Queensland’s Tooletries taking over the world — one shower at a time
Tooletries’ Saul Cockburn talks to us about digital success, export awards, and why a beer-holder for the shower is a good idea
Hi Saul! Now — ‘Tooletries’ is an intriguing name; what exactly do you sell?
Tooletries sells storage solutions for men’s grooming products.
Our products are made from silicone and they grip to shiny surfaces like glass, mirror and tile. They don’t require adhesives, suctions cups or permanent mounts. They include everything from our classic toothbrush-and-razor-holder to shower mirrors, hooks, and the very cool Koby toiletry bag.
How did you and your brother Josh get the idea to start the company?
We were both unhappy in our professional jobs and wanted the challenge of running our own business. We originally began with a product called the Bathroom Travel Case, which was a toiletry case designed like a small toolbox.
We then came up with our first silicone product, which was based on a ‘tool wall’ for your toiletries.
You’re based in Brisbane, Australia, but I understand that you were born digital and sold online to other countries from the start. Why was that?
We chose to use a Kickstarter campaign to launch the business. It was a great way to raise capital through pre-sales and to test the market to see if the product would sell online. To us, the barriers to entry online seemed smaller as well, so it was less daunting.
Did you also sell through bricks-and-mortar outlets in Australia?
We did start selling in a number of bricks-and-mortar retailers in Australia but we quickly shifted our focus to the USA, which is the largest consumer market in the world. We thought that if we could make it in that market, we could make it anywhere.
In 2016–17, 100% of your sales revenue came from exporting. Where are you selling now, and which are your strongest markets?
Our strongest market is far and away the USA. It makes up a good percentage of sales revenue. We are also starting to find good success in some South-East Asian countries, specifically Indonesia, Singapore, Japan and South Korea.
We’re also getting ready to re-launch the business in Australia and we expect strong sales in our local market. Tooletries products will be available in Australia from mid-September, and they’ll be stocked in Big W and Bunnings.
You won the Small Business Award in last year’s Premier of Queensland’s Export Awards. What prompted you to enter?
We really wanted to let people in Queensland and Australia know about our business, because most of our sales have been in overseas markets. We were planning to launch in Australia and thought it would bring publicity to our brand because the export awards are so well recognised here and overseas.
You then went on to also win the Small Business Award at the Australian Export Awards, which was pretty amazing. How did that feel?
We were really excited when we heard our names read out! We are a proud Queensland business and we want to show others that you do not have to be from Sydney or Melbourne to make a splash.
What benefits have you seen as a result of winning the export awards?
The export awards have been great for our business. They are recognised in many export markets, especially Asia, and we have definitely seen interest in our business directly off the back of winning the award — which is fantastic.
We also achieved our goal of letting everyone know what we do and getting more public recognition for it at home. And it was fantastic meeting the other entrants, because you can always learn a lot speaking with your peers.
I heard that winning the export award also got you a spot on the Sunrise TV show, where someone perhaps took his shirt off … true or false?
Yes — that is true! My brother [and Tooletries co-founder] Josh takes his shirt off at the drop of a hat. He even asked the camera-man to give him a 20-second warning before we went live to air so he could do some push-ups to get a pump on …
Is it also true that you sell a stick-on beer-holder for use in the shower?!
Haha — yes, it is true. It’s one of our best sellers and very popular in the USA and, funnily enough, Australia. If you’re keen, you can order it online from the Tooletries website, or Aussies can buy it from Mitre 10 stores.
Does anyone really need a beer-holder in the shower?
A hard-earned thirst needs a big cold shower beer! No-one really needs one but they are mighty enjoyable. Just check out Instagram #showerbeer and see how many people love a shower beer!
The closing date is coming up for this year’s Premier of Queensland’s Export Awards. What advice would you give to any company that is thinking about entering?
I would advise any company thinking of entering the awards to go for it! The effort is definitely worth it. If you are a finalist or winner, the exposure for your business is huge.
If you’re interested in entering the Premier of Queensland’s Export Awards 2018, or learning more about the successes of our past winners, visit the awards website.
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Trade and Investment Queensland is the Queensland government’s global business agency, helping Queensland exporters take their products to world markets, and promoting Queensland as the perfect place for investment.