- Bachelor of Communication Studies
- Graduate Certificate in Tourism and Hospitality Management
- Public Relations
While it wasn’t always part of the plan to start a business, that didn’t stop Hannah Porter from winning big at the 2020 Westpac Waikato Business Awards.
The Bachelor of Communication alumna took out Micro-Business of the Year and People’s Choice at the awards, thanks to the success of her reusable nappy business, Bear and Moo.
Hannah set up Bear and Moo (named after her two sons’ nicknames) in 2018 to fill a gap she saw in the reusable nappy market. As she saw it, there were just two options available: expensive and mostly unattainable for the average family, or cheap but not as good quality. With her two young children still in nappies at the time, Hannah thought a middle-ground option in eye-catching designs would not only work for her, but possibly other families too.
“I already had the brand name, so I whipped up a logo, bought a domain name, set up a Shopify site and bought 300 nappies from an overseas supplier and just got started,” says Hannah.
And it seems to have worked. Bear and Moo has gone from initial monthly sales of $250, to sales in the tens of thousands.
Hannah says getting to that point was largely trial and error, underpinned by good communication skills she gained through her Communication degree at the University of Waikato.
“Basically, everything I was doing in setting up and running Bear and Moo; engaging suppliers, marketing, outsourcing additional expertise, was all about having good communication, writing and planning skills.”
When it came to marketing Bear and Moo, Hannah had a fair idea of how to reach her target audience and the messaging to use, with the bulk of promotion done via brand collaborations with social media influencers.
“We’ve seen great success working with influencers, especially ones with similar values to us – in particular a commitment to sustainability,” says Hannah.
Business was ticking along well in 2019 and Hannah was able to move operations from her garage to a small warehouse and bring on staff. In early 2020 it was much the same, until a nationwide lockdown affected things – in a positive way.
“All of a sudden, people were at home more and wanted to give reusable nappies a go. After we were approved as an essential service, sales went really, really well, and April ended up being one of our best months.”
The success of Bear and Moo during lockdown, combined with a highly engaged social media following and outstanding customer service and testimonials (Hannah regularly replies to customer inquiries within minutes of receiving them), all played a huge part in Bear and Moo’s success at the business awards.
“It was so exciting to get micro-business of the year, but even more exciting to be named people’s choice,” says Hannah.
“That really reinforced to me how amazing our community and customers are, and I think it highlights our authenticity as well. Consumers are incredibly smart and can tell when you don’t walk the walk.”
From Wellington to Waikato
Originally from Wellington, Hannah came to the University of Waikato to study communication, and liked that at Waikato it was taught through a business lens at Waikato Management School. She graduated with the degree in 2005, majoring in marketing and public relations, and later in 2007 with a Graduate Certificate in Tourism and Hospitality Management.
She says managing demanding study schedules has helped her juggle competing priorities as a small business owner. She also enjoyed hearing from practitioners in the “real world” in lectures.
“When I was studying I loved hearing from other graduates in the industry who came in and shared their stories and how they got to where they are – I found it really inspiring and also helpful knowing what was possible after finishing university.”