Beyond personal expectations: from assignment to startup
When chartered accountant Vanouhi Nazarian decided to study a Masters degree while on maternity leave from her job at Mission Australia, the one thing that wasn’t on her agenda was starting a business. Recently named Most inspiring UTS founder at the inaugural UTS Startups Awards, here she shares her journey; from staffer to student to startup founder.
“I had always said I would never own a business because my dad owned a shop when I was young. I worked there during school holidays and I used to think – this is so difficult, why would anyone do this,” says Nazarian, a UTS Business School student.
Nazarian, also a mother-of-two, says, “I was at a junction in my career where I could either move up the finance chain or up the management chain, so I thought learning more about not-for-profit management would help with that decision.”
As part of the Master of Not-for-Profit and Social Enterprise Management, Nazarian completed the subject ‘Business Models and Strategic Planning’, where students develop a business idea and prepare a business model.
“I had to come up with a business idea for my assignment, and justify it, with different elements from the business model canvas, which was interesting because it forced me to do a lot of research,” Nazarian says.
“I looked at my own personal experience travelling with a baby and all the hassles with travel gear and the extra expense, and realised there was a potential business opportunity,” she says.
From personal experience to business idea
It was through this process that she conceived the idea for Kindershare.
“Kindershare is a peer-to-peer online platform that provides an alternative to buying costly baby equipment by allowing parents to rent quality baby goods from other families.
“It also enables parents to rent their own underutilised items, and earn some extra money,” explains Nazarian.
Taking the next step to develop the business idea had its challenges, however, not least of which was juggling logistics such as website development with study and a new baby.
“The children would go to sleep at 7pm and then I would study from 8 until 1 or 2am – it was a challenge but I realised just how important it was to continue studying – so I did everything in my power to make it work. It can be done and I encourage women to do it. You can make it work.”
Another challenge she faced was finding an insurer willing to take on the project.
“I spent a lot of time talking to brokers who couldn’t get their head around the concept – even though sharing platforms such as Airbnb are so prevalent. Eventually I found a broker who could help me.”
Kindershare provides insurance that pays owners up to 75 percent of the replacement cost of any damaged items, as well as third party liability insurance up to $20 million dollars.
With her business idea gathering steam, Nazarian had to decide whether to return to work or pursue her business full-time. Despite her initial misgivings, she chose to follow in her father’s footsteps as a business owner.
I enjoy the challenges that come from running a business. Even though I had experience in accounting and corporate restructuring, starting my own business was a whole new area. I hadn’t appreciated the difference – it requires a completely new range of skills.
Over the last Christmas period, for example, Kindershare helped 150 families save money by renting baby equipment rather than buying it new, with the number of products available on the site growing rapidly.
“We’ve had some families raise up to $600 just from renting out their unused baby equipment,” Nazarian recalls. The startup is also collecting awards, including prizes in the Share SA – South Australian Sharing Economy Challenge, the IBISWorld 3P Innovation Competition and the Inner West Council Business Environment Awards. Nazarian is also one of the latest startup founders to join the new UTS Startups community and is looking forward to helping other founders with their own startups, whilst also tapping into their diverse skillsets.
“I’m looking forward to a place that helps me work and focus on my business and be surrounded by other startups facing challenges and sharing experiences,” she says. “Just getting fresh perspectives is great.”
Nazarian has aspirations to one day take the business global, but for now her focus is on supporting Australian families, connecting with other startups and opportunities and embracing her unexpected role as an entrepreneur.
Never thought you would be an entrepreneur? Your future self might think differently. Visit startups.uts.edu.au to start your own unexpected journey.