Shaun Wilson is Co-Founder, MD & CEO of Australian success story, Bondi Sands, which is proudly Australian owned and Australian made. Shaun Wilson together with his business partner, Blair James have taken this start-up brand to multi-national within eight years and the next 6 months are set to be their biggest yet. Shaun himself is a passionate entrepreneur, a true leader and has built a team around him that shares the same brand values and vision to become a truly recognised lifestyle brand globally.
Up close and Personal with Shaun Wilson – Interview
(Co-Founder, MD & CEO)
Tell us the story about how the idea for Bondi Sands came about?
The business idea started back in 2010. At this time my business partner Blair James, who had a beauty salon business in Port Melbourne and was doing a number of professional spray tans, believed that solariums would probably be banned over the next few years in Australia, which was ultimately correct. I was working in corporate Melbourne and came to find that both Blair and I shared an entrepreneurial passion for brand development. I was doing my Master’s in business at the time and by chance, I was doing an assignment on FMCG which helped me understand the industry and the business model we required to initially succeed. We really believed that there was a ‘gap in the market’ for salon-quality, Australian made DIY self-tanning products.
As a brand/business we focused on 4 major brand positioning points, which are still our brand values today. They include:
- Being Australian made and showcasing our iconic Australian lifestyle
- Salon quality
- Affordable & accessible
- Focus on customer centricity; to build a global community online and have brand advocates through social channels
With these 4 brand pillars in mind, we launched back in 2012 with only 4 products through a national retailer, Priceline. Blair and myself, like any driven entrepreneur, had BHAG’s (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) from the onset. Not only did we want to be the number 1 self-tanning brand in Australia but also the ‘world’.
Fast forward to 2020 and we are the number 1 self-tanning brand in the world with offices in Melbourne, London, and Los Angeles. We’re stocked in over 30,000 stores with over 100 products across self-tan, sun care, and skincare. We are proudly Australian made and manufacture all our products across 3 manufacturing facilities in Melbourne, supporting close to 400 jobs.
There was a rapid Australia & New Zealand growth pretty soon after launching and within 3 years, Bondi Sands became the top-selling brand in the self-tanning category in Australia. How did this come about?
Our rapid expansion was solely through our ability to scale and focus on the following areas:
- Product strategy: Launching more innovative products than our competitors, and at a faster rate.
- Connecting and listening to our customers through social media/digital platforms: Utilising our channels to authentically tell our brand story and amplify positive word of mouth. We have a saying at Bondi Sands; we do not have customers; we have brand advocates. This is an important business mantra we continue to focus on.
- Increasing our distribution through both store count and space instore, securing multi placements, and gaining more ‘white space’ on shelves.
What are your plans for the Bondi Sands International expansion for 2020/2021?
We have a strong strategic focus on growth in all facets of our business, however international expansion is a key focus of our company. We will announce later this month that we are launching into a further 3 major retailers in the USA, which is unprecedented for any FMCG brand to reach this milestone within 2 years of entering this market. We are already stocked across 7500 Walgreens stores with a dominant market share of close to 70%.
We are also entering another 10 countries over the next 12 months across Europe, South America, and Asia which is extremely exciting for the brand. On top of this, we are also launching another 45 innovative products over the next 12 months across our 3 categories.
All your products are Australian owned and produced and you have managed to keep all of your staff during these trying times.
Being Australian made is especially important to our business and it’s also fantastic that we employ and support over 400 jobs here in Victoria. These are trying times for many industries where some are unable to pivot or respond, as their demand and/or supply channels have been completely destroyed. We are fortunate that we are continuing to grow in many markets around the world and that we pivot on a weekly basis where needed to benefit either our demand or supply side of our business. During this time, I’ve continued to quote Jimmy Dean, American singer and businessman allot, ‘We cannot change the direction of the wind, but we can adjust our sails’. It was particularly important for our team to have this mindset during these challenging times and we have really encouraged persistence and teamwork over this period to achieve our objectives. Maintaining a growth mindset and recruiting additional talent to our team has been a key business focus, ensuring that as a Brand and global team, we are set up to achieve our objectives and have the resource available to support and engage with our customers during these difficult times.
The leadership team at Bondi Sands pride themselves on their unique company culture. Spearheaded by Shaun Wilson and Blair James, they offer many enviable benefits to ensure that they continually attract the best team members with the right skills to execute the company’s growth strategy with great enthusiasm. Tell us about the culture that you drive within your business and your leadership team?
I honestly believe that it gets to a stage in everyone’s business and brand lifecycle where culture and people will ultimately drive your overall performance. As a leadership team, we focus on transparency, collaboration & customer centricity. This is also supported by a strong work life balance program, i.e. staff wellbeing benefits and ‘Wellbeing’ leave days. I am a strong believer of bringing the right amount of energy (Chief Energy Officer) to every conversation, meeting, and or critical decisions, and I know our wider leadership team share this positive mindset. If you want to create and maintain a positive and joyful work environment, you must ensure that you are leading the way!
Finally, ensure you live and breathe your mission statement. Bondi Sands mission statement is ‘To bring confidence and the iconic Australian lifestyle to our worldwide community all year round’ and as a leadership team, we focus on this every single day.
Up close and Personal with Jacob Muraca
(Chief Operations Officer & Chief Financial Officer)
Jacob Muraca is the COO and CFO of Bondi Sands having joined the Company in October 2017. During his time the business has grown to become one of the leading beauty brands in the world, specialising in Australian made Self tan, Sun care, and Cosmetic products.
Prior to joining Bondi Sands, Jacob came from a chartered accounting background working in various Financial Management roles in Advertising, Retail, and Digital Media both locally and in London for companies such as CNN and Topshop. Today, Jacob is responsible for leading the Company’s financial and operational requirements by spearheading strategies to steer the company’s future in a positive direction while driving the company’s operating capabilities to surpass customer satisfaction and retention, and company goals. To ensure the continued global growth of the company Jacob oversees marketing initiatives and is continually looking to implement best in class business practices and ensuring staff members grow to achieve their full potential.
How have you transitioned the business from a start-up culture to being a multinational without losing the core aspects of the Bondi Sands team? – I believe your motto is ‘think global, act local approach’
I am fortunate that throughout my career I have worked for a mixture of corporate multinationals and start-ups. This has given me a great insight into what works and what doesn’t work. What was most important for me was that we have the policies and processes in place to allow us to scale up to the multinational level without losing our DNA which was what the company was founded on and what makes it the enjoyable workplace that it is.
Setting the business up financially for success and having systems put in place for global expansion – how quickly did you have to do this considering Bondi Sands have only been in business for 8 years and had such rapid growth in such a short amount of time?
When the company was only 5 years old and I was the 9th employee, this was at the top of my priority list. I was the first permanent finance employee; before me, this was led by Shaun the Bondi Sands Co-Founder. The first area I tackled was to ensure that we have the right systems in place and that everything was in order from an accounting perspective. The first couple of months was spent trying to untangle what had previously been done. Once all the financials and systems were in order, I turned my attention to training the staff to think financially. This is one of the most important factors that you should look into. People within the company who came from non-financial backgrounds started to become financially minded and began to understand the financial consequences of the decisions they made. The team was receptive to this and it helped set the foundation for all the new starters who have joined the company.
The importance of spending money on social media and influencers – what is your opinion? (Jacob is a finance guy who knows about influencers!!!)
Social media and influencers are a huge part of the marketing landscape and will continue to be for many years to come. We were fortunate enough to launch the brand when social media was in its infancy. People would just post for free for the sake of some free product. This has quickly changed over time to become monetised with every second person claiming to be an “influencer”. We are fortunate at Bondi Sands that we have an exceptionally social team that screen all the talent to analyse their key metrics such as following and engagement. We then tie this back to the campaign objective to ensure they are the right fit and will then set KPIs to measure the ROI.
Jacob keeps his finger on the pulse & watches what everyone is doing and who is relevant – he also keeps check on best the value for money from manufacturing to logistics!!!! How are you able to manage this on a global scale?
People, processes & communication – with any FMCG brand there are constantly 1,000s of moving pieces, for manufacturing, logistics, sea freight, promotional plans …. The list is endless. My key objective is to ensure there is always product on shelves around the world because if there isn’t that is a missed opportunity. It is important to have people in place that you can trust, people who are forward thinkers, proactive, and share the same passion and vision for the brand as I do. The second part of that is the processes. When coordinating so many different areas, it is important that you have strong processes in place, because you can’t afford to have a break in the chain. These processes are in place to help identify if something isn’t tracking to plan so it can be rectified before it is too late. Lastly, the third part is communication. There can never be too much communication. I touch base with each team at least once a week to ensure I have my finger on the pulse so I provide the best platform to understand each business unit, their key task for the week, and how they executed their tasks from the previous week.
Life motto: “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.”
Inspired by Australia’s most iconic beach and proudly made in Australia, the brand has grown 70% year on year to become the number 1 self-tanning brand in the world with company wholesale revenue of more than $100M AUD+.
Working with leading Australian retail partners, which include Priceline, Chemist Warehouse, Coles, and Woolworths, Bondi Sands is today stocked in over 4,500 stores across Australia with 60 products across four different categories: Self tan, SPF sun care, Skincare, and Cosmetics.
In addition to Australian success, the brand is also stocked in 30,000 stores globally and has become the number one, self-tanning brand in the world. It has 40% market share in the UK, 70% in New Zealand and is the best performing self-tanning brand in Walgreens in the US (60% market share). In 2019-20 the brand entered Germany, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and in 2020, launched into Canada with leading beauty retailer Shoppers Drugmart.
Shaun Wilson, Co-Founder, and Managing Director said: “Our commitment to international expansion started back in 2015 when we entered the UK market. We strongly believed Bondi Sands would have a strong international brand positioning and we challenged ourselves to not only be the number one self-tanning brand in Australia but the world. We successfully achieved this milestone in just five years after launching in the international markets. We are very proud that all of our products are made locally here in Melbourne, (Australian made) which is a core value of our brand positioning and also supports local manufacturing and over 350 jobs”
“Another key brand value is ‘accessibility’; we want to ensure our customers can purchase our products from leading health and beauty stores across the world,” Shaun continued.
Growth remains a key value of the company. Bondi Sands plans to launch more than 80 new products across four different categories in the next 18 months and, in addition by continuing.
to expand its retail channels within its current territories, it is also entering another 10,000 stores over the next few months to bring the total number of stores to over 30,000 worldwide.
With regards to professional growth and building high performance teams, Bondi Sands continues to invest in training and development for its 80+ strong team globally with offices in Melbourne, London & Los Angeles. This investment in training and development curriculums around the world ensure the team members continue to challenge themselves and reach new heights.
Thanks to Shaun Wilson and Jacob Muraca
Interview by Melinda Sullivan
PR Helen Reizer HRPR