If there was one word to describe Annalise Law, it would be superwoman. As the managing director of successful promotional products company The Kanga Group, and mother to beautiful twin daughters, her ability to juggle family life with running a successful and ever-growing business, is to be marvelled at. The Kanga Group has quickly become Australia’s leading promotional products company since its launch in 2005, and now supplies 23 countries worldwide. Law was recently recognised for her efforts at the NSW Telstra Business Women Awards, taking out the coveted Commonwealth Bank Business Owner Award, something she describes as life-changing. Here she talks to Dynamic Business Online about the promotional products industry, what the Telstra award means to her, the joys of running her own business, and spending time with her family—the most important thing of all.
Law and her husband started The Kanga Group in 2005 after a few failed business attempts, which she describes as “huge learning experiences”. After working in promotional products for a number of years in a family business, Law decided it was time to branch out on her own. While she was seeking out potential business opportunities, one came knocking at her door… and not the one she was expecting. “I originally had no intention of going back into the promotional products industry, but from the moment my husband and I met 10 years ago, we wanted to have our own business, and we were determined to succeed,” she explains. “I started to get phone calls from old clients who worked in the promotional products space who asked me when I was going to get back into it.”
According to Law, the industry is often referred to as shonky; a perception she was determined to change. “What we are trying to do is bring a level of professionalism to it,” explains Law. “Winning the Telstra award has allowed me to leverage that credibility and become (hopefully) an employer of choice,” she says.
Winning the award has opened a lot of doors and raised awareness. For those who still don’t get it, promotional products are anything with a company logo or branding on it. “We customise products for companies and provide targeted solutions,” explains Law. She believes The Kanga Group differentiates itself from other companies in the same space through fast turnaround, minimal overheads and really good product knowledge.
Having recently launched a UK office and with plans to open one in the US, Law says they can provide fast turnaround for clients. “Promotional products often take the longest time to organise, so what is important to us is very fast turnaround for our clients. They can request a quote from us today, people in the London office can be working on it straight away, and then deliver it first thing the next day.” The Kanga Group also works on a referral basis with minimal overheads. The third and final part of the equation is thorough product knowledge. “We know our product and can supply something different that other companies may not supply or think of.”
Law says promotional products aren’t often the first thing companies think of when they devise a marketing strategy, and is often referred to as ‘below the line’ marketing. But she says where promotional products differ from ‘above the line’ marketing such as TV, print and radio, is that they “remain to be seen”. She continues: “What I mean by that is with something like print advertising, it’s in the newspaper for one day and then it is forgotten about the next day. There’s a real scattergun effect and you don’t always know if you are reaching your target audience. But when you switch to something like promotional products, you know you are targeting the people you want and cutting through the clutter. With branded products it’s always in plain sight, whether it’s sitting on your desk at work, or on the kitchen counter. You have visual contact with the item and it remains there for many months.”
Law says more businesses are starting to embrace promotional product marketing and understand the strength of it. However, companies must first understand what they are trying to achieve with branded merchandise before jumping in, says Law. “In some instances, promotional merchandise is actually not the way to go. Once a company has figured out what they want to achieve, we try and match a product to their campaign so it is targeted and they will achieve the outcome they are looking for.”
So what are the most popular products? “Stress balls are often popular and we get thousands of orders for them. There’s always the typical golf items that can be branded, but more often than not, the most popular products are those that people don’t actually know to ask for,” she says.
“The good thing about my job is you never know what your next phone call is going to be. It keeps it exciting.” The other great thing about running her own business is the ability to balance work and family life. The role Law relishes most is wife and mother to her twin girls. While work can often get crazy, Law relies on a great support network and the use of her BlackBerry to help her get by. “Going into it, my husband and I sat down and said we need to continue to get enough support so we can enjoy the time with our girls… and that is where family and friends can come in handy.” Law says new technologies have enabled her to spend time with the girls while still fielding calls from clients. “I think when you are running your own business, you have to be able to leverage technology. For example, I could be sitting in the park playing with my kids and on my BlackBerry checking emails, and my clients would never know it. I can get the work done and still spend quality time with them.”
Law also manages to keep her relationship with her husband fresh and exciting, both professionally and personally by separating time for work and play. “We work together brilliantly, which is a plus, but we also go on regular date nights. It is important to have that balance and to be able to separate the two.”
But this super mum and super businesswoman also makes sure she gets time to herself. In her downtime she likes to exercise—“you have to keep your body as strong as your mind”— and dabbles in a bit of woodworking. “It’s how I relax. It is also completely removed from what we do in the business, which is really important.”
While running her own business affords her the ability to spend more time with her family, Law warns other women with the same goals to be prepared to work hard. “It is a constant juggling act and you have to be super organised,” she says. “The biggest challenge from a woman’s point of view, is juggling family and work. It is incredibly rewarding once you do get it right, but it is a challenge.”
It seems you can have your cake and eat it too, but only if you are prepared to work for it. “There are lots of benefits to running your own business, but there isn’t anything romantic about it. It is hard work and a lot of sacrifice goes into it,” warns Law. “But, if you are successful, you do get to be the master of your own destiny. You can choose the clients you work with—which is so nice—and you do get to pick and choose your own hours.”
She has come a long way since the business was launched in 2005 and she will continue to grow the business. “Getting to this stage for any small business is a huge achievement in itself. Especially during tough times, to be growing a small business in Australia is huge.”
From here on in, it’s all about vertical expansion, says Law. “We are looking to find businesses that are horizontally aligned with us—like sales promotion products, or something in the online space like web marketing—and will be looking to merge our services and grow our client base that way.” For now, Law is enjoying running her own business and spending time with the people most important to her—her husband and children.
For more information on Annalise Law or The Kanga Group, please visit www.thekangagroup.com
People who read this, also liked:
Business women share success secrets
Rhonda Brighton takes out Telstra Business Women’s Award