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Liam Scanlan from Eat Your Water

Adam Spencer_Small Circle

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Featured Image_Liam Scanlan from Eat Your Water

This episode was made in part by the support of SingularityU Australia. 

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Today you’re going to hear the story of Eat Your Water featuring Liam Scanlan. 

Before we go back to the beginning, here’s where we are today, Liam has been named one of the top 50 people in e-commerce in the whole of Australia. In November 2019 alone over 100,000 people went through the Eat Your Water store and Eat Your Water has one of the lowest cost per purchases at 27 cents per purchase with an average order value of $56. 

Very impressive numbers and Liam is an impressive guy and is only 23 years old. Now, let’s go back to day one where this story begins…

Transcript

Liam:

I didn’t tell my parents that I started the business and they only started to get suspicious as the boxes were getting bigger and bigger, showing up at the front door, asking what that was. 

Adam:

Hi, Welcome to Day One, the show for regional startups and the organisations that support them. 

Today’s episode was made in part by the support of New Economy Media, publisher of new economy news – innovation news without the jargon. Read more at neweconomy.media. Also, thank you to Welcome to Day One’s newest patron, Murray Hurps and I’m very grateful to our existing patrons who have supported the show and our mission on Patreon. It means a great deal, thank you.

I’m Adam Spencer and today I’m going to share with you the story of Eat Your Water. Eat Your what? 

Liam:

Even though I say it, Eat Your Water, people go eat your what? I think it sticks and people look at it and you know it attracts attention.

More

Adam:

With it’s founder Liam Scanlan.

Liam:

My name is Liam Scanlan. I’m the founder and director of Eat Your Water, one of Australia’s fastest-growing and largest independent surf brands. 

Adam:

Before we go back to the beginning, here’s where we are today, Liam has been named one of the top 50 people in e-commerce in the whole of Australia. In November 2019 alone over 100,000 people went through the Eat Your Water store and Eat Your Water has one of the lowest cost per purchases at 27 cents per purchase with an average order value of $56. 

Very impressive numbers and Liam is an impressive guy and is only 23 years old. Now, let’s go back to day one where this story begins…

Music

Adam: 

We start this story on Liam’s very first day of University.

Liam:

I got an average ATAR and I got into Marine biology. 

Adam:

Liam was in his car on his way back home from Newcastle University’s Ourimbah campus where he had just sat through his first lecture and something wasn’t sitting quite right with him.

Liam:

I pulled over and I called my mum and I said this isn’t for me. So that was a shock to the system. Realizing on the very first day something that I thought I wanted to do, that I spent five years studying to essentially lead to that. That wasn’t what I was going to do. It literally in one day, in an hour and or one or two-hour lecture, I was like this is not what I want to actually do.

Adam:

During this time Liam had been working as a checkout chick at a supermarket and had become so accustomed to people’s routines to the point that he knew what they were coming in to buy before they bought it. So much so that he decided then and there that he didn’t want that kind of life, the normal 9-5, then 3 weeks later…

Liam:

…I was sitting outside pinkies, which is a small convenience store on the Callaghan campus. And I literally opened up an Instagram page. I download a logo designer app on my phone and ordered three designs for three T-shirts from Vistaprint. And then it all went from there. I honestly had no idea what I was doing.

So I ordered the t-shirts and they came in and it was literally me on Google learning how to do everything.

I remember I got those three t-shirts and I did a giveaway for them to start getting some interest.

Then I ordered maybe I think 15 t-shirts of this one design and I had 3000, roughly 3000 followers at the time. And a lot of interest was sort of happening around this design. I put it up online and told everyone, and then the post started getting likes and there was literally no sales. So I think I told people about 6 o’clock and then I think about 9:30 my first sale came in, so it took three and a half hours for 3000 followers to sell one t-shirt. We should, I think people sort of realize they go, you know, 3000 followers, you should be s elling a fair few as it is. Which sort of made me realize that it’s going to be difficult slog. And then I think the next day I sold 2. So, but it was literally just learning from there.

Adam:

Liam only invested a total of $1500 into the business and that was over the course of 3 months at the very start.

Liam:

I only have invested $1,500 and never invested in another cent in the business. And then it was just constantly reinvesting, saving my money and not taking any money out of the business for two and a half years. And I think that’s sort of a, an error that a lot of startups, especially in the fashion industry have, they want to have a quick return on buck. But you, I guess one thing I’ve learned is you’ve got to sell a hell of a lot of t-shirts to be  able to pay yourself. 

I guess it was just learning how to get people engaged  with, with a concept that they thought was a business and getting them excited about it. So the timeline, it was probably March was when I started it and it was, it was a drawn out process and that $1,500 that I was sort of talking about that was probably spent within three months. And that was sort of once we got that first batch of t-shirts in $1,500 in hindsight was about $1,200 more than what I needed to spend. But I didn’t know what I was doing, so I was just spending sort of like crazy and yeah, I sort of just went from there.

Adam:

But Liam doesn’t regret spending more than he probably needed to. 

Liam:

I guess $1,500 felt like a fair bit of a whack. But one thing I tried to stress to as many, especially younger people that I can, is that when you’re young, you don’t actually have that many responsibilities. You don’t have a mortgage, you don’t often, You don’t often have a mortgage or a family. For instance, so your responsibilities are pretty low. So there wasn’t as much risk, I guess at the time when I put $1,500 in. And you know, in hindsight $1,500 is not much.

Adam:

A new small, independent surf brand vs. the big boys, like Rip Curl, Billabong and Quicksilver, how do you even do that? Liam had a plan. 

Liam:

So despite, I had very few products, like I literally had three products. I made it look like we had a lot and that we were sold out. So Eat Your Water from the start was really trying to make it look like we, and this is something that I see extremely important in business and we still do it today and like were doing between a year ago and so on. But it’s to actually give your customers a reason to buy from you. We obviously have like different values and things like that, but we needed to make it look like we were just like any other huge surf brand. 

Adam:

As he sold each batch of t-shirts, he would reinvest that money back into the business to purchase more stock.

Liam:

So pretty much as soon as I sold them, it was start doing new designs and get the next lot in and that maybe took another three months.

Adam:

And then it was simply rinse and repeat for the next 9 months. Continuing to reinvest in the business and grow the marketing channels.

Music

Liam:

It was sort of an interesting first year. So if we go in March to March, I, I’m pretty sure within that first 12 months we had amassed around 25,000 followers on Instagram and we sort of ignored every other social media platform there was. But during that sort of year I was lucky cause this was when the Instagram algorithm was very, very different and very, very basic to what it is now. So there were a lot of easy ways that would no longer be available to grow an Instagram audience.

Adam:

Sales were going up as Eat Your Waters marketing  channel continued to grow, but it wasn’t until Liam took his own advice around looking bigger than you are that sales really started to pick up. 

Liam:

Probably that first year, maybe two years. It was very   linear. It was sort of like you were sort of just like, there wasn’t a huge excess just cause we’re getting more followers. It wasn’t until I really started to toy with new ideas of how to actually get stock in. So rather than probably this is where something I did extremely well and extremely right, was rather than ordering, spending my like stock budget on one or two designs, I spent it on maybe eight designs but in extremely low quantity. So I was able to once again go back to that thing where we looked bigger than what we were. So it looked like we had a lot of designs even though there weren’t many of them, it meant that if a design flopped, I wasn’t losing a lot of money. But if a design went really well, I was getting a lot more feedback from my customers.

Adam:

2nd year in things really started to pick up and what would become one of Liam’s biggest adversaries began to make itself known. Keeping up with demand.

Liam:

So that was sort of the first year, but I guess when you sort of get to 25,000 followers, the supply versus demand was something that was difficult to keep up with because followers aren’t actually bringing in money. And because I never invested in another cent, cent, and never got a loan, it was sort of like this, this loop of I had to keep ordering stock in batches that were getting incrementally bigger, but the demand was actually getting even bigger and bigger as we were going. And, and, and still to this day, it’s a struggle keeping up with demand versus supply. Like it’s, it’s December now and I think 16 or 17 of the 21 caps we have on, on our website are currently sold out and that’s going into the busiest time of the year. So, and that’s the whole battle with the supply chain, which is sort of my arch nemesis because it’s this thing that will always tightening and tightening and getting better and better. But it’s this chase for the eternal perfect supply chain.

Adam:

Liam’s marketing channels have grown quite a bit since that fateful day out the front of Pinkies.

Liam:

There’s definitely ones that are more prominent than others, but there’d be Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Vimeo, Twitter, Snapchat. So seven.

Adam:

But Instagram remains the strongest channel followed by people searching for the brand on Google and Facebook is coming in third, as Liam has just recently began to put more focus it. 

Liam:

I would have had Facebook at the s ame time, but it was very sort of bare the Facebook page. Maybe like 1000 likes. Now I think it’s a 25,000 ish. I’ve started to put a push to it.

We sort of got to naturally, when you’re running campaigns you just get likes ticking over. So I think up until about 20,000, it was just like from the background ads running. Yeah. But in the past sort of month, I’ve just started to push more dollars towards it to actually extend their reach on Facebook. And so you can see this cool sort of insights on Facebook and you can compare yourself to competitors.

So in terms of page likes and impressions were growing up 4.7% our closest competitor is growing up 0.1%.

Adam:

Social media has been a major force for Liam and Eat Your Water. I want to say it comes naturally to Liam, because he makes it look so easy. But he has spent countless hours learning every aspect of it and has spent even more time simply using it. Even in highschool Liam was able to build a following on Instagram of 12,000 people. Liam was recently named one of the top 50 people in e-commerce in Australia, partly due to the fact of Eat Your Water’s insanely effective social media presence and advertising.

Liam:

So it was this point of time where I didn’t really know what I was doing. I was doing this just subconsciously, but I, it’s something that I think was pivotal in how Eat Your Water has gone to where it was today. I think roughly at the same time was when I really started to get into Facebook and Instagram marketing, so paid advertising and that’s the next pivotal thing for me. So like earlier this year I was named one of the top 50 people in e-commerce in the whole of Australia. So I came number 41 and pretty much the reason for that was one that our conversion rate increase over the year. And then two, we also have extremely, we probably have one of the lowest cost per purchases in the whole of Australia for fashion. So at that time it was 30 cents per purchase for one of our campaigns.

And this, this year we’ve got it down to 27 cents per purchase. So cost us 27 cents to get someone to spend roughly $56 which is our average order value.

Adam:

But Liam believes it isn’t just Facebook and Instagram that has allowed Eat Your Water to get to where it is, and in fact, Liam told me that if someone else run the exact same ads, he doesn’t think they’d be as effective, because the most important thing is the brand and your product. 

Liam:

The biggest issue that I see with most businesses trying to come up, it’s their brand and their product or service. That’s, that’s the first thing. So yeah, like a few people have come to me and said, Hey, we should start a essentially a consultancy business or marketing business. And I said, well often the issue isn’t their marketing is their brand image. And I feel like, you know, you can’t just simply cookie cutter and approach from a business to business when you look at their brand and it’s a hard thing to do because you, you’ve built, often business owners have built their brand themselves because they haven’t invested the money because it’s bloody expensive to get it custom brand build. 

My first two were done on a logo maker, like an app. My dad got an iPad mini through work that he didn’t use, so I sort of just made that my own and then I drew the Eat Your Water logo with my finger on the iPad mini. Yeah. It’s never been touched since.

Adam:

And over time the brand has evolved. Eat Your Water today is continuing to differentiate itself from its competitors and aligning itself even closer to its customers values

Liam:

I realized that it is important and as I’ve grown up and I’ve looked at what’s happening in I guess more the political and business space, you start to realize that there isn’t enough action happening and it’s a huge value for our customers that they hold dearly. So to sort of maximize and put that out then and more and more now the Eat Your Water journey is taking it to that more sustainable and even ethical, ethical place. And yeah, that’s sort of just come from my upbringing I guess.

The ultimate goal for me is within three to five years is to get Eat Your Water to a place where it actually replenishes the earth and doesn’t essentially diminish it, which not many, especially small fashion businesses truly do.

Adam:

There is no stopping Liam, I asked him if he feels successful and he said sometimes he does, but he also says is anyone truly successful? Because there is always room to grow and I think that mindset has contributed largely to his success. Just keep improving. And he is still doing that today, refining his processes, refining his supply chain, refining the customer journey.

Liam:

Probably one thing that I’ve been fascinated about is the customer journey. So from when they pick up their phone to how they actually purchased something and then like that whole after purchase journey. So I guess I’m always looking at like, I’m trying to be my customer and view and I’ll go buy something on the website and go, well, what could be better about that? So for instance, when I knew all our stock was selling out fast and I knew people were clicking on a tee shirt going in and finding out their size wasn’t available, then they’d have to go back, find another tee shirt if they clicked on that. So what we did is we did this sort of overlay thing that they’d tap on there from the collection page and then they would see, okay, my size isn’t available. So rather than having to go in, they just simply tap it once and it would show if their product, if the, if the size is available. So we made that mobile friendly and desktop friendly and that was simply just shortening the customer journey and decreasing essentially their frustration. So it’s things like that. And I always try to put myself in the customer sort of situation and see what our process is like. And it’s constantly tweaking that.

Adam:

And let’s finish up the Eat Your Water story with Liam’s best piece of advice. 

Liam:

Like I always say, you’ve go t to be persistent, but I don’t know if that’s, that’s right. Because being persistent doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to be successful because you see persistent. Persistency can be just seen as doing the same thing over and over again. And if you’re doing that and it’s not working, you know, and I guess that’s, that comes back to like something with a brand, for instance, if your brand’s not working, but your persistence is, so I guess it’s persistent, but consider outside view very heavily, but don’t always take their view as correct, but always take it in. 

I guess probably my best piece of advice would be put yourself in your customer’s shoes because they’re without them, you’re not going to have a business.

Adam:

Thank you for listening to the story of Eat Your Water, featuring Liam Scanlan. I hope you enjoyed it. Everything that was mentioned in the episode today is on the show notes page on welcometodayone.com.        

If you enjoyed this story, please consider subscribing to the podcast and rating the show at ratedayone.com.

And if you really loved the show, then I invite you to help us continue to tell these stories and supporting Australian Startups by pledging your support at Patreon. You can do that by going to welcometodayone.com/patreon.

Thank you for giving this episode of Welcome to Day One your attention. This story was created by me, Adam Spencer.

Interviews conducted by me, Adam Spencer.

A big thank you to Liam Scanlan for taking the time to be involved.

The script was written by me, Adam Spencer.

Music by Lee Rosevere, full attribution on our website welcometodayone.com.

This episode was produced and edited by me, Adam Spencer.

Thank you and see you next time!

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Resources mentioned

Credits

A big thank you to Liam Scanlan for taking the time to be involved.

Music Credits

Music by Lee Rosevere.

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