Four years have come and gone since our first Athletikan sneaker launch.
It’s been a journey to get to this point, but it’s only the start. After coming up with a concept for an athleisure sneaker to compete with the big players in the market, I reached out to my friend Joe Tambo, of whom we interned together at a sports company. After catching for a couple of beers in Melbourne and explaining how I think it could look and work, we head over to the iconic Brunetti’s for a late night espresso before heading off home. I said ‘So, what do you think?’. Without even really mulling over it, Joe said ‘I’m in’.
Joe took a big risk, handed in his 4-week notice as a sports marketing professional and went 100% in to make it work. I have great respect for someone like Joe, he saw an opportunity, took a risk and worked over-time to make it work. From memory, the first few months before we launched he worked weekends at a football club shop to get through. He was committed to the concept from day zero. These sort of sacrifices aren’t recognised enough in our industry, it takes a lot of courage and will to be the best that you can be.
Before Joe came on board I had decided to find a supplier and design a first sample. It’s actually hilarious and I’ve kept the sample so that we can look back in 20 years and have a laugh. To be fair, the next sample that Joe and I did together was not much better. But, through perseverance and no experience in shoe design we eventually came up with our ‘original’ concept which ended up being our staple shoe for around the first two years of business. It wasn’t going to win any design awards, but it was simple, aesthetically pleasing and enabled us to build the foundation of our business on.
We grew quickly, but not outrageously. The first two years were really about building a foundation and some credibility in an industry that has been dominated by very few players for a long time. It’s not always easy to come into these markets and just ‘disrupt’ like it is sometimes championed in the start-up world. But we started to chip away and more importantly, started to build a community of people who were aligned with our product, our brand, and what we were trying to do.
There were certainly some challenges in the early period (as there are now). Managing stock was particularly difficult as the more volume we ordered to meet demand the more space we needed because shoes are bulky. We moved into a bigger warehouse and eventually outsourced to a specialist warehouse and distributor so that we could focus on what we do best. The other major challenge that is also an on-going one, is managing sizes. For most designs that we release we have around 11 sizes. Not only is the stock bulky, but we need to make sure we have an even spread of stock in each size available so that customers can get their hands on the style and size that they want. Given the minimum order requirements from suppliers, shipping costs & lead times, this can prove difficult to plan stock and be effectively replenishing based on demand.
We have been fortunate to collaborate with a number of entertainment & sports celebrities that have endorsed our products. We’ve created limited release drops with some of the world’s biggest and best UFC stars, DJ’s and fitness icons. We have more meaningful collaborations in the works.
Now that we have turned 4, we’ve now built a fantastic foundation for future growth encompassing more advanced shoe designs, more strategic campaigns with the right resources to execute them and a brand that has built a strong community.
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