Having struggled to find quality baby products for her premature son during his long stay in the NICU, Maria Strongylos felt frustrated that the search wasn’t easier. Realising that other NICU parents were having the same struggles, she realised the importance of making life easier for new mums and dads, and Kounelakia was born. Offering beautiful, quality essentials for mums and babies, she is also working towards providing families a place to purchase the best products available to help through the early days of having a baby, either in the hospital or at home or with complex care needs. Here Maria talks to The Natural Parent Magazine about the inspiration behind her business, the challenges she has faced along the way, and her hopes and dreams for he future.
The passion: What inspired you to set up your business?
Our baby was born prematurely and had quite an extensive stay in the NICU, along with many complications. We struggled to find good-quality items for him. There’s plenty out there, but not one place you can buy the best of the best. I just felt like I was constantly jumping between sites and stores, buying 3 similar things hoping one would be good enough for him. While in the NICU, we were always chatting with other families about toys, equipment and clothing. Once we were home, we realised how important and needed this was, and then one thing led to another, and before we knew it, we had Kounelakia.
The launch: How did you start out in the beginning?
We launched earlier this year in April 2022, and it was a very slow and small launch. First our friends and family with babies were purchasing from us and very slowly through word of mouth we are getting more enquiries and orders from around Australia. We try and remain active in the premature baby community and frequently gift products to our local children’s hospital and NICU, where our son spent his first 6 months.
The innovation: What was the biggest breakthrough for you with your business?
I really wanted to design my own Hospital/NICU range, but I very quickly came across many hurdles. I reached out to a couple of large Australian children’s clothing brands. One of them contacted me back, saying they wanted to start a range too. I met them back in March and spent many hours going back and forth over zips, clips and design. Their focus was on functionality, and I was able to provide them with the insight to put the vision together and create something that is missing in most premature baby ranges. It’s not just about small sizes, it’s the functionality that’s been missing from premature clothes, and that itself is a huge breakthrough.
Yin and Yang: How do you balance work and family?
I don’t think we have quite mastered this one yet. Just like everyone, every day is so different. We just try to communicate and coordinate our schedules until something kind of works. Our son still requires full 24/7 care, so I am his main carer during the day, and my husband takes over in the afternoon. That’s when I work. Eventually, we are hoping to be busy enough to both be able to work from home together on Kounelakia while supporting our son.