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How would you react if major retailers laughed in your face at the idea of stocking your product?
Quietly walk away and concede defeat? Or believe in yourself and prove them wrong big time?
Here’s the story of one beach bum’s inspirational journey from retail rejection to global triumph.
You know how it is.
One minute you’re climbing swiftly to the top of the corporate marketing ladder, and the next minute you’ve decided to give it all up to go and bum about on the beach.
Hmm. No, you’re right, that’s not usually how it’s supposed to pan out.
But then the story of Sean Ashby and aussieBum is a pretty unusual one involving nylon swimwear, Kylie Minogue and the self-belief that is buried inside us all if you look hard enough.
Having climbed to the top of the corporate marketing ladder, Sean realised that he didn’t actually enjoy being there very much.
So he jumped off and decided instead to embrace the Australian beach lifestyle on Bondi Beach.
He was now unemployed, and he didn’t own his own home, but he was happy to be an Aussie beach bum for a while and the hours were good.
There was one snag, though.
Back in the early days of being a beach bum, Sean had always enjoyed wearing classic nylon swimwear but, by the turn of the millennium, it was becoming almost impossible to find. The fickle tide of trend had sadly turned towards Lycra which looked terrific on women...but on men?
Not so much.
There was another problem too. Sean was becoming increasingly conscious of feeling a bit stuck in a sand-shaped circular loop.
While his mates were all busy building their own successful life stories, Sean was still stranded on the beach with a head full of promising ideas but no real plan, no job, and no home to call his own.
He’d saved a bit of money for a home loan but he couldn’t find a job and he couldn’t buy a home without a job.
So, Sean put these problems together to come up with a plan for the future.
If nobody else out there could be bothered to make proper quality nylon swimwear anymore, Sean would invest every last cent of his savings into designing and producing it himself.
Sean’s thinking was that if he was going mess up his whole life, he needed to be brave enough to at least do it his way - rather than just sit back and watch it all get washed out to sea.
From the slightly less-than-glamorous location of his own dining room table, Sean Ashby took the first positive step into launching the aussieBum brand, named after a pretty accurate description of himself at the time.
Initially just selling his new range of nylon swimwear to his mates and fellow beach bums, Sean soon decided that the next natural step would be to get his brilliant products into the stores of Aussie retailers and surf shops. He began travelling around Sydney and Melbourne, knocking on the doors of retailers, and proudly showing off the natural qualities of the new aussieBum brand.
It didn’t go so good.
All those doors were slammed in his face and nobody bothered to return any of his phone calls.
One particular retailer actually gathered all his staff together to watch Sean’s enthusiastic pitch, but it wasn’t the promising sign that Sean had pinned his hopes upon. It turned out they all just wanted a good laugh at what this guy was trying to sell them.
The retailers felt that nylon-based swimwear was the exact antithesis of what customers wanted right now, and that Sean had disastrously misjudged his potential market.
Determined to prove the retailers wrong, Sean Ashby took aussieBum online.
Again, it could be argued that Sean was swimming against the tide here, as the dot bomb had recently hit hard, and many internet retailers were closing. Undeterred, Sean pushed on with the creation of a fresh and distinctive website packed with visual appeal for the core audience he instinctively knew were out there.
He roped in his mates and took photos of the whole gang on the beach wearing the aussieBum swimwear. He sent photos of his creations and samples to media publications around the world to promote the website. The spark of interest was ignited, and the orders started gradually trickling in and growing every day.
Kylie Minogue’s stylist William Baker got in touch to ask Sean to supply the entire aussieBum collection for use in the ‘Slow’ video he was styling for the legendary singer. The song and video combination was a massive hit, and a pretty big game-changer for aussieBum.
It caught the eye of a certain David Walker Smith. Sean freely admits that he’d never heard of him at the time, but he turned out be the Head of Menswear at Selfridges in London, and probably one of the most influential movers and shakers in the fashion industry.
David was captivated by the look, feel and raw honest attitude of the aussieBum brand, and Sean’s products were soon lining the shelves of Selfridges, Harrods, Harvey Nichols, and many more major retailers.
Today, aussieBum has grown from a modest dining table project in Drummoyne to a globally triumphant success story which is still a buzzing topic in business.
It’s with a certain degree of irony that many of those Aussie retailers who were quick to reject the concept are now proudly stocking the home-grown brand following the seal of approval from overseas.
Game on? Game won.
The company’s international business success is repeatedly recognised, scooping major export marketing and ecommerce awards in Australia. This includes winning the Australian Export Awards – Manufacturing in both 2007 & 2009. More recently, the company won the Australian Export Awards – eCommerce 2017.
Today the company manufactures over 1 million underwear and swimwear garments, along with fresh lifestyle apparel lines. Each and every aussieBum garment is still designed by Sean in Sydney, Australia.
Sean Ashby attributes the growing success of aussieBum to determination, self-belief and a point-blank refusal to give up on the dream.
Dare to take risks. Be inspired. Take that bold first leap.
Feel the natural spirit of aussieBum in you.
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