Long-time readers of this blog might remember the series of interviews (1, 2, 3 & 4) I did with young entrepreneur Steven Pawsey, who (while a first year undergrad) had kicked off a nifty umbrella business under the Stevie Marx banner.
Fifteen months on, we have had another (lengthy) email exchange about the progress of his business. Here’s part one:
André: So, Steven, it’s been a while. What have been the big shifts for Stevie Marx over the past 15 months or so?
Steven: The past year or so has been an interesting time of growth and development from Stevie Marx, expanding the number of brands it has from one to three . We now have Stevie Marx for women, Marx - a unisex offering that opens up the male demographic, and Mini Marx for kids.
Fifteen months ago Stevie Marx only ranged one type of product in one retailer. Thanks to a lot of hard work ,Stevie Marx now supplies another two top Australian retailers, Super Cheap Auto and Boating Camping and Fishing (B.C.F) with the Marx brand. Together that is about an additional 300 stores nationwide.
Furthermore, the core range of compact umbrellas has been expanded to include an amazing large sized C-Thru umbrella that will be hitting Priceline in May! This higher dollar item is allowing us to reach out to more umbrella consumers nationwide at the more expensive but still affordable $14.99 – $19.99 price point.
The other exciting development has been the creation of the Stevie Marx Handbag Organiser Range that has been in Priceline for the past three months. This is our first move away from just the humble umbrella and the retail sales have been strong which has been extremely rewarding.
The Handbag Organiser is a PVC series of 5 pockets that allows women to store things like iPods, Sunglasses, Keys, Wallets, Pens all in one organiser that can moved from bag to bag. The success of this first range will hopefully lead to a development in this range to offer more material, sizing and design options shortly.
And the final major development over the past 14 months has been the early steps to create Stevie Marx USA. We have designed new ranges of umbrellas styles and complimentary products of gumboots and Rraincoats to tackle this market strongly and we have be getting exceptional responses from our first few presentations in the USA. No doubt this will the focus of the next 12 months.
André: What is the logic behind the three brands?
Steven: Stevie Marx, the female and original brand has created us an amazing platform for us to be recognised for our design work and retail value.
However, when you limit yourself at mass market to just one gender you are restricting your potential.
Thus, we implemented Marx and Mini Marx. Marx is a unisex brand that has some male designs and some female designs that can be ranged in more male dominated arenas such as Super Cheap Auto and B.C.F. Retailers don’t like brands in their stores that just don’t fit. Umbrellas are products that fit both genders for obvious reasons, but Stevie Marx does not due to its highly feminine brand. These brands don’t compete or conflict with each other, they more complement each other and it allows us to design on at a greater scope for all retailer in this country and the world.
As for Mini Marx the children’s market for rainwear is extremely solid and is one we have identified as one we would like to compete it. We have started presenting this range to national retailers and no doubt in the near future we will be able to name our first official partner to be ranging Mini Marx.
Andre: Do you use the same Chinese producer for all three?
Steven: Yes, my maker and I develop all the ranges together. He has the capabilities, so far, to make or get made all the products that we are developing or have developed.
Andre: Could you have launched with all three? Or did it require a build of awareness with your customers/distributors?
Steven: The answer to this question is probably yes.
However, I believe if we did we probably would not have been as effective at understanding our identity and target markets. Stevie Marx has built a strong brand very aware of its customer and the people that likes to buy Stevie Marx products. We are developing that now with Marx and soon to be Mini Marx.
The titled level of expansion allows you to firstly not overextend yourself and secondly to actually get what you’re doing right. We only expanded on the original Stevie Marx because we thought it was time and we were ready to take the next steps in developing a greater customers for the company.
When you develop more than one brand at one time you really do open the door for misjudgment and confusion in what you stand for. It also makes it easier when you are developing the second and third brand to not make the mistakes you might have made with the first brand and it normally takes less time to develop. I think it really only takes 1 or 2 seconds of looking at our products or website design for Stevie Marx to see who the target is and what service it provides- which is ideally what you need your brand to do.
I do admit it probably is a little easier doing that for a distinctive pinkish female brand than a more mild black uni sex brand, however these are the challenges you must face in product and brand development.
Stay tuned for the next instalment of this interview early next week. And start firing through some follow-up questions for Steven. He is a mightily obliging fellow.