On July 18, local investment firm Glow Capital Partners acquired 51% of Australian uniform business Cargo Crew in a bid to grow the apparel brand globally. In this exclusive Q&A with Ragtrader, Cargo Crew founder Felicity Rodgers (pictured) uncovers how the investment deal came about and what's next for the functional apparel brand.
How did the deal with Glow Capital Partners come about and what were the key steps?
We had been a bootstrapped business for 21 years. Over that time we had discussed the idea of getting outside funding, and had also been approached by various potential investors over the time.
In the second half of 2022, we were again having the conversation about getting outside funding but decided if we were to find a partner it would have to be the right-values fit. Around this time, I met with Kate Morris from Glow and we clicked from the start.
The importance of working with like-minded people was imperative in us making the decision to move forward with investment. My conversation with Kate started the ball rolling and the journey from there was many months of meetings with our advisors on both sides, whilst also getting to know each other, then moving into formal due diligence which can be an arduous process whilst continuing to run the day to day business.
We were fortunate to have a strong team of advisors around us including Lempriere Wells, Gilbert and Tobin on legals, as well as our managing director Luke Littlefield who was our key internal stakeholder managing the transaction.
A key part of the investment will go towards scaling Cargo Crew globally. When did the brand begin selling internationally and is there a marketing plan involved to reach international clients?
Our international sales activity happened very early following our e-commerce launch back in 2012. Within six months of launching our website, we were receiving enquires globally. Whilst we didn’t offer international shipping at that time, we did service our first international order to a coffee roaster in Mexico way back in 2012 and its been ongoing organic growth globally ever since.
There is absolutely a plan. That is a big part of our next phase of growth. Activating marketing plans in the US and testing into other markets will be a huge growth lever for us over the next 24 months and beyond.
Why the US in particular?
Our initial focus will be on initiatives in the US for a couple of key reasons: One is the existing traction we have built in that market organically already, the other is the sheer size of the market opportunity.
Are there other key areas of the business that the Glow investment will focus on?
We have outlined and aligned on key areas of focus with the Glow team and we have plans to invest further in scaling our national market, growing our team, as well as further investments in technology and operations to support the growth strategy.
A quarter of Cargo Crew’s online sales now come from overseas. What is driving this international growth?
We have seen steady organic growth over the past few years from markets outside of Australia, down to a few key factors:
- Organic search: we launched the .com version of our site and have been working with our SEO partners on our visibility in that market in organic search listings.
- There is a global network of chefs who love to wear Cargo Crew, spread in most part through their networks via word of mouth and through love on social media. Chefs are often major influencers internally when it comes to uniforms. Curtis Stone and his presence in the US is a great example of this.
- What we hear again and again from customers in international markets is that they cannot find products like ours locally, that blend fashion and function so well.
How is the brand performing locally in Australia? Is there room for growth here as well?
The brand is well known amongst our core hospitality demographic in Australia, but there is major opportunity for us to penetrate the market even further as well as target other fast-growing verticals for Cargo Crew including corporate and retail.
How many businesses does Cargo Crew supply to in Australia and globally? Has this changed recently?
We supply over 16,000 companies globally. We are seeing an ongoing demand for our product and services, particularly post-COVID where brands and businesses are focused on delivering quality brand and customer experiences, and uniforms play an integral part in this.
The brand’s products are designed in Australia. Where are they manufactured? Has this changed in recent years?
We work with suppliers in many regions including Southeast Asia, India and China. We have long-standing relationships with ethically accredited and many family-owned businesses, that are the absolute experts in their game. We are invested in working with long-term partners who understand our needs and considered approach to manufacturing, whilst delivering consistent quality that we are proud to deliver to our customers.
Have there been any changes recently to your Bundoora headquarters in Melbourne?
We are constantly improving our space (the latest is plans to refresh our showroom to align with our beautiful new brand imagery), our operations and warehouse also continue to evolve in terms of systems and tech and the Cargo Crew team continues to grow.
Any other business news to share?
Our business is in an exciting stage of transformation and growth. We have recently appointed both a director of sales and a director of marketing to the Cargo Crew business and are also in the process of appointing a USA project lead.