Meet the Mumpreneur: Olivia Mai Typrowicz of The Stork Exchange
Olivia Mai Typrowicz and her husband Bartek are parents to Anya (6) and Nicholas (4). The Dublin-based couple run The Stork Exchange, a brilliant business that hires all the bulky equipment that a little one might need for the duration of their trip... right from the Airport.
"Convenient, safe, clean, customer-orientated, family-friendly - those are the words that sum up our business.
I started The Stork Exchange in January 2012, working from home. I had set up a website that sold second-hand baby equipment, a specialised eBay if you like. I added a ‘hire’ page after a bad experience abroad with a car rental company and an inappropriate car seat and there was an immediate spark. It’s been slow but steady since then as we’ve funded the growth ourselves. We approached the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) in 2014 because we were delivering there every day anyway, and they loved the idea. We opened our first collection point at Dublin Airport in June 2014 and then at Shannon Airport in June 2015.
We’re the only business of our kind operating in Ireland. Our competitors at the airports are the car rental companies and we differ from them in that we provide top quality, branded car seats and we install them for our customers – our staff are trained yearly and we constantly research the latest and greatest and keep our equipment up to date.
The business started from home, very much a cottage industry with me delivering car seats and baby equipment. Opening at Dublin Airport in 2014 formalised things. Once there, we found more opportunities from commercial partnerships with the car rental companies and airlines there.
We’ve always received so much positive feedback and support from our customers. Lots of small successes along the way have spurred us on. We’ve had consistent growth since we started, but we did start at zero! We’ve a lot to do, but when I think of when I started first, carrying car seats to the airport and carrying my own kids too. I still have a lot of my early customers though, which is lovely.
Starting a business is a massive learning curve and there are many things I wish I could’ve known beforehand. There are lots of government grants which are worth applying for. Dublin City Enterprise Board have been very supportive, although it did take a couple of applications to get through. There are tonnes of courses too, all subsidised on everything from Digital Marketing to Tax for Beginners. There are also ‘networks’ which you can join, which I would advise – find the right one for you and it’s worth its weight in gold. I took part in the Ryan Academy’s Propeller Programme and met with a fantastic group of female businesswomen. We still meet, share problems, successes and offer advice.
Childcare is the trickiest and most difficult part of working for yourself – especially for us as we are both in the business and school holidays are our busiest time. My daughter is in school and my son is in Montessori now, but in the afternoons my daughter has to be collected and dropped off at afterschool. It’s a constant juggle. In the early days of the business it was especially difficult as we weren’t drawing a wage and couldn’t afford childcare; I’d a few occasions where I had a trolley full of equipment, my son in a sling strapped to me and my daughter holding my hand. I was like a circus going through the airport, but it only proves the point of my business… that it is very difficult to try and carry everything you need with you, as well as the kids and your luggage!
We’ve just employed our first fulltime staff member and that’s given us one day off a week together for the first time since we started in 2012. We’re also still pretty much always ‘on call’ at the moment. There’s a tendency to glamourise entrepreneurship but it really is a hard slog and a lot of businesses don’t make it.
Learn from your mistakes. You make lots of them trying to figure out how the business will evolve and work. Some mistakes can be fairly crushing and you tend to remember them, but the best thing to do is figure out what happened and make sure it doesn’t happen again, then move on."