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How To Attract 500 Retailers in Just 12 Months


500 retailers reached out in the first 12 months


Hello everyone and welcome back to the show! It’s Doone here - your host and hype girl.


Today we’re learning from Belinda Everingham, the founder of Bondi Wash & Bondi Wild, and there is so much to unpack in this episode. 


Belinda Everingham, founder of BONDI WASH, is the creative force behind WASH WILD. A love of nature, combined with a desire to create gentle, natural and affordable alternatives to home and body products, motivated Belinda Everingham to create WASH WILD. Following the success of its more premium sister brand, BONDI WASH, Belinda wanted to create a range that was more accessible, available in supermarkets, but still truly natural with high-quality ingredients.


We are talking through a decade of learnings from building multiple brands. We’re talking fundraising, government support, international expansion, retail, advice for new founders, and literally so much more.


FOUNDER STORY

  • Way back in her mid 20s had an idea to create a swimwear brand 

  • But nothing ever happened, busy studying and it wasn’t the right time

  • Fast forward to her early 40s: getting really tired doing strategy consulting and looking for other things to do when she sprayed cleaning product on the bench and got a headache

  • Wow if that’s doing that to me, what’s it doing to the environment and little children?

  • Maybe there’s something to creating natural product that didn’t harm the environment and little children 

  • It wasn’t until 2012 on holiday in Queensland reading the book “perfume” and visiting fruit farms etc that I wondered if we could create something in Australia that brings those things together

  • I bought all these native oils back in Sydney (eucalyptus, peppermint, lemon, tea tree, Tasmanian pepper)

  • Did my last consulting project and got $25,000 for that which became the startup capital

FROM IDEA TO SAMPLE

Did my last consulting project and got $25,000 for that which became the startup capital. Bought oils & ingredients that I could find on the internet and started on the kitchen bench. All based on internet research, and asking everyone who came to the house to test the fragrances. Then I would put scents into the products. This playing around went on about 6-9 months, playing with formulations and scents - then I realised I needed help. 


Found a manufacturer in Melbourne who was able to scale this process up and also take me on (a bit of a gamble for them!). I still manufactured the first 750 bottles on the kitchen bench - using their base formula and adding my oils myself. By the time I was ready to place a reasonable order size they took everything over. 


SALES STRATEGY FOR THE FIRST 750 UNITS

Focused a lot on the product to start with - the scents and the natural formulations. I really didn’t cut any corners there. 


Kids put her up on Instagram with the first samples, which was somehow shown to someone opening a beautiful boutique just up the road. It was such a lovely way to launch. Having one retailer is really all you need, you can use that to leverage further outreach. Costcella (??) 


Pretty quickly we got a lot of other retail interest, around 500 in the first 12 months - just from having a presence in these first two retail locations. But if they weren’t going to merchandise it well we just said no: be careful about where you’re going to show the brand. 


EXPORTING & RELATIONSHIPS

Launched in November 2014, set up our website after launch, and were exporting into New Zealand by January. Launched in Hong Kong 6 months later after popping into a store there and leaving my business card. In business is it all relationships. You’re building these long-term connections. We have a list of company values and kindness is one of them. Doing the right thing at every stage is our philosophy. It might cost you a little bit more in the short term, but you build a brand people love, a company that people like working in, and supplier relationships that have a depth to them - that can get you through tough times. 


CHALLENGES OF A SMALL BUSINESS OWNER

I used to get upset by things going wrong, but now I don’t. It’s just a part of running business. I expect there to be challenges, it’s how you deal with those challenges how you determine success. Things go wrong but there’s always a positive silver lining that comes out of those moments. There are always challenges. 


For example, in Hong Kong they are SARS in those early days. A friend of mine suggested an antibacterial hand-spray, thought it was a great idea. And Hong Kong really wanted it. I launched it in three scents and put it into mass production. Then I went on holiday and I had one with me and there was all this plastic inside the product - we had to recall and it cost tens of thousands of dollars. That felt like a big one. Now we do a lot more testing before we launch something. 


LAUNCHING A SECOND BRAND - WASH WILD

In 2014 - 500 emails sitting on the computer that I couldn’t say yes two - I got the idea for a product that could cater to the mass market that was a little less precious about the brand. We developed the products in 2014; everyone told us not to do it so it just sat there. During Covid we had money in the bank, I knew I had a brand I wanted to launch, so I launched Wash Wild. A stronger value proposition. A bit more pragmatic. A very potent blend of native oils. More affordable. This launched 2022 - around ten years into the journey. 


Approached Woolworths pre-launch; knew if I wanted to make this a success I wanted to get into one of the big supermarket chains. That all went through a connection; they weren’t very interested and we didn’t hear from them for months. 


Then they reached out wanting to retail Bondi Wash… And I used that as leverage to also get Wash Wild into stores. Because I wasn’t so keen on it. 


Advice for retail: it’s not impossible but you need to have a bit of credibility and the logistics set up to be able to deal with a big retail partner like that - there are a lot of hoops to jump through. 


THE MONEY PIECE

Capital raising was really hard. I think it’s inherently much, much harder for women to raise capital in Australia. Men just don’t get this type of business… The interest, & passion & they don’t understand it. 

We also hadn’t quite reached $10M revenue, after which you get a lot more interest from VCs. Then my first boss who lost their CFO job reached out and ended up helping a lot re-writing my pitch deck and doing the paperwork and the process, and that pulled it all together. Now we have 9 investors, and 4 of them are women. The distributor, another female-run business, women I know from my network. Having all these people in our corner is also a great emotional support.


Raises around $3M to help with both businesses, it’s been a game changer. That’s the first external funding in 9 years, and it really helped to manage the cashflow. Allowed us to open our third store.


EMDG Grant: a government-led initiative to help business owners scale and export their products overseas. When you’re verging on profitability, that extra help really really helps. It’s good to be looking for grants is the R&D tax concession (for all the R&D you do you get a tax credit). 


THE MARKETING PIECE

It’s the hardest right now… It’s changed so much. Instagram is no longer a great place for discoverability, and the decline of print media. Everyone is online so the marketplace for online is really expensive, acquisition costs are on the rise. 

  • From our survey of customers, most people discovered us in retail stores. They can experience the product and really understand the brand. Bringing the brand experience to retail spaces. 

  • Samples: our product range includes mini’s and that the most powerful way to build a new customer database. All our overseas orders we allocate 5% of the order to free product to they can use them to build a brand experience around the products.

  • Also, collaborations are wonderful. With like-minded brands. You share your audience and share your philosophies and that’s a really lovely way to market. 

  • If you’re going to do influencer marketing you need to be really focused and choose ones you’ll have a long-term relationship with - people who are genuinely committed to the brand over a long period of time.

  • Be an early-adopter with technology: this can add a lot of power to your business. It’s really hard for elevated brands on TikTok. 

  • Owning your own community through your email list.

Advice: don’t glamorise it, it’s going to be hard work - it’s going to need a lot of attention and energy and time and you can’t underestimate how much it’s going to take. It’s hard.


6 QUICK QUESTIONS

  • Guy Raz: How I Built This





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