24 hours with Erica and Trudi from hardtofind

Since 2008, Erica and Trudi’s online gift site has grown to represent more than 700-curated sellers offering 25,000 products. Recently named by SmartCompany as Australia’s seventh fastest growing small business in 2013-2014, the two owners share a day in the life of running hardtofind.

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An online gift site, hardtofind represents more than 700-curated sellers offering 25,000 products, and was recently named by SmartCompany as Australia’s seventh fastest growing small business in 2013-2014. Erica and Trudi share a day in the life of running their business.

As working mothers with little time for shopping beyond the basics, friends Erica (Eri) and Trudi realised there was a gap in the market for a quality website where you could rely on finding only the best available. So in 2008, drawing on the contacts and skills developed during their careers in lifestyle magazines, they developed hardtofind, an Australian shopping website of curated sellers who dispatch their products direct to customers.

The site features beautifully designed, handcrafted, unique products that can’t be easily sourced elsewhere – including homewares, accessories, gifts, and children’s and men’s products. The site has one easy checkout, free shipping and gift-wrapping on most products, and hardtofind takes a commission on each sale without having to warehouse any stock.

In 2012, Jenkins left her role as Editor-in-Chief of delicious magazine to join Stewart permanently in the business.

Starting the day

Eri
6.30am: My three kids are up at the crack of dawn, so the day begins with a flurry of breakfast, lunch-making, bed-making, bag-packing and school drop-offs. I then jump in the shower, grab a piece of toast and then head to Centennial Park for a walk.

9.00am: Fresh from my walk, I’m looking forward to another working day. On my way to the office I stop off at Rushcutters for a freshly squeezed OJ and a decaf piccolo, then decide I can’t go past the organic ham and gruyere pretzel roll – yum!

Trudi
7.00am: I’m not a morning person but I have two cats that start nudging me for food from about 6.30am and I have to get two kids off to school by 8.00am so I’m forced to wake up and get going. I usually check my emails and the previous day’s sales in bed and then go downstairs to make a pot of tea. Depending on how I feel, I may make the kids packed lunches, or if I’m feeling lazy or there’s no fresh bread, I’ll give them money for the tuck-shop. They’re 14 and 10, and pretty good at getting themselves sorted!

8.30am: I go to Pilates three times a week – which means I arrive at work late, but Eri and I agreed early on that keeping some sort of balance in our lives is important. I’m completely addicted to Pilates; I like the calm, strength and flexibility I get from it.

9.30am: I do a quick tidy of the house and grab a takeaway coffee from Campos or Allpress on the way to our office in Rushcutters Bay – I don’t often eat breakfast so a flat white gets me through the morning.

Morning meetings and lunch

Trudi and Eri
10.00am: We meet with a potential new seller in Potts Point. Most retailers can’t wait to jump on board because they know hardtofind, how we work, and the massive audience we reach. Sellers who are more used to a traditional wholesale business can have more questions and want to meet to understand our model, and how we can help them reach a whole new customer base. We’ve had our eye on this particular seller for a while and are pleased to sign them up. We also attend trade fairs in Sydney and Melbourne twice a year and look for products we love. We went to London last year to sign up some international sellers and this year we’ll be returning there, as well as going to Hong Kong, Manila and Chicago. Our site is all about new and unique products, so overseas products work really well – it’s exciting for our Australian customers.

11.00am: We meet with our digital agency in East Sydney. The IT side of things is daunting – it’s just never-ending in terms of the improvements you can make, new functionality that you can adopt and the technical details you need to be across. It’s also expensive, so we weigh up every fix and improvement in terms of the return on investment to the business.

12.30pm: Every day we have to have a decent lunch – we’re both obsessed with food. Trudi edited delicious magazine for 11 years and I grew up in an Italian family, so we need good food. One of our favourite places is Sagra near the agency and we try to plan our IT meetings to end at lunchtime so we can go there!

2.00pm: Into the office, where we have a team of 14 girls (yes, all girls) who look after customer service, site editing, new seller applications, design, social media, PR, email marketing, IT, seller support, etc. They pretty much run the business day-to-day so we can look at the bigger picture. Having worked as a magazine editor for 15 years before starting the business with Eri, Trudi’s focus is on curating the site, choosing new sellers and looking after design and editorial, including the catalogues we distribute and our e-mag. Eri workshops a few ideas with Alison, our site editor, and finalises the production schedule for our next gift guide.

Afternoons in the office

Trudi and Eri
3.00pm: We go through samples from potential new sellers with our head buyer, Kelly. Our point of difference is that we typically only accept one out of 10 applications and only choose good-quality, well-made products that we love. There’s so much available to buy online so we offer our customers a curated experience – saving them having to trawl through websites to find the good stuff. Sometimes it’s hard if we like one or two things in a range or think they might appeal to other people, just not us, but we’ve decided that we both need to feel really excited about everything a new seller is offering for us to accept them.

5.00pm: We have a dedicated wine fridge in the office kitchen so wine-o’clock comes around quite regularly at this time. We’ll often have drinks and snacks to celebrate a business win, brainstorm a customer service issue or share news with the team.

Home time

Eri
6.00pm: I drive home in time to help with dinner, homework, bathtime, etc.

8.00pm: The kids are in bed and my husband and I sit down to watch an episode of Breaking Bad – we’re addicted!

Trudi
6.00pm: I stop for food supplies on the way home (and Messina ice-cream if I want to keep the kids especially happy). Mid-week evenings are usually pretty quiet and based around cooking dinner and getting homework, bathtime and bedtime sorted. I’ll be fast asleep by 10.30pm – I love my bed and get very cranky if I don’t get a minimum of eight hours’ sleep!

This article was first published in Business View magazine (May 2014). For more articles and interactivity, including more photos from our day spent with Trudi and Erica, download the iPad edition of Business View for free via our app, NAB Think.

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