh. It was pretty difficult for us. If we hadn’t been in another line of business that was successful (an e-commerce venture) we wouldn’t have gotten funded. I hardly feel like an expert but here’s the advice I can offer: seek out an SBA loan – but even that can be difficult for a lot of people. We did a conventional loan which required significant paperwork and a detailed business plan.
With an e-commerce company under your belt already, have you always had an entrepreneurial spirit?
We’ve been doing the e-commerce business for about five years. We started selling costumes on eBay and grew from there. To be an entrepreneur you need to have willingness to take risk and invest your own money and time. High risk can be intimidating but it can also lead to high rewards too.
$1.2 million in funding is a great success, has that been your biggest success to date?
Yeah, so far, but we’re such a young company.
What are your growth goals?
We’re looking at $4.5 million in growth in the first twelve months and then 15-20% per year continued growth for the first five years. We do hope to expand, a lot more down the road. A lot! Let’s make this one work first.