An interview with Elise Mawson, founder of Taxi Baby
Passion can be found in so many things. It’s what keeps us, as humans, going. While my personal passions seem to involve frivolous pursuits like food and coffee, I recently had the pleasure of meeting Elise Mawson, founder of Taxi Baby. Her passion is far nobler. It involves keeping children safe. On a rainy, Singapore afternoon, we had a chat over a cup of tea. We talked about life in Singapore, what brought us here and her business, Taxi Baby. While many say that having a child changes your life, in Elise’s case, this was the catalyst to starting her business. This happened when her first child was not even a year old. Since then, she has become an authority on child-safety while travelling, whether it be in your own car, a taxi or even flying off on a holiday.
Yes, that bright smile of hers is real and genuine. She’s not just in the business of selling car seats, she’s in the business of spreading the word on travel safety for children. I was amazed at the depth of her knowledge and the level of commitment she had on this subject, reaching out to local authorities, bus companies and providing advice freely. She said “taxis may be exempt from the laws of car seats, but they’re not exempt from the laws of physics“. I left our meeting feeling grateful that there was someone out there who cared enough about this particular topic in Singapore.
Thank you, Elise, for taking the time to talk to us about your passion and your business.
Tell us a little bit about yourself
I’m an Aussie Engineer, wife, and mum to two-year-old Peter. We’ve just celebrated our fourth Chinese New Year in Singapore and I love it. It’s such an easy place to live (I’m taking advantage of the relative luxuries while I can!), and a great Asian home base (although admittedly there is much less Asian travel since Peter came along). I go back to Australia to see family and get demoralised by scouring for a car park at the shopping centre, not being surrounded by air con 24/7, or having to wait 55 minutes for a bus. As a child, I lived in Central Australia and Saudi Arabia, so I’ve been born and bred for the Singapore weather. Before launching Taxi Baby, I worked in the super-safety-conscious mining industry both in Australia and abroad. Safety has been part of my daily life for over a decade.
Why did you decide to start Taxi Baby?
Taxi Baby all started with a tiny little locking clip. In the first few weeks after Peter was born, I’d had excellent luck with taxis and was managing to install his car seat safely and securely. We were on the way home from the Pediatrician one day and I couldn’t get the seat belt to firmly lock around his car seat – I must’ve gone through 5 or 6 taxis at the rank before (flustered and on the verge of tears) I gave up and walked to the train station.
I burrowed under a pile of research before I was brave enough to attempt using a taxi again and I discovered that while some of the cars in Singapore have American seat belts (which have a second, little-known child-restraint mode feature – fatefully, these must’ve been the first 5 taxis I caught with the car seat), most taxis in Singapore have European seat belts which don’t have this feature at all. Another pile of research told me that I needed a locking clip but there were two issues – firstly, they weren’t sold in Singapore and none of the Aussie stockists shipped to Singapore. Secondly, standard locking clips are fiddly and time consuming to use (not what my future taxi drivers wanted to hear). I found an Australian family-owned car seat manufacturer who made this ingenious little locking clip that was quick and easy to use – hurrah! My mother-in-law bought ten from their shop and posted them over for me and my mothers’ group mums.
The next week, my friends said that all the mums in their other mothers’ groups also wanted a clip and could I get some for them. So, Taxi Baby was born, selling a single, teeny, tiny locking clip as the only product. Since then, I have retrained as a Child Passenger Safety Technician and broadened our range of products and services. The little locking clip is still one of our best sellers.
Taxi Baby is a much needed portal in Singapore, in my view. There is so much travel that happens in Singapore, around the island and off the island. I was really impressed by how much effort you put into educating and talking to people about safety. Is this what Taxi Baby is all about? What do you believe in?
Safety first, always. I don’t think it’s possible to truly succeed with a venture, career or job unless you’re genuinely passionate about it, and I’m so very, very passionate about child safety. If you can find a way to live off your passion, that’s great, but you can’t fabricate passion out of thin air, and without it, a job is just a job. Most of my day is spent giving free advice to parents on how to keep their kids safe while travelling around – I couldn’t sleep at night if I restricted parents access to information that could safe their kids’ lives.
Knowledge is the key to improving lives – when we know more, we can do more, and so many parents in Singapore are not given access to the correct information so they can make an informed decision about what’s best for their family. My courier came around to collect my orders one Saturday and his wife and baby daughter (without a car seat) were along for the ride. I couldn’t let them leave like that, so I installed my son’s car seat for them as an interim measure until we could work out a long term solution. We just caught more buses that week 🙂
How do you source your range of products?
We search the globe for the best children’s travel safety products (with lots of suggestions from friends and customers!), then work very hard on getting them into Singapore at a fair price for parents. We forge respectful, sustainable and mutually beneficial relationships with our suppliers. I took some of my MBA subjects on exchange at Harvard and it’s clear that modern business practices have come a long way – while one must be assertive, I don’t believe ruthlessness and cold-heartedness have a place in optimal professional relationships these days.
What is your top selling item and why do you think that is?
The Cosco Scenera NEXT – it’s a car seat which, among other things, provides a safe, easy, taxi-friendly solution for children who’ve outgrown their Maxi Cosi but are too small for harnesses or booster seats. I honestly believe it’s been so successful in Singapore because it completely satisfies an existing and very urgent need from consumers. We didn’t find a product and then go about building demand, the demand has always existed and we’ve searched around to find a product which completely satisfies it.
Which product is your favourite?
My favourite would be the RideSafer vest – it’s a seat belt positioning harness which helps keep younger kids safe in taxis. I love it because it provides parents with choice and options. The safest car seat for each child is the one they are going to use every single car or bus ride and for some parents, that can only be the RideSafer. Now, my son’s favourite is the BedBox. It must’ve been the tenth word he said and we got “BeeBo” on repeat for weeks! It’s a ride-on children’s suitcase that converts into a lay-flat bed on the plane.
What’s coming up next for Taxi Baby? Are there any new products, events or even courses that you are thinking about offering we should be excited about?
The big ticket item in this year’s plan is around community partnerships and public awareness. Singapore hasn’t had a public awareness campaign on the need for car seats since the early 80s and there is too much dangerous misinformation flying around. A 2014 study showed that only 6% of kids in Singapore are in appropriate child restraints! We’re going to be working with some government and private organisations to improve car seat compliance and increase enforcement of the rules.
Is there any advice you’d give to someone wanting to start their own business in this industry?
Two main things:
1. Gauge how passionate you are by starting small and seeing if you enjoy it – it’s so easy to get an online store up and running and build your social media profile, you can do it all yourself; and
2. Know your stuff – when it comes to child safety, if you don’t know your answer is 100% correct, then don’t say it, because a parent is going to make a life-or-death decision regarding their children on that information and it’s no trifling matter!
For more information or to buy, visit www.taxibaby.sg
Taxi Baby also provides carseat installation, travel safety workshops and helper training. Check their website for more information.
Phone: +65 8866 3351
All images provided by Taxi Baby unless otherwise noted. This article was originally published on vanillabeige.com.