Chantelle Flynn is one of three Australian co-founders of TiiPii – a luxurious, transportable floating hammock that can be packed into a carrier bag of less than 5kgs.
Its minimalist design has led to a successful track record of sales in Flynn’s native Australia and the company is now making its first moves into Europe and the UK.
Inspired by her time spent in Bali, TiiPii’s exponentially expanded within the furniture retail sector resulting in a 300% increase in sales in the last six months alone.
Flynn speaks to BLM about the product, how hard it is to move into the UK market and how to advertise a completely new concept.
Can you give our readers an overview of TiiPii? What inspired you?
TiiPii is a luxurious, transportable hanging hammock bed that provides a unique relaxing space for your friends, family and children. When not in use, it packs right back down into a canvas carry bag so can be taken absolutely anywhere. Truly embodying the essence of a nomadic teepee.
There were many inspirational factors that led us to design the TiiPii. First and foremost was that all three of us co-founders are avid travellers, and we had always admired the many opportunities that people allow themselves to just stop and ‘be’ when they’re exploring the world. All of us make promises to ourselves to continue to do just that when we return back to the grind and normality. These promises usually last about week or two!
How did living in Bali help with the design of the product?
Bali was instrumental in the design of TiiPii Bed, in more ways than one. Essentially on that island was where the idea came to us. All of us had lived in Bali at one stage or another. It’s an incredibly inspirational spot on earth. We not only loved the beauty and serenity, but also the concept and way in which people choose to live their lives out there.
There are many expats and entrepreneurs on the island, but they hardly ever restrain themselves to an office environment. At first glance you expect the people by the pool or on the beach tapping away on their laptops to be holidaymakers. But after you live there, you learn that these people are actually running businesses from these very spots.
It’s a completely different mentality out there. It’s balanced. People make time for themselves, their wellbeing, their loved ones and what makes them happy. People have their jobs or businesses, responsibilities and chores, but it’s like they live as if they are on holiday. It’s beautiful to see.
And so from that very concept, TiiPii Bed was born. We wanted to bring that opportunity back for everyone – to allow a little peaceful pod from Bali, or a slice of Spain into our everyday homes. We asked ourselves why just save those serene moments for everywhere else but our normal day-to-day lives?
Why did you set up the company and create the product? Was there a gap in the market?
The deciding factor after being so inspired by the above came after we completed in depth market research and found that there wasn’t anything out there like this in the market. Yes, you can get a hammock or an egg chair most places, but they don’t really allow you to share the tranquillity with your nearest and dearest. We had a successful online outdoor furniture brand in Australia that primarily sold hanging garden furniture, so we had the advantage of knowing the industry and demographic well.
We collated our five years of customer feedback and advice, and realised people really did want something that was versatile and transportable. That could be shared with several people or enjoyed on your own. That didn’t have to be a static piece in the garden, but could be taken with you anywhere you very well pleased. So, we set to work on the drawing board.
Can you give our readers some financial stats about your growth?
The first two years of trading we saw 50% growth in turnover each year and then moving into year three we’ve now successfully scaled the business up by selling directly to retailers and distributors, which has seen a 10-fold increase in sales as a result.
What made you move into the European market?
We started to see a definite and rather rapid increase in online sales coming from European countries via our web platform that was based in Australia at the time, in particular the UK, Germany, Spain & France. When we combined this with Europe’s growing population and the access to a larger market in comparison to Australia it made our decision quite easy to cross the water.
Did you have any concerns trying to enter the UK market?
We had reservations around the seasonality. Being a product that typically sells well in the summer months we wondered how setting up in a country with harsher colder seasons would go. We had done our initial research into consumer spending in our market categories and we knew there was a market statistically, but didn’t know how the seasons would impact on the sales of the range.
How did you enter your product in the UK retail market?
With quite a limited marketing budget at the beginning we tried to maximise our exposure by selling on third party platforms such as Amazon, Not On The High Street and Etsy. These platforms were a great way to launch our range into the masses without having to compete with the larger advertising budgets that some of our larger competitors would have.
Can you give our readers some advice in entering a product into the UK market?
Do the research into your target market spending on your particular category of products, and get to know your competitors intimately. The UK is also highly regulated, so be sure to comply with all standards. The UK also has good support grants and mentor programs for start-ups that assist with all areas of bringing a product to market and raising capital. Research these and utilise the governments’ resources available to you. They are fantastic.
How do you market something that is a completely new concept?
You only know if your idea is new if you’ve done your research and know both your existing, and potential competition. Likewise, you need to understand your ideal customer and know where they hang out. You’ll then know who to target and where to find them.
Of course, you’ll need to be able to define your USPs – what features will your product have that your ideal audience will value the most? You might be able to reach your most promising potential customer, but if you’re not offering them anything new, or unique, don’t expect them to respond.
With all this knowledge, you can then define your marketing strategy, focusing on the online channels your ideal customers use the most, learning how they use them to interact, what language they use, etc.
Just make sure you test your strategy before rolling-out your campaign.
What does the term entrepreneur mean to you?
Being an entrepreneur is as simple as finding your passion, and learning how to form a business around it.
Discovering your true passion can take a while, but if you truly believe in an idea, and are willing persevere and pour your heart and soul into it, then you’re bound to succeed.
A common characteristic of entrepreneurs is they think big and dream big. Learn to think this way and don’t limit yourself.