This week, we catch up with serial entrepreneur Courtney Adamo. Having moved to London from the US, Courtney met her Babyccino co-founders after having her first child. The three women set up a blog to share their finds with each other in 2007 but it soon turned into something so much bigger. With over 400 shops in their online market place, Babyccino is the go-to destination for parents and parents-to-be and includes everything you could need from the shopping to blog, and family-friendly city guides.
Having embarked on a year of travel with her family, and having amassed a huge following on Instagram, Courtney is now launching a new business — In The Loop — an e-Learning course based around five topics which her community favour most — Family, Home, Food, Travel and Lifestyle. Here’s her story:
Newnham: What was your childhood like? How would your friends and family have described you?
Adamo: My childhood was pretty idyllic, and yet also quite simple. I grew up on a farm and spent my days mostly outside. I’m the oldest of five children, so while we didn’t have any neighbours nearby, my siblings and I always had each other to play with. I was also really into horses and got my first horse when I was twelve, so I spent my tween and teen years riding a lot, and taking care of my horse. Because I’m the eldest child, my siblings would probably tell you I was the bossy one. My parents would probably have told you I was stubborn and determined. I’ve always been a dreamer and a do-er.
Courtney (far left) with three of her siblings
Newnham: After University, you moved to London where you met your Babyccino co-founders — Emilie and Esther. What conversation led to you starting it?
Adamo: I met Esther and Emilie in 2005 after our first babies were born. We immediately bonded over babies and new motherhood and the joys and challenges of that phase of life. With our babies, we met for coffee (and babyccinos!) in local cafes, and we shared with each other our new discoveries, favourite recipes, parenting ideas and philosophies.
In 2007, Emilie and her family then moved to Paris and Esther moved to Amsterdam. We decided we needed a way to stay in touch with each other, to share our ideas and discoveries, to share links to favourite products, etc so we started Babyccino as an online diary between the three of us, and gradually it grew an audience.
Newnham: Can you talk us through some of the highs and lows of growing Babyccino in the early days?
Adamo: Back in 2007, blogging was not considered a real job. I remember telling people I had a blog, and people would ask, “What’s a blog?!” Of course there were parenting blogs in America, but we were really one of the first in Europe and the UK to have what we now know of as a parenting or ‘mummy’ blog. So I guess the biggest challenge was trying to get people to understand what Babyccino was and why they should read it. Our next challenge was trying to figure out a way to monetise the work we were putting into it. Back in those days, before affiliate marketing or sponsored content, it was really only about selling advertising space in the sidebar of your blog. So we started with that, but of course there was only so much space in the sidebar for ads.
Around 2010, blogs were starting to get a name for themselves and a credibility in the marketing world. Brands and businesses started to see the promotional potential of blogs, and we started to notice our own readership growth and interest. Also at this time, many small, independent children’s brands and boutiques started cropping up, and they were coming to us for exposure and promotion. We decided to create an online portal, a directory for these many independent brands, as a way to give them the exposure they were craving, and as a way for us to grow our advertising revenue and be more creative in the ways we could offer exposure to these shops. Launching the portal in 2011 was definitely a defining moment for our little business!
Newnham: A few years later, you took a year off to travel with your family before settling in Byron Bay — what drew you to making Byron your home?
Adamo: When we left London in 2015, we knew we were ready for a slower pace of life, but we had no idea where we would eventually end up. We didn’t rule out a return to London initially, but within a couple months of travelling, I think we all knew we couldn’t return to that busy, often stressful life we had left behind. We started contemplating life in other places, and our travels were a wonderful way for us to test out life in different spots around the globe. We loved our time in Uruguay, for example, and even considered moving there after our travels were finished. But when we arrived to Byron, within about two days of being here, we all knew this was our place. We connected quickly with the like-minded locals, we made friends easily, we loved the food culture, the farmers’ markets, the coffee, we loved how beautiful it is here, and of course there was also the surf, which had become a passion during our travels.
There is something magical and magnetic about this little corner of the globe and we certainly felt the pull. We have now lived here for two and a half years, and I still pinch myself every day that we get to live here in this dreamy place. I’ve never felt this about anywhere I’ve ever lived before, but I really do think this is where we will grow old. And that is such a wonderfully grounding feeling to have.
Newnham: And tell us about In The Loop which you launched this week — what is it and who is it for?
Adamo: In The Loop is a collaborative e-course on family lifestyle. Each week, for five weeks, we’ll explore a different topic: Family, Home, Food, Travel and Lifestyle. I’ll be sharing lessons, tips, tutorials, interviews and discussions in both written and video formats, and I’ll also be creating a private Instagram community for subscribers where we can share and learn from each other in a supportive online environment.
Over the years, through blogging and Instagram, I’ve received so many questions and comments about family life. It is clear people are craving connection and inspiration! This new platform is a way to dive a bit deeper and explore different topics with an engaged community of parents. I’m really excited to connect with people from around the world, and also to share the knowledge I’ve learned from my experience, both as a mother and as a writer and businesswoman in the family lifestyle arena for the past twelve years.
Newnham: What steps did you take to get In The Loop from concept to launching? What was the process like?
Adamo: This is the first project I’ve ever done on my own, so it has been incredibly exciting but also a bit nerve-racking. It has all happened really quickly, which is probably a good thing because it has kept me from overthinking too much. I am guilty of being too much of a perfectionist when it comes to work, which can be quite limiting at times, but I just keep reminding myself that I have nothing to lose and so much to learn from just giving this idea a go. I figured if the e-course idea didn’t work out, I’d at least have done all the writing for the book I’ve always hoped to write!
I started talking about the idea with friends about three months ago, and the more I talked about it, the more I started to really like the idea. So I began writing down notes and organising ideas.
Living here in Byron, with its creative community, has also been hugely advantageous. One of my good friends, Natalie Walton, lives around the corner from me. She offers e-courses on styling, so I began to pick her brain on how it all works, and she became a wonderful resource for me, sharing lots of ideas and support. It was also easy to find graphic designers, photographers, videographers, and friends who have experience with e-commerce sites and email marketing. Many of my friends have brands or businesses, so I had so many people to turn to for advice. In fact, lots of meetings and brainstorming sessions have been happening on my sofa or at my dining table! It’s been such a fun process!
Newnham: You are always pushing the needle forward — whether it’s writing a blog in the early days, creating a space for mothers when there were few online communities for us and, now In The Loop. What do you hope the In The Loop community will gain from this course?
Adamo: It’s interesting because all of these business ideas have always felt like a very natural next step for me, and none of them were very strategic. Through the twelve years we’ve had Babyccino, we’ve never once had a business plan! It just always evolved in a very natural, organic way. Babyccino was created out of our personal need to connect with each other and to connect with other mothers, and that’s exactly what it has become.
In The Loop is a new platform for connection, and an idea I’m really hoping will resonate with other parents. Here in Byron, I’m so fortunate to have a wonderful support network of friends. I am constantly learning from the inspiring circle of women around me. I wanted to create something similar online — a circle of parents who are willing to share and learn from each other, people who are engaged with the course and interested in the topics.
Of course I also have a lot to share, and have spent months writing and creating videos, which will hopefully inspire and empower. I’ve also interviewed several of the inspiring women in my community who have shared their own lessons and wisdom. Hopefully this wealth of knowledge and the connection to other people around the world will leave everyone feeling really empowered!
Newnham: You have a large and engaged Instagram community (249,000 followers on Instagram)— how has social media played a part in your businesses?
Adamo: Instagram has been a wonderful way to connect with people around the world. It has also been a great tool to understand what questions people have and what information they’re craving. So many of the posts I put up on Instagram become a much larger discussion among followers — whether it’s thoughts on baby sleep habits, or teenagers and mobile phones, or even head lice and the best methods to treat it! It’s clear that people love engaging and sharing with each other.
Obviously, Instagram has also been a wonderful way for me to launch my business and reach a large and engaged community, and I am so thankful for all the support I’ve received so far.
Newnham: And what advice do you have for other women looking to grow their own community?
Adamo: It’s hard for me to say, because the growth on my own Instagram feed has been so organic over time, but I do think people really seek authenticity. Obviously, we all love pretty photos, but I think nowadays people want more than that — they want to feel they can connect with you. I know it sounds silly because I have loads of strangers who follow me, but I always think of my sister when I write my posts, and write them as if I was sending her a message. This helps me to keep a very conversational and personal tone in my writing, and it also helps keep things real and genuine.
Newnham: Finally, if you could go back in time to a younger Courtney, what advice would you give her?
Adamo: Over the years, and especially in the last few years as I have really found my place here in Byron with my group of friends, I have learned to care less about what people think of me and more about being true to myself. I used to get so upset when I received negative feedback or comments, and the fear of receiving negative feedback would actually keep me from simply being me. So I wish I could go back and tell my younger self to be more confident in my own shoes. I think it would have allowed me to find this happier sense of self and confidence much earlier on. But, perhaps, that’s just something that comes with age!