Secrets of Success: Susie Stubbs, Founder of Totter + Tumble

Secrets of Success: Susie Stubbs, Founder of Totter + Tumble

Upping the ante on family fun and interior style

It’s time to show the world that you can take to the floor, and make a mess without compromising the style and care of your home. That was Susie Stubbs’ mission when she set up Totter + Tumble. Today her team remain solid on that wish to create the best in class products for growing families, while helping to maintain a sense of personal style and pride in the home.

Susie takes some time out of her day to chat to Business Matters …

What made you start your business – did you want to rock the status quo or was it a gap in the marketplace that you could fill?

After completing a home renovation, I just couldn’t face placing down our garish, puzzle piece playmat. Not only did it overwhelm our new, stylish space, but the individual pieces were low quality and  frustrating to put together. I knew there could be a high quality, better solution, which inspired me to create it.

What is your USP?

Our playmats are designed with the busy family home in mind. They aren’t just for babies. They are for babies, for toddlers, older children and for adults. Our thick, memory foam mats are created with interior trends in mind too, so that they complement your well-considered home interiors. But most of all, they are a multi-functional and supportive floor covering. For tummy time, lego building or yoga, Totter + Tumble has it covered.

What are your brand values?

We believe that your home should feel like home, especially as your family grows. You shouldn’t have to sacrifice your personal style, in order to support, comfort and keep your children safe! That’s why we created Totter & Tumble – For them, for you, and for all the things that make your house your home.

Do your values define your decision making process?

Absolutely! Our founding principles of simple, stylish, support and safe will always be forefront of our decision-making.

At Totter + Tumble we want to be proud of what we create- be it our playmats, the brand or the business in general. We recognise that for a busy family they want to focus their time and energy on their children, and not their playmat. So we created that. We talk to our customers as proud customers ourselves, with honesty and integrity . By not focusing on the sales but instead on the product, the brand and our people, means that we, as a team, are intent  on growing a great business and one we are proud to be part of.

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Is team culture integral to your business at Totter + Tumble?

We are a remote team of 7 at the moment, so being aligned on principles as well as the strategy is imperative. We don’t get those coffee break chats you do in an office, though regular whole team meetings, working across shared inboxes and project planners helps keep us all united. With such a small team, we have single people wholly responsible for areas they’d otherwise have whole teams to support, so everyone’s input makes a huge difference to the overall output. It makes it really exciting and rewarding, but at the same time, work has to work for them. Our business is all about recognising that parenting is demanding, so as a team of parents we too support each other too both professionally and personally. If one person is struggling, you can put a bet on everyone else jumping in to help regardless of expertise. The initiative to get stuck in and help out is one of our top criteria when recruiting.

What do you do to go the extra mile to to show your team you appreciate them?

We have a combination of ways to support our team, both in the structure of how we work and in the little extras. Totter + Tumble has always had a remote and flexible working policy: Our team is valued on the work they do, not the hours they are present for, which gives each person ownership for their area as well as the ability to create their own schedule that enables them to work well and live well. Encouragement to go to those school shows or take exercise without feeling guilt or pressure is so important to us and makes for a happier and more productive team. And of course, birthday gifts, team meet ups, and Christmas celebrations all help too!

What’s your take on inflation and interest rates – are you going to pass that on to your customers or let your margins take a hit and reward customer loyalty in these tougher times?

The beauty of founder-led businesses is that we generally do everything with the customer in mind, including pricing. Whilst adapting and being flexible is a real strength of smaller businesses, having the cash flow to negotiate tougher economic times is rarer. Our biggest inflation came at the end of 2020 when shipping costs increased 10 fold and our raw materials went up an extraordinary amount too. We took the hit for as long as we could, but without an end in sight and without wanting to compromise our product, we put our prices up in 2022  to share the costs out for a more sustainable and secure future. As purchasers we have the power to use our money wisely, to purchase good value products and services from companies that earn our trust. Any brand not thinking about the customer is in for a rockier time.

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How often do you assess the data you pull in and address your KPIs and why?

Probably not as often as you may think. We are really fortunate that our Totter + Tumblers are incredible brand champions, and families keep growing, so we are able to focus on building the brand, and not analysing the data for sales at every opportunity. That being said, we have great tools at our disposal such as shopify, Klaviyo (email marketing), Meta and google, that tell us a lot, but really it is our socials that we are really tuned in to – that is where we hear first hand from our customers and see what is really going on. Data tells us a lot about has happened,  but by being tuned in to the customer, you get a far better analysis of what is happening now.

Is tech playing a much larger part in your day-to-day running of your company?

We use some great platforms to stay connected and wolf collaboratively with each other, such as Monday.com and Front. Shopify, Klaviyo and fulfilment software allows us to deliver a great customer experience post purchase too. As an ecommerce company, social media is key to connecting with our customers at every stage of their journey with us. From creating an AR filter so they can ‘try before they buy’ to engaging with them in their key milestone memories.

What is your attitude to your competitors?

We are confident in what we offer so we don’t feel there is harm in competition at all, but it has been painful to see imitators pop up since we launched in 2018. It is frustrating when there is so much space for businesses with an authentic and original offering.

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Do you have any advice for anyone starting out in business?

My top three would be don’t rush, don’t compromise, and hire people better than you, before you need them.

It can be a lonely and pressured place to be as the lead decision maker of the business. What do you do to relax, recharge and hone your focus?

I’d love to say I have a handle on this, but it is very much a work in progress. In parenting it is known as  the ‘mental load’ especially as a mother or primary care giver, but running your own business as a parent doubles this – and it is 24/7.  I’ve had to be really reflective and strict to carve the time out, but it took years and having a great team with me to take any meaningful steps.

Do you believe in the 12 week work method or do you make much longer planning strategies?

We don’t have fixed strategies of any length, but rather have a commitment to our ultimate goals and shorter term initiatives that help us keep moving towards them. Being nimble has served us well, especially in the last few years.

What is your company’s eco strategy?

We are so aware of how damaging green washing can be and we will always strive to be more eco-friendly. For us sustainability starts with products designed with function foremost, with quality materials chosen for their features, made safely and intentionally with those who they are aimed for. That way we should consume less, have value laden items that last longer and avoid landfill. We spent a year before we found our incredible factory in South Korea who operate to the highest standards, and therefore our playmat reduces the number of products you’ll need, can be reused and, eventually, recycled.

What three things do you hope to have in place within the next 12 months?

We’ve only just started out in the US, so getting to know our American Totter + Tumbler’s in that market is key for us. And of course, we have some beautiful designs on the way to help more families free the floor!


Cherry Martin

Cherry is Associate Editor of Business Matters with responsibility for planning and writing future features, interviews and more in-depth pieces for what is now the UK’s largest print and online source of current business news.

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