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“The Start of Something Special” -
Actually this “something special” started over 10 years ago when Christine Kininmonth’s TV newsreading career took a huge swerve when she became pregnant with her first child.
She was demoted and subsequently made redundant. Most people would take this as the worst thing that could happen in someone’s career, but not for Christine.
“It was the best thing that could have happened to me.” says Christine.
Christine used the opportunity to launch Belly Belt
, a kit that elasticises waistbands to turn jeans and pants into maternity wear. “I’d been wearing my badly sewn homemade prototype of Belly Belt on the newsreading set. I had to wear suits and you simply couldn’t buy a smart maternity suit then.”
Whilst her idea was a huge help to her, she thought others might benefit from it. She set out to create the now world famous “Belly Belt” and the business Fertile Mind was born. Christine didn’t have any business experience, but she was lucky to meet her business partner Peter Hooker (who did) when she tried to sell her car. “I had run out of money and was forced to sell my car to pay a bill – Peter was looking for a car for his mum. It was a stroke of great luck and shows that being talkative can get you places!” said Christine.
Christine says she did some things right from the beginning, such as professionally packaging her product, but did many things badly (such as turning up to a buyer meeting without a Belly Belt!). This was 10 years ago, and Christine’s company Fertile Mind now sells Belly Belt into 23 countries. They even have Belly Belt’s packaging translated into Japanese, German, French and Spanish.
“I am disorganised and find it hard to focus. I get bored easily, if it were up to me we probably would have moved into Roman water features or something. Peter taught me to stick to the core business, to focus and to pay attention to detail. I’ve also learned not to be afraid to ask customers for money, and that five cents saved can have a huge impact on profitability.”
Christine is also a panelist on ABC TV’s New Inventors and suggests speed to market is important. “Inventors are terrified that everyone is going to run off with their idea, so they sit on it in a sort of paranoid funk. If you’ve got a great idea, get it onto the market quickly, because someone else is bound to sooner or later.”
“The wonderful thing about The New Inventors is the instant public response. And among the many people watching, there can be an investor or distributor….not to mention many customers. Then there is a great deal of pleasure in seeing my invention on the shop shelves.”
Fertile Mind is celebrating its 10th birthday this year. It has rapidly become the leading distributor of breastfeeding clothing in Australia with brands such as Glamourmom Nursing Bra Tank, Mothers en Vogue and Fertile Mind’s own label. Fertile Mind also exports the versatile 6WayDress
, Belly Belt Combo
, maternity tights and a super stretchy tummy band called Bando
It has also expanded into infant accessories such as the Milkbar Portable Nursing Pillow
and Lalito Shaped Baby Wrap
. Recently, Fertile Mind’s BellyBra
was written up in a prominent medical journal as being effective for the relief of pregnancy back pain.
Christine is not only a super business woman but, also a super MUM with four daughters aged 10, 7, 5 and 21 months. She also gives small business advice on ninemsn.com.au and says “Like most working mums, my brain is full of traffic, with occasional crashes. I could work every day but I try to limit it to three a week. It’s not ideal on either side, but it keeps me reasonably connected to home and work life.”
Fertile Mind (www.fertilemind.com.au) now employs seven people and distributes maternity and breastfeeding clothes and accessories, including Belly Belt to outlets around Australia and around the world.