Olivia Bollen is the founder and Managing Director of Taken Care Of – a high-quality, hand-curated and customisable gifting service which provides modern and luxurious gifts for any occasion. Taken Care Of was founded in 2017 and is based in Auckland.
Business Type: Consumer Goods
Number of Employees: 2 (plus peak-time and seasonal contractors)
Current Business Situation: Rapid growth post-COVID-19
The Icehouse Business Coach: Carollyn Chaplin (with funding from RBP, as well as Youth Business International (YBI) funding from Google.org, Google's philanthropic arm, to support underserved small and medium businesses to respond to the COVID-19 crisis)
'When I first met Olivia, I knew she was one to back. Her energy and positivity made her very coachable. I could see that she really needed a plan, and this became our priority. We set goals and the aligning strategies and, from there, Olivia could then set her team’s tasks and priorities.
'The highlight for me was delivering on The Icehouse promise in these difficult times; focusing on the practical solutions, getting behind Olivia when things got tough, connecting her to the right people in our network, celebrating her wins, and helping her to dream big!' Carollyn Chaplin, Business coach at The Icehouse
Tell us about yourself and why you decided to become an entrepreneur?
I think I get my good taste from my Mother and always thought I could do something in this area! Funnily enough, I was just about to begin my dream job when the idea took flight, having been offered a full-time position with Spotify in their fantastic Sydney office, but I’d always had this knack for gifting.
There were a few companies in Australia popping up in the luxury corporate gift-boxing market who were changing the game a little bit. So I turned down the offer about a week before I was due to start and rang Mum, never thinking she’d say ‘Go for it’. But that’s exactly what she did say and that was really unexpected!
Why did you become the owner of your business?
Mum has supported quite a few start-ups in the past, and was so encouraging. The whole family is super entrepreneurial. I’ve had two or three jobs since I was about 14, so I had some savings put aside. Mum matched the sum I’d saved and I had a credit card from the bank, and it all started from there.
I think I was a little bit naïve going into it – I didn't quite understand what it was going to be like until I was all the way in. Mum and Dad have been a massive influence in terms of learning how to handle the pressure but I was young without any responsibilities – no mortgage or family – and I thought if it all goes wrong then at least I’m still in my early twenties and will be able to carve out a different career path.
How does 2021 look for you compared to 2020?
In terms of website sales year-to-date we are up 477%, which is obviously very satisfying. Over the next two to five years I’d like to solidify our place in the New Zealand market, with perhaps a plan to create the same thing in Australia – but that’s still very early days. We’re keen to explore other potential avenues – potentially franchising to different countries – but that’s very much in the pipeline and still to be figured out.
What are currently your biggest challenges?
So, while we’re not COVID-proof, we did notice an increase in shopping, which created a great opportunity for us to be exposed to a lot of new people who we might not have known about us previously. It gave us an excellent opportunity to attract new customers who normally might have taken a lot longer to find us.
That’s great, but one of the primary things that came out of COVID was navigating fluctuations in consumer behaviour, which looked so different from one lockdown to the next, going from crazy-busy to very quiet. That was a valuable learning experience because it has so many ramifications for different areas of the business.
If there was a best thing about lockdown it was that because Mum and I shared the same bubble, she was able to help me ship orders – a great thing to be able to look back on because it was such a challenging time for all of us.
What kind of support have you received from The Icehouse and are you looking to keep working with them?
I’d signed up for all the government announcements when COVID first hit and when it came to funding I didn’t expect anything much to happen. Then an email popped up about RBP funding. At the time our numbers were looking comparatively grim, but I’d always wanted to work with a business coach.
I talked to the RBP on the phone for about half an hour – telling them about all of our problems and they were amazing – so kind and empathetic. They said they’d give me some funding (approximately $3000 in October 2020) and asked; ‘Is there anyone I had in mind?’.
We both thought of The Icehouse. I spoke to Gareth (Bayliss, Customer Growth Partner at The Icehouse). He made a few suggestions around the availability of different coaches and after reading Carollyn's (Chaplin) profile, I didn’t need to read any further!
How have things changed since working with The Icehouse?
I initially had ten hours of coaching with Carollyn and what she does is keep me accountable. When we first met I felt like a bit of a child – running amok and just reacting to whatever was on offer without really planning anything.
But thanks to Carollyn I’m now a business owner. She helped us find a solid brand, image and message, and solidify something that we knew we had, but really with no idea how to make it tangible or something that could be sold.
We put together a business plan for the year ahead and rather than just shooting for every customer we possibly could, we focused on the ones who truly align with our brand, clients who understand what we do and why, and ones whose values we are aligned with.
As soon as I had my first meeting with her, you could just tell she completely ‘got’ us and totally understood what we were trying to achieve. Without her I don't think we would have handled COVID and turned it into as much of an opportunity as we have.
She even helps with morale because she’s so positive and bubbly – and I just don’t know what Taken Care Of would look like today if we hadn’t gone through the coaching process.
I’ll definitely carry on working with Carollyn and as we grow over the next five years, I’d love to do some Icehouse programmes. I’m so appreciative for everything she does for us and she inspires me to achieve what she asks of me because I want to repay that faith and support. Looking back over the past year, between her and The Icehouse, I feel like we've been cradled by a really incredible group of people.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs who are struggling/looking for help?
I always tell people to find someone older as a mentor. I feel very lucky to have had that ‘hand-holding’ through such a really stressful time. Carollyn has been amazing and I can’t imagine not having her around the business!
Follow this link for more information about Taken Care Of and its range of products and services.