This is a follow up story for Dock and Bay. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published over 2 years ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
Hey, I’m Andy, co-founder of Dock & Bay, a lifestyle brand famous for our quick-drying towels and now selling unique products across travel, fitness, and home accessories for everyone who loves to explore this incredible planet we get to call home.
Dock & Bay began as many great ideas do, a desire for something new, a passion for travel & adventure and...a few drinks. I and co-founder Benno (who’s now down under!), were workmates and global travelers. We decided to completely reinvent the bulky, soggy beach towel, and brighten up the world, one stripe at a time!
Now, as well as our famous towels, we sell swimwear, ponchos and hair wraps, always with a cheeky touch of color because we don’t believe in taking life too seriously.
Our towels are all sand-free, quick-dry and super absorbent while staying compact because no one wants a towel that takes up all of their suitcase space. But our biggest focus recently has been on making moves towards being a more sustainable brand (read on for more on this!)
In our first full year of business (2015), we had a turnover of $92K and this year we are set to turn over $10 million.
Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?
So the last year has been a big one for us, we’ve seen a growth of +75% YoY and put this down to expanding our product range, launching new design collections and developing a distributor model that’s allowed us to reach new markets. Growing the team has also allowed us to push the business forward and we now have 11 employees worldwide.
Logistically we’ve grown too, with warehouses in the US, Canada, Australia, and the UK as well as distributors in New Zealand, Philippines, and Japan. We’ve also taken on a Sales Agency to increase our reach in the US and are about to launch in our first national store over there, but we will have to keep that top-secret for now!
This year also saw us introduce a new product to our range, our sell-out cooling towel which has a unique technology that once wet feels icy cold..perfect for the gym or as we found out a heatwave. New designs also dropped, including the Sway collection, inspired by the ocean and our latest and arguably best towel to date launched in November 2019.
If you have a product-based business that is growing fast, be super wary of the impact your stock buying decisions can have on your future cash. Especially if seasonal.
For our final 2019 release, we partnered with the incredible Whale and Dolphin Conservation on our first ever towel made from 100% post-consumer plastic, and are donating 20% of sales to them too! At a time where our planet needs a helping hand, we understand how important it is to take actionable steps towards a more sustainable future. Nobody is perfect, including ourselves, but as our business continues to grow, we have begun making choices that minimize our environmental impact. The release of our WDC towel is just the beginning and we pledge that by 2021 our whole range will be made from either recycled or biodegradable materials.
In terms of the marketing that has allowed for our growth, we focus our marketing spend online to target direct customers. The only real money spent offline currently is for trade shows to meet retailers.
We focus on about 70% of our spend on social (mainly Facebook and Instagram) and 30% on Google. We find Google is great for targeting people for looking for your kind of product and essentially grabbing those quick wins. I actually feel when launching a product, it’s better to focus on Google as it generally works better for already ‘warm buyers’ and so is low hanging fruit. Meaning your product gets in more people’s hands and so creates word of mouth easier.
Facebook and Instagram allow you to tell your story better and win people over that may never have wanted your products in the first place. Instagram is definitely better for younger buyers (18-35) and Facebook for the population of 35+. We tend to have about 50-60% of website sales come from paid ads and the rest organic.
Our biggest push in the ads world link in with school holidays and gift-giving times so Easter, Summer, Christmas! But we’ve made ourselves global so that we can target different countries all year round. In winter months, we switch our marketing more to the gift space and our nontravel products such as our hair wraps for the home and cooling towels for the gym.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
With us being such a seasonal business, we’ve learned that hiring staff too close to our peak season in summer is inefficient as we are unable to train them up and make the most of their time and skills when we need them the most.
Another big learning is that buying too much stock at once rather than doing more filtered stock buying in smaller, more regular quantities is a huge cash drain, we’re working on more accurate stock forecasting and more agile, reactive shipping methods.
Good decisions we’ve made have included focusing our time on the power of online marketing and creating fun, colorful and attractive ads to show people what we're about. Keeping the ads refreshed so people don't get bored has been key and meant we can showcase our whole range, not just beach towels!
Our charity collaborations have been a big positive too, they’ve allowed us to show that we are passionate about giving back to good causes and are serious about being a sustainable brand - we know it’s a popular word at the moment but we’re serious about it and creating our first towel made of 100% recycled materials as well as donating 20% of the sales from this towel to our chosen charity (Whale and Dolphin Conservation) has allowed us to start to tell that story.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
I’ve mentioned it a few times now but continuing on our sustainability journey is key for us, by the end of 2020 our whole production will be using our new material made from post-consumer plastic, it will take a little time for stock to get in our customers hands but it’s a big step for us and another helping hand for the planet!
We’re constantly looking to bring out new innovative products so we will be working with a product developer to start designing, sampling and producing some new ranges, which is exciting for both the business and our customers! Similarly, international expansion continues to be a focus, looking to grow further into Europe.
Know what you're good at and fill the rest of the gaps with awesome, driven and passionate people. Don't try and learn everything yourself, you never will and will just slow yourself down and de-motivate yourself. It took me about 2 years to learn that and for me and my business partner to separate out our focuses accordingly.
Finally, with the new members on board, we’re keen to try some new marketing approaches, partner with other like-minded brands and expand the portfolio of stores we’re in across the globe so more people hear about and get their hands on Dock & Bay.
Have you read any good books in the last year?
I’m more of a podcast kind of guy as I like to listen on my commute. My fave this year has been Business Wars, I love hearing about the battles that different brands have had and how they have stood out from the crowd.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
If you have a product-based business that is growing fast, be super wary of the impact your stock buying decisions can have on your future cash. Especially if seasonal like us! Buying stock (and spending on other things) just because you have lots of cash in the bank at one point in time is dangerous and you really need to understand how it will impact your cash flow, 12-24 months down the line.
A big thing for me is building an awesome team around you. Know what you're good at and fill the rest of the gaps with awesome, driven and passionate people. Don't try and learn everything yourself, you never will and will just slow yourself down.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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