Today, we’re chatting with Caroline Stronkhorst, founder of Fetch Club Shop and a new mom, who shares her unique story of diving into entrepreneurship while stepping into motherhood.
Caroline made the brave decision to leave her job during her pregnancy, choosing to focus on growing her business that specialises in high-quality pet products. She talks candidly about the challenges and triumphs of starting a business from scratch, the realities of balancing work with family life, and the experience of working alongside her partner.
Caroline, you made a bold decision to focus entirely on Fetch Club Shop while pregnant with your first child. Can you tell us about that pivotal moment and what motivated you to take the leap?
I wasn’t the first and certainly won’t be the last new parent to take a deep look at their career path with a new arrival on the way! We had been working on the business for a few months and it was – somewhat unexpectedly – starting to take off!
It was a ‘now or never’ situation, and with many people dreaming of running their own business I couldn’t pass on the opportunity. It has been incredible to be able to manage my own time while being pregnant and having my little girl.
Following up on taking the leap into entrepreneurship, what were some of the initial challenges you faced in the early stages of Fetch Club Shop, and how did you overcome them?
Financing the launch of the new business was an early challenge that nearly left Fetch Club Shop on the starting line. Retail businesses are naturally cash-intensive with stock, warehousing and logistic costs before you even start on the tech stack!
“Not for now but…” became a running joke as we tried to prioritise spending in the early days and months. It can still be heard in our planning chats to this day!
Another core challenge was a knowledge gap in many parts of an ecommerce operation. We were, and still are, lucky to have a range of skills within the founding team but everyone has been stretched to the limits of their knowledge. There isn’t an IT department to call when things go wrong. You are every department and that’s a lot to take on.
As a new mother and entrepreneur, how do you handle the often talked about “mum guilt,” especially when balancing the demands of a growing business with family life?
If anyone has conquered this then I’d love to know the secrets! It definitely helps that my partner also works within the business because we can share tasks and continue business chats after working hours (although it is important to manage this!).
We often ‘divide and conquer’. It is challenging to spend time in the business, away from my little one, and I do feel guilty when doing so. My partner feels the same though, so it’s probably more ‘parental guilt’!
You run Fetch Club Shop with your partner. What are the dynamics of working closely with a significant other, and how do you maintain a healthy balance between your professional and personal relationship?
Naturally, business chat bleeds into personal conversations and although we keep that in check as best we can, we’ve learnt to embrace that as part of this fairly unique dynamic.
Talking through the opportunities and challenges of the business outside of traditional settings or hours does have its benefits. We’re able to approach things with a different perspective that comes from a conversation over a coffee compared to the mayhem of the stock room.
Fetch Club Shop started as an “accidental” business. Could you share more about this journey and the joys of seeing your unplanned venture flourish?
We have our beloved dog, Monty, to thank for this business. The short version of the origin story is that we were working with a dog trainer on Monty’s lead walking skill (or lack of!), recall and a few other things.
A friendship with the trainer developed and after many chats over coffee (and a few drinks), the idea of having a destination for training & walking clients to buy the products that were recommended by the trainer, Jen, was developed.
One of the initial hurdles was that the perfect collar and lead didn’t exist! Co-founder Steve got to work designing and making the prototypes and the rest is history.
Seeing our skills all come together to see our products out in the wild when on our own dog walks and getting emails explaining the difference the products have made to dogs’ lives is still surreal.
To this day, Monty still goes on pack walks with the Fetch Club gang a few times a week.
Last question before we wrap up, can you share any practical tips or strategies that have helped you effectively juggle the responsibilities of motherhood and leading a business.
Be kind to yourself. Each of the two hats can weigh you down but stepping back and realising that the balance is possible if you are just a bit kinder to yourself on the output expectations.
Time management and a focus on impactful, meaningful work become more natural when time isn’t on your side. Thanks, nature!