In the lead-up to Rise Up, we asked our ambitious female founders a few questions about their entrepreneurial journey and what inspires them. Meet Billie Jo Hohepa, founder of BDÉT who create a range of eco-friendly personal hygiene products such as BDÉT Foam Wash which turns ordinary toilet paper into a cleansing, hygienic wipe.
Where were you born and where do you call home now?
I was born at Kawakawa and grew up in Moerewa. I live in Auckland now, but Tai Tokerau will always be home.
What did you do before you decided to start your own business?
I was working as a broadcasting journalist for Māori Television until I decided to do my MBA which I completed in 2017. We launched our first product – a hygienic toilet seat lifter and our next product was the BDÉT personal hygiene range of which is our hero product is our BDÉT foam wash.
How did the idea for BDÉT come about?
I came up with the idea in the late 1990s when I was a university student. You can’t be totally clean with dry toilet paper so I used moisturiser on my toilet paper and thought it could be a good product. But I didn’t start working on BDÉT until 2016 after I looked online to see if there were any similar products and there was nothing in NZ.
What has been your biggest challenge in your entrepreneurial journey?
Many! Lots of supply chain challenges like getting sent substandard products from suppliers or mismatched tops which didn’t fit the bottles! We had to pull our products which was hugely embarrassing, disappointing and costly. We learnt some valuable lessons around quality control.
Being first to market was another challenge as there isn’t a lot of awareness around our product. Our products require a behavioural change so I’d day our biggest challenge is advertising, marketing and education – getting our customers to understand what we’re about.
Who has been your biggest cheerleader along the way?
My Mum and Dad. They have been the most amazing pillars in business for me. The entrepreneurial journey can be very lonely and scary because you are breaking new ground and opening new doors. Their support has kept me going.
What or who inspires you?
My tamariki. I wanted to go into a different career so we could bridge that gap of knowledge in business. I grew up in family who had great ideas, but the ideas never made it to the shelf.
What is the best advice you’ve been given?
Execute, execute, execute; and don’t worry about it being perfect.
Do you have any advice for female entrepreneurs in NZ?
Just do it! If you’ve got an idea, test it, prototype it and build it. Start small. Get some education like a business or finance course otherwise you’re blindly fumbling along.
Running your own business must be hectic, how do you unwind?
I love unwinding with my whanau, friends and kids. I try to be present with my kids when I’m not working. You need to find a balance.
What three things can’t you live without?
My phone – 90% of my business was created on my iPhone. My Mazda Demio cos she goes everywhere – taking stock around, getting to meetings and sometimes I sit in her doing Zoom calls – she’s my little office! Number three is our spa – it’s one place where I’ll spend hours on the phone working or get inspired under the stars.
If you won Rise Up, what would you use the money for?
To help develop and promote a new range of baby products I’m working on.
Register for your FREE ticket to see Billie Jo and our other inspirational female founders present at our Rise Up Pitch Night on 23 November in Hamilton.