How a passion for ponies turned into a business success

A $5 lump of clay and a passion for ponies – that’s what Wendy Moore started out with. Her hobby of making clay ponies with their own individual personalities, for her friends, has today grown into Peewee Ponies, a business with large manufacturing runs and orders from retailers across Australia.

Wendy’s ponies have individual characters and personalities. Some of the traits are derived from ponies Wendy had as a child, but mostly she has created the characters from scratch. “I love having a model of a specific character – it’s not just a generic pony,” she explains. “As a plaything, it becomes so much more meaningful because there’s a personality built into it.”

While the ponies are manufactured in China, they are all based on Wendy’s original handmade models. It’s important to Wendy that the factory-produced ponies retain a home-made feel and texture about them. “I didn’t want them to end up looking like they’d been made in a factory, even though they had been,” she says. Such are the appeal of the ponies, Wendy’s had advance orders from ten retailers, and enquiries from many others who are waiting to see the finished product.

Wendy still works out of the spare room in her home, where the ponies were originated from. When it comes to the challenges of running a business from home, Wendy says that it’s easy to get into the zone and not recognise when it’s time to stop working. “I’m going to have to really learn to keep proper office hours,” she admits.

Paramount to Wendy’s success is her digital marketing strategy. With her website and social media, Wendy taught herself a lot about digital marketing when she was trialling the first handmade ponies. “It was an opportunity to prototype my product and find out what people liked,” she explains. “I talk to many of the stockists via Facebook. I have a lot of interaction with fans of the ponies, and I love that because it’s personal. People want to know the story, they’re interested in who you are and what you’re doing. Social media allows me to have a personal relationship with my customers.”

Looking back, Wendy admits that she could have been better prepared from a business perspective before she actually launched the range. “The learning curve has been pretty steep,” she says. “And there are lots of fantastic resources out there, like ANZ’s Business Hub, there’s brilliant information on there. Business planning, balance sheets – I didn’t have any experience with those, and I wish I’d spent some time on their ANZ Business Hub actually learning about running a business before I jumped in.”

So what advice does Wendy have for others who are thinking of starting a home-based business, one that focuses on a children’s market?

  • Know your market – “know who you’re appealing to,” Wendy advises. “There are lots of competing products out there, so try to find a niche.”
  • Be sure of demand – “it’s important that your product has appeal and a point of difference,” Wendy says. “Make sure of that before you start spending enormous amounts of money.”
  • Make sure the product is right – “the best piece of advice I received was from my sister, who’s in fashion,” Wendy recalls. “She told me to make sure my product was right, not done by a particular deadline. And that was great advice, because I was really anxious about timelines and buying cycles, and while that stuff is important, making sure that my product was what I needed it to be was where I needed to focus.”
  • Maintain office hours – “when the work day is over, you need to shut the door to your home office and not go back in,” Wendy advises. “Work hours are over. It’s family time.”
  • Don’t overthink it – “If you’ve got a product that you know people like and will buy, then go for it. Don’t overthink things or it gets too scary and you’ll end up talking yourself out of it.”

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