A WHEELIE COOL IDEA.
Established in 2008 Wheeliedesigns.com created a new trend that swept the streets of Australian suburbia. Now when bin day arrives neighbourhoods come alive with wheelie cool bin stickers curb side!
As chief colour-inerer for this business it has been such a wonderful journey.
Ruth Tomas first approached me with the idea to paint wheelie bins, back then I owned a signage business so it made sense for her to seek creative advice and see if other people also thought her idea had potential. Potential?…..@#$!%!!!
THE EARLY DAYS.
Can you imagine the fun in planning the design ranges for launch! We created shot lists and commissioned a brilliant photographer to shoot all types of pavers, fencing, stonewalls, and extensive varieties of flowers and plants that flourish in the Whitsundays where the business is based. We got to work illustrating beautiful girly artworks and set off to the Airlie Beach markets to start testing our product.
The great part about a markets environment in a tourism town is we got plenty of global feedback about our idea… and we learnt very quickly that we didn’t have enough blokey/masculine designs in our range. So we went back to the drawing board and that’s when our best seller ‘Howzat’ cricket stump sticker was born.
THE QUIRKY GIFT FOR THE FRIEND WHO HAS IT ALL!
The company was started just before the GFC hit and we knew that we'd struggle to get customers to pay $34.95 to decorate their bin so we decided early on that we'd market our product as a gift item.
The logical step was to roll the bin stickers for shipping and the closest existing packaging we could find were the rose tubes that florists use!
Fitted with a gift tag and instruction sheet we were ready to go!
On a research trip to a Reed Gift Fair we went to a free workshop on getting products from idea phase to global markets…. it truly felt like the workshop was made for us! We instantly gelled with presenter Federico Re from Creative Entrepreneur and contracted him as our business development coach. The knowledge and training we received in a year of working with Federico will stay with us for life.
Early on thousands of dollars was invested in search engine optimisation… back then no one was searching for bin stickers as they didn’t really exist. But today we reap the benefit of this investment with most of our business being driven by google.
INNOVATION V’S IMITATION.
When we were comfortable with our website and product range we started a national PR campaign. We generated over $100,000 across newsprint, magazines and radio. Within less than 24 hours of having an article published in the Courier Mail finance section we had our first competitor.
A guy in Brisbane registered every variant of our domain name and had a pop up stall at a Brisbane Home Show within 2 weeks of seeing our business. As an artist it hurts when someone copies your idea, let alone when they act as though they actually are you! Luckily for us on this occasion the plagiarist didn’t put in enough effort and breached so many counts of copyright laws we were able to demand he cease trading.
It didn’t stop there though… sign shops around Australia started making versions of us, some of them even blatantly stole art files directly from our website!
I still remember at our first wholesale product launch at the Reed Gift Fair when a cheesy looking business man in a suit walked into our booth, he grinned from ear to ear, he was wearing no visible trade tag and took all of our marketing collateral without making eye contact. I’m certain his job was to source all new innovations then head straight to China for mass production.
We were a small company and these guys are used to ripping off people's ideas ‘legally’. Thankfully the $2 shop bin sticker fad has almost passed, but it’s still disheartening to see the occasional faded stickers deteriorating over bins. Their lifespan is less than 3 months in outdoor sunlight, our product lasts for up to 5 years… it has definitely had a negative impact on our business. I use the phrase ‘character building’ for every time we hit a hurdle and we've had to learn quickly to pick and choose our battles.
We’ve come a long way and maintained market position as the official wheelie bin sticker company. The business is based online, with 100’s of designs to choose from for gifts. As a designer I love it when someone gets my humour and buys one of my favourite artworks. Bin stickers really are a form of self expression and we have lots of fun creating designs to suit all tastes.
To this day we still get surprised by the custom orders we get, a woman just ordered an I LOVE MY GARBO sticker for a christmas gift!
Heading into our 7th year of business we have redeveloped the website 5 times… and it’s due for another make over. Keeping up with technology especially in the areas of e-commerce, mobile devices and consumer engagement is an ongoing job.
We have several business divisions; Business on a Bin is really popular with small-medium enterprise choosing our outdoor product to spread their corporate message, schools nationally get their kids involved in creating environmental education based stickers, even festivals like Splendour in the Grass hide their wifi internet terminals inside bins for ticketing transactions!
The future for this stinky business is more than bright!