Ragtrader spoke exclusively with ALF star Jack Watts and business partner Adam Walsh about how they are growing their men’s and kids swim trunk label SKWOSH, and what plans they have moving forward.
Tell me about the early foundations of SKWOSH. What prompted you to launch the business and how did you secure your first accounts?
JW: Skwosh was the product of three guys who couldn't find a short fit for both the beach and bar. We wanted a short that would make us stand out from the crowd, be comfortable and that would dry easily.
AW: Our business is based online so our first year was about building an aggressive brand awareness campaign rather than focusing on gaining retail accounts. We were able to grow our Instagram following to over 10,000 pre-launch by uploading content that complimented our branding, so that when we were ready to launch we already had a pool of potential customers that shared similar interests to our brand.
What were the biggest challenges you encountered in growing the business in the early days?
AW: Putting everything on the line when we had a vision. I knew we had a great product, a good plan but to leave the comfort of my nine to five job and jump straight in the deep end and try to execute it doesn't always go as planned. We definitely learnt persistence is key.
JW: The biggest challenge to start with was to jump in the deep end and give it a go. I think so many people have great ideas and concepts but very few actually take that final step and take the risk. You're putting your heart, your work, your hard earned on the line and there's no guarantees but that's the most exciting part. Of course we had doubts on what we were doing, whether people would love our product as much as we did but then your passion kicks in and you feel so strongly about your creation that you just know people will love it.
What were some of the major breakthroughs?
JW: The little things gave me the biggest thrills.
I can still remember wearing a sample pair of our cactus designs for the first time and getting stopped on the street by a girl on chapel street, "your shorts are awesome, where can I buy those!?". That was a pretty special feeling. Seeing someone I didn't know wearing the shorts we had created for the first time was also a surreal feeling.
AW: Seeing out shorts on national TV for the first time was a great achievement.
What was the steepest learning curve you encountered in growing the business?
AW: As a new business we have encountered many challenges along the way, from timing production runs to projecting sales, however for me the biggest challenge has been learning about the production process and all the ins and outs that come with this. It's definitely something you can only learn on the job, but when it's your own time and money you're investing you tend to learn these lessons twice as fast!
JW: I think the unexpected delays/complications is something you just can't plan for if you have never been through starting something like this up. No matter how organised you think you are there's always something that pops up that you hadn't thought about.
How is SKWOSH self-funded?
AW: Skwosh has an online direct to consumer focus - this allows us to not have payments caught up in intermediaries and not strain our cashflow. We've been able to re-invest the profits back into the business and allow Skwosh to grow organically.
What was the initial expansion strategy and at what point did the brand expand?
AW: Skwosh has an online focus, so the first year was about building brand awareness. We gifted a lot of product to influencers and ran a series of competitions on our social media to grow our fan base. Our second summer really started with a bang, our website crashed in the first four hours of launching our latest collection due to the amount of website traffic we received (a good crash).
What are the best performing lines?
AW: All the loud, out there tropical prints tend to sell the best. This has definitely become our signature style.
How do you approach production?
AW: Although we don't own our production facilities we like to treat this area as an extension of our business to ensure the product is made ethically and all the correct materials are used. We sample and test each component we use in production to ensure the highest level of quality is upheld.
Let's talk online commerce. How do you approach this area? Is it a substantial part of the business?
AW:Our business model is focused largely online, so our it's important for our customers to be able to find us online and be able to interact with us through our social channels. We spend a lot of time marketing through social media channels such as Facebook and Instagram and it's proven to generate great ROI.
What are some of the growth plans ahead?
AW: We aim to make Skwosh a household name for swimwear in Australia. Once we have a foothold on the Australian market we have our sights set on Europe, U.S and Asia.
JW: We want to take Skwosh global there's no denying that. We will keep growing the business here in Australia first and continue to evolve the product. As you've seen with our kids range we like to spice things up and we have some other pretty cool ideas in the pipeline. You'll just have to wait and see.