Jennifer Elliot is the founder of Smayver (Smart Saver) and is an Australian mother of two based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. She founded Smayver to help children have financial confidence and has recently launched the Smayver journal, a simple way for parents to teach their children money management through a give, save, spend allocations using a pocket money/ allowance/commission system. In this interview, Jennifer shares what it took for her to start her business, her mistakes along the way, her lessons learned and how she plans to make her business successful. Newbie business owners this is for you! Enjoy!
"By far, the biggest accomplishment I have achieved is developing confidence in my self-worth as a business owner."
Please introduce yourself and tell us about your business. What is it called and what services/products do you offer?
I am an Australian mother of two based in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. I moved to KL in 2011 when my husband was transferred in his job role. In July 2015 I founded Smayver Ltd. Smayver stands for Smart Saver and I am currently working on bringing a new money box (The Smayver) design to market.
Smayver’s goal is to make saving the fun for children and provide simple creative tools for parents to nurture financial confidence in their children. In July 2016 I launched The Smayver Saver Journal – a color journal that has 24 Saver Charts and 4-weekly check-ins.
The journal is a simple way for parents to teach their children money management through a give, save, spend allocations using a pocket money/ allowance/commission system. It is also a place to document and practice gratitude, lessons learned, positive beliefs and saving goals/totals.
Can you share a bit about how you choose this line of business? What transition did you make to owning your own business?
Smayver has been a dream of mine since 2010 when I was banking a stack of coins from my daughter’s piggy bank/money box. I thought to myself “surely there is a more fun and creative way for children to save and learn the foundations for money skills”.
The transition to owning my own business came after eight years as a stay at home mum. It was something I knew I was going to do and unfortunately getting a business visa in Malaysia is a little tricky. I put off creating a business for a while, and then I just went for it.
Do you have any special training?
I have a degree in Accounting and in 2015 I completed an NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) Certification course in Kuala Lumpur. NLP has transformed my life and I only wish I had discovered it sooner. My most special training I have experienced is my on the job training as a mum. Being a parent has taught me more about myself than any formal education can offer.
What are some of your biggest accomplishments as a business owner?
My most exciting accomplishment was being granted an innovation patent on the Smayver Money Box design, and my most rewarding accomplishment has been launching the journal and receiving great feedback. By far, the biggest accomplishment I have achieved is developing confidence in my self-worth as a business owner.
How soon after you started did you start seeing profits? Or when do you project to begin earning a profit?
I project profit by July 2017. That will have been two years since I started Smayver and 12 months since launching the journal. Product development for the money box has been my biggest expense.
How did you decide how to price your services?
My goal is to offer affordable products to all parents. I decided early on, Smayver will succeed by selling volume at lower prices, whilst still making a profit. The journal retails at $29.99AUD/$23.99 USD. The Saver Charts in the journal can also be purchased as a PDF for $3.99USD.
What mistake(s), if any, have you made with your business? What have some of your biggest challenges been? What did you learn from the experience and how did you bounce back?
Deciding to design and manufacture a product with no manufacturing or formal product design background in a foreign country was a pretty big challenge I set myself. Navigating this has been by far the biggest challenge. One mistake I have made was not using social media earlier to build awareness around simplifying financial education whilst working on the product design.
At the crux of this, building a stronger business strategy early on would have prevented quite a few mistakes. I have learned a lot in regards to business negotiations, networking and improving my professional image. I cringe at some of my early meetings.
What do you consider the most important elements of running a successful business?
Passion, self-confidence and effective time management are three elements I believe are change makers. Overall, the ability to serve your target audience whilst making a profit is the ultimate winner I think.
Do you have any start-up advice you can share with women reading this who would like to launch their own businesses?
If you have doubts or fears about starting a business, invest in an NLP certification (Neuro Linguistic Programming) to give you the self-confidence required. NLP teaches you how your conscious and unconscious mind work together and you learn the skills to create a mindset for greatness.
Many women unconsciously self-sabotage their own success. I am a reforming self-sabotager in both my personal and business life. Years ago I would have thought it all sounded a little woo-woo, but NLP rocks.
Do you have any advice on managing your small business finances?
Choose a simple finance system early on and keep on top of paperwork. I use Xero and just found Receipt Bank. I am in the process of letting a bookkeeper take on data entry. Be open to learning new tips for finance management and do not think having a bookkeeper means you do not need to understand your business finances. This is vital and this is something I need to focus on as well.
How do you balance work and life owning a small business?
On many occasions, I have felt alone and overwhelmed balancing motherhood, family life, starting a business in a foreign country and having no family support in between visits. I am learning to switch off more and strive for more downtime in the evenings. A big lesson I have learned is to focus on my family more – they are my key priority.
I am programmed to work, work, work but in the scheme of things I know this is not healthy and would like to work three days a week to focus better and focus on other personal pursuits.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Financially independent, happier than ever and feeling proud of my personal and business achievements. For Smayver, we will be a small but super awesome team of talent having made an impact in making it easier for mums and dads to nurture self-worth in their children.
Please share a fun fact about yourself.
I am known to (occasionally) do the splits on the dance floor! ☺
How can readers find you?
Online I am at www.smayver.com and under Smayver on Facebook and Instagram. Clever Girl Finance readers receive 20% discount when using the code "cgf" at checkout (essentially free postage which is normally $7.50AUD to the States). If you are based outside of America, Australia or Malaysia please contact me via Facebook or Instagram and I will give you the same discount.
Thank you so much Jennifer for your time today. I enjoyed learning more about Smayver and I know my readers will love hearing your story.