Katherine Jankaus - Founder, Lollytree

Katherine Jankaus
'I like the autonomy and challenge of running a business. You need to choose something that you enjoy doing and feel that you are quite good at.'

Rather than children hindering a woman’s career, Katherine Jankaus’ children have been the inspiration for her business, in which she designs paintings specifically for children’s bedrooms.

Marrying her background in photography and technology with her experiences as a mother, Katherine started online company, Lollytree.


 

What is Lollytree?

Lollytree sells designs that have been thought up and designed in Australia. They are aimed at children, and are printed on canvas so that they are ready to hang on the wall. All the products are made in Australia apart from the canvas, which is American. But everything is printed and framed here in Australia.

Why the name, Lollytree?

The idea of a tree growing lollies is appealing to kids, as a money tree is to adults. It’s kind of catchy and easy to remember. I had input from my son, Max, who’s six. He loved the name. Leo at three was also part of my test marketing.

When did you come up with the idea for your business?

I have been thinking of doing an online shop for a long time. Joe, my husband, and I started with the idea of T-shirts. That evolved into wall art about two years ago and here we are today with Lollytree!

Is that how the idea came about?

I think so. My children played a big part in it as well, and I’ve noticed it happens a lot with parents. They start to aim products at kids. When they have their own kids, they realise what a big market it is.

Why did you decide to start your own business?

I like the autonomy and challenge of running a business. Lollytree isn’t my first business. Joe and I had a web design business and before that, about 10 years ago, I had a photography business. I’ve always liked being able to call the shots.

What is your background?

I am a trained photographer and I have worked in the photography industry for 10 or so years. I’ve also spent seven years in computer and applications training. I studied photography in TAFE.

Has that helped you with Lollytree?

Definitely. The skills that I’ve got from my computer training allow me to do most of the things myself. And the photography side helps with choosing designs.

Do you work on all the designs yourself?

Yep, I do. I wear all the hats.

Where do you get the ideas from?

The ideas are based on themes you find for linen in children’s bedroom. People are not just buying wall art, they are doing up their children’s rooms and they often want things to tie in. You often find that kid’s stuff has animal themes, and I design with that in mind.

In the future, I want to put in a few different things like cars and trucks – they are quite boyish. Things that inspire children.

How did you move from the original concept to the business?

The business plan for the T-shirts revealed how expensive an investment we had to make. You had to develop all the green print and then do a minimum amount of T-shirts and all of that was going to cost quite a lot. And it was not what we were after. I wanted something where I could develop my skills and enjoy it while I did it. I didn’t want the pressure of having to invest a huge amount into the business. So, we looked for something that could be created as the demand came. We printed the designs as people require them. And that’s not as big an investment. Fitting it in with my lifestyle, it took about a year to go from original concept to the start-up of the business.

How long does it take from the time of the online order to doorstep delivery?

Most of the time is spent on printing and drying the inks, and drying the laminate protector. That’s a 10-day turn around. Sometimes it is less, but we say 10 days so that people aren’t disappointed. They usually get the canvas in five to six working days.

How did you fund the business start-up?

We funded it through our personal funds. We didn’t have to outlay a lot in stock, and the costs associated with registering a business name and hosting a website is small. I’ve tried to do all of this for as little outlay as possible. I’ve been putting my time into it more than anything else. Instead of getting someone else to build me a webpage or to create a shopping cart, I’ve just done it all myself.

Was that challenging?

Yes! But it was also rewarding to learn something new. That has always kept me going and motivated.

Is the business growing financially?

Slowly, but it’s moving along. It’s at a point where it is all about marketing.

How do you market your products?

Using Google, word of mouth and emails through friends.

Who are your main clients?

Parents, or grandparents looking for gifts for grandchildren.

What have you learnt since you started the business?

That just because you have a website, it doesn’t mean people will come. It takes a lot to get your website noticed. I write articles, tag people and generally link them to my website. I also give interviews, and paying Google for Google hits is also useful.

What’s your essential business tool?

My computer.

Given that you work from home, do you find it difficult to maintain a distinction between work and home time?

No, because when the children are around, I can’t really work – so there’s just no choice. I limit my work time to when the children are in school or in camp. I work about 15 hours a week.

What’s the most difficult part of running your own business?

Having to do it all. Having to do the tax – which is the boring part. Marketing, which I wouldn’t say is my favourite part. But then, I enjoy doing the website and design side of things. Doing it all – that is the hardest part.

What’s the best part?

The best part would be seeing the statistics of the website and how many people are looking at it. Obviously making sales. Publishing a website is quite satisfying. You know that it is out there and people can look at it around the world. Many American people are visiting the site.

Do you have any advice for others?

Choose something that you enjoy doing and feel that you are quite good at. So it’s not something that you feel like ‘oh god, I have to go to work today’, because you need to be motivated. Also, do all your research and plan well before you start anything.

Something different ... what’s the most unusual job you’ve had?

I was a ski lift operator. It was pretty good fun, but I am thinking of the days when it was so cold and miserable, and you had to trudge out into the snow even on a really lovely day. You watch all these other people skiing but you had to pull lifts. All day, you are pulling lifts down and putting them under people’s bottoms and then digging out the snow that’s falling constantly.


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