Co-founder and creative director Brooke McGregor talks us through how his company, Thrills, went from a vintage motorcycle boutique to self funded fashion brand.
Tell me about the early foundations of Thrills. What prompted you to launch the business and how did you secure your first accounts?
Originally Thrills was called “Cheap Thrills” and the concept was simple, we had planned to import vintage motorcycles from the USA and sell them from our Byron Bay location. Whilst waiting for the first delivery of motorcycles Tabitha and I put an 8 piece t-shirt collection together for a small group of boutiques accounts across Australia - we dropped the “Cheap” and Thrills was born. From my previous relationships in the industry, I went out and sold the first collection and we’ve grown organically from there.
What were the biggest challenges you encountered in growing the business in the early days?
The business was and still is a self-funded venture so the usual challenges that are met with growth have all occurred, from late deliveries to incorrect production. Thankfully our co-founder and business partner Ryan Collins had zero rag trade experience and incorporated a “If we don’t have it we don’t spend it” approach that he was accustomed to with his finance background. This synergy combined with Tabitha’s and my industry knowledge between has been paramount to the business’s successes. We learned to be thrifty and smart with our money, wearing many hats to achieve brand awareness, great product and growth.
What were some of the major breakthroughs?
The initial reaction to our collection was better than first expected, at the time of launching Thrills, the industry tides were on the turn with a lot of the major brands all struggling with an older business model. Thrills has been part of a new wave of brands that has carefully joined the market with the ability of being nimble and providing close to market products and branding. Part of the breakthrough also came from our women’s side of our business, in 2013 we launched our first women’s collection and it now stands as 50% or our revenue and showing no signs of slowing.
What was the steepest learning curve you encountered in growing the business?
Everyday has been a learning curve, our business is young and the industry has changed dramatically over the last 5 years so many things that we encounter on a daily basis are new problems with new solutions required. Quality of product is one of the steepest learning curves we have encountered, keeping your eye on production to ensure it reflects the highest standard possible while still achieving affordable pricing. We have a fantastic team of young dynamic people, looking after our brand, which has been paramount to our success.
How is Thrills funded, self, investor?
Thrills has been self-funded and we have managed growth and expansion internally within our partnership.
What was the initial expansion strategy and at what point did the brand expand?
We went into the original business plan with a smaller, less apparel focus, however once some early signs of potential became apparent we pieced together a more structured business plan that included wholesale alignments and partnerships as well as the role out of our own retail spaces alongside e-commerce.
What are the best performing lines?
Denim and jersey in both Men’s and Women’s are strong performing categories season in season out with an additional spike in the outerwear segments during the winter months. Women’s has seen exceptional growth in swim and its cut and sew categories also.
How do you approach production?
As with the other parts of a young business we take a close to market approach - we’ve been strategic with our factory alignments to make sure we can turn and develop product quickly. In the earlier days the brand was heavily rooted in jersey based garments so we knew to launch denim we had to spend the time in the factories, before the launch both Tabitha and I spent weeks in the cut and sew factory then over to the wash house to make sure that our denim was of high quality from the base fabrics, washing to end trims and packaging. This has enabled our brand to tell a more dynamic story, translating our message though our denim with success and the support of our customers.
Let's talk online commerce. How do you approach this area? Is it a substantial part of the business?
Online and brick and mortar have been an important part of our business from inception, even as earlier as the first year of business we set our showroom in Byron Bay industrial estate up as a retail destination selling hand chosen vintage clothing, Thrills apparel and the motorcycles. But as the brand grew we opened our first retail doorway in 2014 in Byron Bay called “Far East", since then we have a second doorway located in Melbourne’s Chapel Street called “South of Paradise”. The physical retail locations have been a great place to showcase the brand’s depth and product mix, it’s also a perfect platform to test products directly to our consumer. In conjunction with our brick and mortar stores we also have a healthy online business that is growing beyond expectations daily. Retail and e-commerce are areas that we are investing time and energy into and the growth in these areas has been exciting.
What are some of the growth plans ahead?
The brands only just in a breakthrough stage, for us the sky is the limit! We feel Thrills has strong growth potential domestically in Australia but also the international markets. Currently Thrills is trading well in Japan, Korea, New Zealand and Israel but the main focus moving forward will be on the USA market. The other major internal plans are to grow the online and brick and mortar business further to a level that gives the brand strong presence in key territories and the freedom to showcase and test more forward products.