The NZ Herald, Running an Internet Business from Home

Having a family opens your eyes to a whole new world. Cosy-Toes-Running-An-Internet-Business-From-Home-Article
Which is how Tracey Robinson came up with the idea of Cosy Toes, her work-from-home business.

Tracey and her family live in Rotherham, a rural township in North Canterbury, about 30km from Hanmer Springs.

When Tracey and partner Geoff Topp had their children (Drew, now 8, and Logan, 6), Tracey noticed that wool socks weren't available in the shops for her boys.

She says: "From my upbringing on a sheep farm, I knew that wool was a natural and warm fibre - ideal for socks and what I used to wear as a girl. It made no sense to me....I learned that once the doors of importing opened in New Zealand, the massive worldwide synthetic market had had a huge effect on our home-grown fibres. New Zealand industries were forced to scale down or close and a lot of the machinery was sold.

"After ringing many factories, one agreed to make wool socks for me. I knew the only way to put the socks back on the market was to open a website as my family came first and I knew a retail shop would not work from my location. So in 2005 I opened Cosy Toes to the world."

The socks sold well and, six months later, Tracey added NZ made merino wool clothing for children and babies. "Cosy Toes is not the main income for our family but it definitely helps. Geoff operates a transport/contracting business which he has done since 1990. I help with this and do the administration bookwork."

Tracey finds good support from a group of rural women in her area who get together to swap ideas, product-test and offer advice. She works around school hours, with Geoff's help.

"I've also got to know other work-at-home mums who run businesses through the internet and we email one another when we need help. Most of the knowledge I have is learned on the job, but I keep to the basics - customers first and dispatching quickly."

Busy months are March to August, when orders go all over New Zealand and Australia. At other times of the year, international orders, mainly from Britain and the US, come in. Eighty per cent of orders are domestic.

The main challenge the business threw at Tracey came last year, when her manufacturer stopped making socks and her clothing manufacturer went into receivership - but thankfully it is still trading.
"I looked at getting (the socks) made in China but luckily I was swung another lifeline from a NZ manufacturer....So I'm proud to say Cosy Toes is still NZ made."

She attracts clients through magazine advertising, word of mouth and networking sites Facebook and Twitter.

Her advice to someone starting an internet business from home? "Research your market. It's no good starting something when someone else is doing well in that area. Plus be careful of the name you choose; that its not similar to someone else's. And give your business a chance - at least three years."