Starting a business can be challenging, particularly in a city like New York, which has always been one of America’s trend setting cities. But for two young women entrepreneurs like Renske Gosselink-Tibosch and Mylene Chambru, both of whom literally crossed an ocean to get here, the Big Apple offered inspiration.

Three years ago, a move from Amsterdam to New York City gave Gosselink-Tibosch the opportunity to reinvent herself. After several years in the trenches as a healthcare lawyer, Gosselink-Tibosch’s idea to share a European tradition, the Noobie Box, with new moms in the U.S., wasn’t that far of a stretch. In the Netherlands, regardless of income, every mother-to-be receives a gift, sponsored by one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the country: a care package that helps sustain expecting women through their first days, weeks and months of motherhood.

Like Gosselink-Tibosch, Mylene Chambru saw the good in her career but felt that there was something missing. As an employee in the tourist industry, she believed there were many opportunities, not being offered by sightseeing companies, that could help visitors immerse themselves in New York City’s culture. Chambru says the birth of her son gave her the courage to create Keenobby, Inc., a business that offers authentic New York City experiences, such as cooking courses with chefs, or jewelry making classes with artists to travelers and city-dwellers alike.

For Gosselink-Tibosch and Chambru, the act of bringing a child into the world ultimately inspired them to take create something new.

– Ellison Walcott

This is the second article in a series about women entrepreneurs.

 

Renske Gosselink-Tibosch

What journey led you to create Noobie Box as a business?

A move from Amsterdam to New York three years ago gave me the opportunity to drastically change my career. Instead of taking yet another corporate job, I chose to develop my entrepreneurial skills by starting my own company.

My two co-founders and I are close friends. Each of us made a choice to step away from our corporate careers but soon realized that we had skills that were applicable to our own business.

“We thought about the apprehension that young mothers face after bringing a newborn home, and realized that just a little support could be uplifting to them.”

The Noobie Box is an established concept in Europe and other parts of the world. The motherhood journey is long and can feel lonely at times. In its beginnings, it’s so important to feel comfortable with the changes that are happening.

As a team, we love working together every day and building a brand we are passionate about. The Noobie Box was launched in 2015. A year later, I became a new mom myself.

Renske Gosselink-Tibosch, Image credit: R. Tibosch

This wonderful life-changing event gave me a new perspective on life and inspiration, which is especially useful in my business!

What items do you include in the Noobie Box? 

It’s filled with high-quality products, valuable offers and important health information for both mom and baby. Our mission is to ease and soften the transition into motherhood by connecting expecting mothers with the best brands, products, and services. The content of the box changes monthly and contains a variation of products from companies like Philips Avent, Vita Coco, Healthy Mama, Bundle Organics, Weleda, Babyganics & Sigikid. A few examples of the products included are baby’s first bottle, pacifier, diaper rash cream, wipes, nursing pads, pregnancy tea, prenatal vitamins, coconut oil, and more. All products are mom & baby friendly, mostly organic and produced in the United States.

Currently, we distribute our boxes in the Northeast (NY, NJ, CT, PA, MA, RI). We will expand to more East Coast states in 2017, and are working towards nationwide coverage in 2018. Our ultimate goal is to reach 75% of new moms in 2020.

How have you funded your business?

Our business is completely self-funded. One of our main goal for 2017 is to find the right investors to further grow our company.

What are some of the difficulties you’ve faced? 

Image credit: Stylish & Hip Kids Photography

The ups and downs that come with starting a business, sometimes give me the feeling of being on a rollercoaster. You win some; you lose some. The wins keep giving me the motivation and adrenaline to continue what we’re doing. I’ve loved the entrepreneurial journey; it has been amazing so far. We are proud of the continuous growth in our business.

What advice would you give to others?

As an entrepreneur, you definitely have to learn to stay positive and on the right track when you get knocked down. It’s especially crucial during the difficult moments to have the support of my co-founders.

My advice would be to create a great founding team, with people you trust and who complement your skills and personality. And of course: believe in what you’re building!

 

Mylene Chambru

Please tell me about your history of Keenobby as owner/entrepreneur.

I launched Keenobby just over a year ago. However, I’ve always felt the urge to be an entrepreneur, and I sort of feel like I have been a business owner for many years. Before Keenobby, I was working in the tourism industry for ten years. I liked my job, but I felt that I needed more autonomy and challenge in my work. I remember going back home at night thinking about the type of business I could launch. My husband and I brainstormed endlessly. It took me some time to figure out what I wanted to do.

Things fell into place after I gave birth to my son. I can’t really explain why, but having a child suddenly gave me the confidence and boldness I had been missing for so long.

Mylene Chambru, Image Credit: M. Chambru

A couple of months later, I quit my job to embrace my own career path.

What services does Keenobby offer?

Keenobby is a social marketplace for cultural and creative experiences. It basically works as a community where anyone can host or attend an experience according to their talent or areas of interest. If you are fond of French pastries or eager to make your own Italian fettuccine, you can join a  passionate chef in their home kitchen. Or, if you wish to share your own talent of jewelry design, creating botanical perfume or medicinal tea, you can host a class on Keenobby. We are all about people, talent, and fun!

A Keenobby experience is immersive, intimate and led by an inspiring New Yorker. We are discerning about our talent and select them very carefully. Once they get on board, we work with them to make the best out of their creativity while meeting the expectations of our users. Hosting an experience on Keenobby is totally free, we only take a small commission on each transaction. Same thing for participants, they only pay as they play.

How have you funded your business?

As a young startup, this is where we have to be smart and innovative. Our marketing budget is obviously limited, and we can not (yet!) afford to spend thousands of dollars on public relations. This is definitely a challenge, but it forces us to find the most cost-effective marketing mix. Like other companies, we are using social media, emailing and word of mouth. More importantly, we tap into existing communities and build partnerships.

So far Keenobby has been funded through personal savings. We are planning to raise funds in the next six months to support our expansion strategy.

What are some of the difficulties you’ve faced? 

This has been a huge learning curve for me. This is my first experience as a business owner, and I did not know much about launching a business before. In addition, I am from Europe and had to maneuver a new market, a new culture, and new environment. The work life balance can also be a challenge.

Image credit: Susan Scott

Despite these challenges, Keenobby is the most exciting and rewarding experience I have ever had. It has given me confidence and pride in myself. It’s great to see the business growing as we are currently getting more people on board.

What advice would you give to others?

My main advice to other new entrepreneurs like me is to have a passion for what they do. Entrepreneurship is an emotional roller coaster – and passion is what you need to go through it. I also believe you must surround yourselves with experienced mentors and keep rethinking yourself and your business as you listen to them.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?

I am proud to say that my biggest accomplishment has been to seize the opportunity to trust my gut feelings and give my dream of becoming an entrepreneur a chance to come true. The tremendous support of my husband convinced me that I was making the right decision and, honestly, no matter what happens in the future, I won’t have any regrets only a fulfilling sense of pride that – I did it.

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