Most teenage truants are labelled upstarts, but skipping school at 16 to run a marketing business gave Joe Andon exactly the education he needed. His 2007 startup venture, Vuly Trampolines, has blasted to seven-digit revenue and has earned him business magazine BRW’s 2014 award for best mid-market innovation. Andon expects to reach $50 million in revenue this financial year.
Andon’s bedroom was the launchpad for VulyTrampolines’ success.
“I used to run away when I was in high school,” he says of his early days hitting the footpath to drum up work and sell marketing services to “anyone who would talk to me”. He even rented an office to appear credible to new customers. “When I did do those marketing services, they went really well. I helped businesses double and triple their sales.”
Andon saw an opportunity to use his marketing skills for himself – he simply needed a winning product. At night he started researching products to sell.
“I remember when I saw a trampoline, it didn’t have any pads,” says Andon about the exposed springs of the standard trampoline. “I was surprised it was legal; I thought, ‘Are you serious’?”
Andon bought a sample, intent on improving the design and the purchasing experience. Online buying was sometimes confusing, he says. “If you could go into a store, it was a horrible experience. The way they looked was awful. The ones that didn’t look awful were overpriced.”
At the time, 18-year-old Andon had personal savings of more than $25,000. He loaned a further $25,000 from his parents. “I bought a container of trampolines and had $1,000 left.”
With his final thousand dollars, Andon cut a deal with one of the best photographers in Brisbane. “He wanted two or three thousand. He was kind enough to help me get started.”
Andon puts his start-up success down to a great set of professional promotional photos that helped kick off his online sales.
Andon set to work developing an improved product after his first container load. An innovation mindset is behind ongoing growth in sales at Vuly Trampolines.
“We look at using as few parts as possible. The competitors use 40 parts; our trampolines use five parts,” says Andon, explaining his focus on simplicity.
A new trampoline design is developed almost once a month, modifying colour, height clearing, quality of materials, and adding games to the trampoline design like Twister.
“We brought out double-sided pads with patterns, introduced the trampoline tent that had never before been seen,” says Andon.
The game-changing innovation was building a trampoline with lease springs – “like a car suspension” – enabling production of the first trampoline with no nuts and bolts. It’s much easier to assemble.
Sales have shown customers are loving the innovations – the key principle behind Vuly Trampolines. The company aims to do more than what’s expected of traditional trampoline suppliers. “It forces everybody to be more innovative.”
You need a product that is much better than what is already on the market, says Andon. “If the product is fantastic, it sells itself.”
Andon’s tips for effective marketing are:
1. Recruit the best marketing people in Australia who have worked for leading brands
2. Give them the opportunity to work on a product that sells itself, allowing you to keep focussed on product research, design and development
3. Make sure the product you sell gives customers value and a great design
4. Make sure it works better than the products on the market
5. Keep it simple.
“Everything just happens by itself from there,” says Andon.
“Vuly could have been selling any product – really it is about a way of doing things,” says Andon of his success. The young company is in the process of documenting “the Vuly way”.
“It comes down to having integrity in what we do and simplicity, really believing in simplicity, really."
“The exciting thing for me to do in the future,” Andon says, “is become a global dominant player in trampolines and grab that approach and apply it to another product.”
Vuly Trampolines sell in Australia and globally including: Canada, Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Germany and the United Kingdom. Andon plans to expand into New Zealand this year.
Continuing a strong online sales presence, Vuly also have a flagship retail store, plus have worked alongside seven other trampoline retailers to continue building a strong brand presence.
With Trampoline sales that expect to move more than 250,000 to 260,000 units in 2015, mean $50 million in sales is on target – bouncing Vuly Trampolines and CEO Joe Andon well and truly into the ranks of high-growth entrepreneurial ventures.
Source: The Growth Faculty
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