This week we chat to Bill Ovenden, co-founder – alongside his brother, Ed – of Queensland start-up The Lad Collective. Quitting their full-time jobs and taking the brand to market during the COVID-19 crisis speaks, the brothers have a firm belief in their product and their understanding of their target market. They bootstrapped their vision with the aim of shaking up Australia’s bedding market by helping young men take control of their bedrooms.
ISB: What was the motivation behind you establishing your own bedding business?
BO: Ed and I endured the trials and tribulations of living in share houses with mates who were grubby and lazy (ourselves included). For many years, we battled to take control of the mundane tasks of routinely making the bed, washing our sheets and being clean and hygienic across three key areas – the bedroom, bathroom and laundry. We came to a realisation that we weren’t alone, with many males between the ages of 18-35 lacking support in these areas.
We realised that if sheets were redesigned in a way that made it easier to make the bed and strip the sheets off the bed, then we would be more inclined to do it, and so too would a large portion of other males out there. The “messy bed, messy head” mentality rings true and with men striving to succeed, small wins such as making the bed could lead to greater success in the long term. Providing Aussie men with innovative and essential life products delivered to their doorstep is at the forefront of our decision making.
ISB: What was the biggest challenge you faced in getting the enterprise off the ground?
BO: A lack of experience as entrepreneurs. We knew that we had an amazing opportunity, but we weren’t prepared for how quickly the messaging would gain traction and resonate with our target audience. Having entered a new market by leveraging a direct-to-consumer business model, we had to self-learn and find like-minded mentors to guide us in running an E-commerce business.
Managing offshore production solely online has been a challenge, especially without having the luxury to be physically present in another country. The pandemic has also slowed the supply chain down. Being able to confront these challenges and find a solution from retrospective thinking has enabled us to mature as business owners.
ISB: Please tell us how we came up with your innovative, “out of the box” marketing angle, and what you set out to achieve with it?
BO: The Lad Collective’s unconventional marketing strategy is devised to accurately reflect our outgoing, Aussie larrikin personality. The process of shopping for bed sheets – and all essential life products for that matter – shouldn’t have to be boring, monotonous and riddled with confusing, technical jargon. We inject humorous, light-hearted, yet informative content across multiple platforms that bring life to an otherwise stagnant market. We are setting out to break down the barriers for those who don’t know where and how to shop for essential life products. Our marketing strategy is centred around a ‘what you see, is what you get’ mentality.
ISB: How did you go about making a success of a launch during the economically challenging environment a pandemic engenders?
BO: The launch was based purely on a hunch. People were spending more time at home, in bed, connected to their smartphones, looking to maintain good mental health, all the while becoming acquainted with the convenience and safety of online shopping. We had found a silver lining. Our decision to design our sheets locally and produce offshore enabled us to land on an affordable price point that emphasised.
ISB: What is your vision for the venture in the next couple of years?
BO: Bedsheets are just the tip of the iceberg. In the New Year, we will be unveiling a subscription economy centred around delivering essential life products to the doorstep of the Australian man. We have been working closely with a chemist and design team to create our TLC branded male cosmetic range among various other essential products used in the bedroom, bathroom and laundry.
ISB: And, finally, what is the number one lesson you’ve learnt on this journey so far you’d share with other aspiring young entrepreneurs looking to start their own business?
BO: Adopt a data-driven approach and survey the hell out of your target customer. Make informed decisions based on the data you have collected and try not to get side-tracked on ideas that don’t align with your underlying mission. Don’t spend too much time trying to perfect your product. A “ready, fire and aim” plan is key – to succeed you need sales and revenue. Rely on customer feedback to make iterations on your product and be prepared to leave your ego at the door.