Tell us about the KLIM range?
It’s an evolution of the brand. We’ve got a really good loyal customer base who we’ve researched. Listening to them we found that the guys wanted something slightly more masculine. The brand was called Milk & Co, the connection back to myself and Lindy wasn’t that obvious so we put KLIM back on the bottle: KLIM by Milk & Co for the consumers to ‘get’ that there’s a local connection with an Aussie male who’s created the brand.
What’s different about this men’s range to others on the market?
We’ve got a great heritage in our old range. There are SKUs that have performed really well and, surprisingly, ones such as the Face Wash + Scrub, which prove that men’s skincare is definitely on the up - guys are using scrubs and our Moisturiser which is our second-bestseller by about 30%. We are focusing on more of what we call the 360 degree skincare fitness regime rather than a beauty-based skincare regime or anti-ageing to distinguish us from the other guys, and that we are Aussie-made. It’s not a rebadged product, the focus is that it’s already tried and tested…on myself, my friends, my family, so there is certainly a really, strong local connection.
Who is a KLIM customer?
Aussie males. It’s kind of wide, but a bull’s eye would be the demographic of Aussie male who’s very health-conscious and self-appearance is important. KLIM is a regime focusing on wellbeing and an active lifestyle, so we’ve added Invigorating Body Wash, Sports Moisturiser SPF30 and now, Deodorant. We’re doing a fragrance called Aqua Beyond by KLIM with Chemist Warehouse, sort of trying to encapsulate more the aspirational outdoor Aussie lifestyle that we’re all trying to lead.
Olympic Gold medal swimmer to skincare, what’s the connection?
I fell into it accidentally when I was coming towards my first retirement from sport. And as a swimmer spending hours in chlorinated pools and swimming outdoors, I always had dry skin and had to try to protect myself from the elements. So I sort of had an incidental insight into skincare. In 2006 or 7, the skincare market was growing by about 40%, which is quite high for Australia. Predominantly through Myer and pharmacies. So, I felt there was a great opportunity to design a range for the young, active Aussie male. I had a crack, and I launched with only three SKUs. We’ve evolved to 13 SKUs in our range.
What’s the goal in retail?
We have some great relationships with Coles and Woolworths and we’ve launched the brand into Chemist Warehouse, Sephora and Amazon, so we have some big buyers but we also have some great affiliations with About Life (Sydney-based health food and lifestyle retailer) some independent health groups and independent pharmacies have been really good. We’ve got some great extensions into amenities: we already have a presence in Best Western hotels and about 18 properties in China. We’ve just partnered with Jetstar, so we’ll be launching the business kits with them in October.
The future of Milk & Co; will you have your own reps visiting stores, topping up shelves, company training and culture education?
Absolutely. That’s the key. As I founded the business, I do all my selling. I have partners in marketing and sales, they’re the ones that can really sell, translate and explain the brand rather than maybe second or third parties.
So you’re not going to have Michael KLIM delivering the stock into the store?
I’ve been there, done that, for many years. We do have a little van, actually, which I drive. I’ve got a lot of local shops that I pass on the way home from the office and I always drop in some stock.
What’s your best sales tip?
Passion. People sometimes tell me they don’t ‘get’ my passion. I just think I’m gonna give it a go. You see guys out there that are so passionate about a certain brand, and won’t take no for an answer. That’s me.
What’s your “why?” What makes you do this every day?
It’s a very similar ‘why’ to the ‘why’ when I was swimming. Because, I try and put myself in sometimes uncomfortable situations; it’s sort of an unknown space for me and it’s almost a test. So, yeah, it’s the challenge of it. Once I’ve got the sense of purpose, it’s all about getting through to the end.
Tell us about the business challenges you’ve faced?
Probably the first one would have been financial-wise. So, managing your finances, very early on when you need to over-capitalise…it’s a catch-22, because you need to invest more to grow a business but then you need to be very cautious with the expenditure to make sure the business is taking off. Getting our business to a sustainable cash flow, not always cashflow-positive, and re-investing, that’s been probably the biggest learning curve and it’s taken us close to seven years to get there. Business planning, having a proper plan and knowing your customer, knowing your space…I’m quite opportunistic and probably one of my weaknesses is I try to appeal to everyone and every space and every channel. It’s taken me a while to make sure that I’m playing in the right space.
For the next generation of brand developers, what would be your best tips?
Innovation is probably the key. But you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Innovation of a new ingredient or packaging, application, whatever, there’s gotta be an element of innovation, a point of difference. Know the space you’re playing in; knowing your business as well as other people’s business. So, know the numbers, know yourself, know the dollars in business, it’s all about making choices every day…you’ll make bad ones, but obviously you want to make the majority of them good decisions.
OK grab one product off the shelf, what would it be and why?
I think you’ve got to go with things that are proven and things that have gone through the test of time. So, for us it’s the Face Moisturiser + Sunscreen, it appeals to everyone - every guy should be moisturising - and with the fact that it’s got SPF15 you can’t go wrong.
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