Wes Bundy is the owner of online bra retailer Curvy. Photo: SuppliedWes Bundy didn’t set out to become an expert in plus-size bras. But he couldn’t ignore the huge gap in the market.
At first, his wife thought he was joking. But the 34-year-old explained to her that macro trends showed that the population was changing shape, and women had larger busts.
“I could see it was pretty difficult to shop for a bra if you were size 14F or 22DD, particularly online. Even though bras are an everyday proposition for the majority of the population.”
Sizing standards vary in different parts of the world and the high cost to return an ill-fitting bra to an overseas retailer also played into his hands.
Proving the demand for bigger brasSo, Bundyjumped in, launching online plus-size bra retailer Curvy in January 2014 as an autonomous entrepreneurial venture,jointly funded by Bras N Things, to service the plus-size market. (HisUncle Brett Bundy owns Bras N Things.)
“I offered to take six months of no pay and negotiate with all the suppliers to make this happen. I was determined from the outset,” Bundy says.
Incredibly, he didn’t spend a cent on stock to launch, negotiating his first supplier to provide nearly 100 bras to test the market, ploughing earnings back into the business. “It was the only time we asked for free stock, and we sold out very quickly, proving there was market need for our online store.”
Wes BundyA shipping container for an officeBundy bought out Bras N Things’ 50 per centstake in the business at the start of 2016, determined to make his mark on the plus-size bra market.
He attributes part of his success to escaping exorbitant Sydney rent by leasing a small Storage King at $550 a month, where he began operations. “I set up the computers next to the racks of bras, coming into a shipping container to work each day.”
This calendar year, Curvy’s revenue is projected to be more than $1 million, up from $580,000 in 2016, with growth predicted to continue.
The power of knowing nothingIgnorance can be a powerful advantage when launching an online business, as Rob Hango-Zada, the founder of Shippit, says.
“I also knew nothing about logistics when I launched Shippit,” Hango-Zada says.”This ignorance means we weren’t constrained by industry norms, or shackled to the beliefs of what’s possible and what’s not – often held by upper management.”
What’s important when launching a business is to know your customer and be sure of the problem you’re trying to solve for them, Hango-Zada says.
Shippit now handles one per cent of all logistics bookings each month and has a turnover of more than $5 million.
Buoying salesBundy had partnered with his uncle before, with a previous proposal to handle the online franchise for national jewellery retailer Diva (also owned by his uncle) accepted. He built up online sales at Diva from a few hundred dollars a week to over $30,000 a week before selling the business, which is now defunct. Prior to that, Bundy was in international trade at PwC.
Surprising Curvy customers with free gifts with purchases for repeat customers have grown revenue. He also offers free shipping and absorbs the costs of free returns, which hover around 10-20 per cent.
A web service that tracks delivery emails customers about their expected arrival day and AfterPay has also buoyed sales.
“My wife thinks it’s funny that I know her mum’s and sister’s bra sizes, but she’s been really supportive, even when I wasn’t even bringing in an income for the first six months,” says Bundy.