After finishing school, David De La Fontaine spent 6 months living the dream — travelling and surfing.
When he was offered a full time job concreting, his father asked David to work as a sales rep for the family business, a children’s clothing company, Kaboosh, where his brother, John, was already helping out.
He accepted and, after only 5 days of cold calling, he had generated $60,000.
“The brand stood for great quality, bright fun baby and children’s clothing. At the time there were no other brands creating bold primary coloured clothing for kids so Kaboosh found a gap in the market which it dominated for 20 years,” says De La Fontaine.
Much like their father, the brothers had a hunger for building something from the ground up. They decided that it was time to go into business for themselves and took their experience to start their own children’s clothing company, Korango, in 2014, exactly 20 years after their dad had launched his brand.
“When I think about why I wanted to start my own business a myriad of things run through my head — to set higher, more exciting goals, to prove to myself that I can create a successful business, to prove to others that said that I can’t, to make a product that I am proud of,” says says De La Fontaine. “My life revolves around setting extremely high goals and striving to achieve them and starting a business has been one of those things.”
Let Kids Be Kids is the Korango motto, and they try to inject this mentality into every item of clothing that they sell. They are brightly coloured, playful and on-trend.
“We want kids to embrace childhood and love the clothes they’re wearing so we cater the clothes around exactly that by designing fun, adventurous, great quality products,” says De La Fontaine.
“When we’re designing our ranges we only have two criteria that we base our designs off. ‘Will kids enjoy wearing these clothes?’ and ‘Would I buy these clothes for my kids?’ If the answer is yes to both of these questions then the designs move forward. We also have built up a comprehensive understanding of what works and doesn’t work for baby and children’s clothing over the 14 years we have been in the industry.”
Being a small Victorian business, there was room for growth. Korango’s relationship with the Commonwealth Bank began the same way as it has with quite a few Australians — with a Dollarmites account when he was a kid.
This grew into a business banking account and eventually Korango was nominated to be a part of the Think Tank program in CBA’s Innovation Lab.
“We took part in a two-day intensive workshop to discover the core values of our customers and come up with an innovative product which will assist in connecting customers with our business,” says De La Fontaine. “Two business marketing experts from the CBA were assigned to help us work on our business each day — they were both awesome!”
Rather than pitch to theoretical customers, members of the public were introduced to the Korango team for feedback. “It was our job to try to get to find out what the core values of these people were,” says De La Fontaine.
“We found out that one of those is having a sense of community, so we came up with some ideas with the experts based on this.”
He continues, “Going into the testing phase confidently we presented our ideas to people who gave us real feedback. It was then we realised that it’s so easy to build up an idea in your head that you think is great but it actually doesn’t have that much appeal, or has a lot of flaws that you can’t see until it’s out there being tried by the consumer.
“After doing our best to then tweak our design to suit what our consumers were after we then presented our innovative idea to a board of directors at the CBA.”
The lesson that David and the Korango team learned is one that has stuck with them, and is helping drive the business forward.
“Digging into what drives people to buy your service or product is something that often doesn’t even get looked at in a business. I can say that we’re are guilty of that — focusing on what you believe in and not thinking about why the customers who are purchasing your products are doing so. Testing your ideas in a ‘Fail Fast’ environment, so no time or money is wasted, is an awesome concept which all businesses should try.
“CBA has opened our eyes to how easily you can test out a service or product without having to spend huge amounts of time or money. We now implement the tactics used in the Think Tank experience in our everyday operations here.”
Innovation can come in all forms, and for Korango it has been these epiphanies that is helping them to make changes to transform their future as a business.
“As a small business owner it is really hard to take a step back and work on your business rather than focusing on the day to day. We have tweaked the way we normally do things by using the simple principles learnt at the Think Tank. The way we interact with our customer is now much more client-centric rather than focusing on ‘our’ business.
It has [also] made us think differently about innovation. We now know how to test out ideas easily before any time and money is spent on innovative ideas.”
Do you want to see your business grow and innovate? Accept CBA’s 21-day challenge over at their website.
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