A passion for the environment and love for outdoor adventure sparked the imagination of Dean Leibbrandt, his wife, Tegan and brother, Jaryd to create products that would encourage people to ‘get naked’ with nature and spend less time with technology, while doing good.
“We would be on holidays all over the world from Asia and South Africa to Europe and here in Australia and were appalled by the amount of plastic bottles, straws and wrappers on the beautiful beaches, which was a starting point to find a solution,” Dean told Retailbiz in a recent interview.
Taking inspiration from their love for boating, camping and fishing, as well as a desire to leave the corporate world and start a business, the Nakie brand was born and the world’s first 100% recycled hammock was created – made from 37 plastic bottles with a lifetime warranty.
“We love spending time outdoors, but we wanted to make a difference. The name Nakie came from wanting to get people away from the hustle and bustle of work life and technology and instead to spend more time outdoors.”
Founded in 2019, just a few months before Covid hit, Dean says the pandemic helped the business gain traction as more people shopped online.
“When we started Nakie, a small percentage of total retail sales were online but during Covid, people didn’t have any other way to buy camping gear or hammocks and they were forced to buy it online. Not only can our hammocks be used while travelling or going to the beach, but they can also be used at home between trees or verandah posts, which was useful during lockdowns. I suppose Covid gave us a bit of a head start.”
Expanding into Anaconda stores
The product range had been selling direct on the Nakie website – until now – with the company partnering with outdoor adventure and sporting retailer, Anaconda.
“Given my retail background, when we first started, we weren’t sure if we wanted to get into retail because it can be difficult to attribute where the sales are coming from and where your spend is going, but now that the business is bigger and cash isn’t as tight, it made sense to take the leap,” Dean said.
“Anaconda is a national retailer with over 80 stores around the country, so we are excited to see how the products go and we’re going to drive as much noise as possible. It’s also perfect timing for our products from beach towels and hammocks to picnic blankets and summer shirts, ahead of Christmas and the summer season.”
Sustainability at the core
Every single Nakie product is made from recycled material and the company has made a deliberate decision to only make products from recycled material.
“It can be a bit more expensive, and it is frustrating when we see other brands say they’re environmentally conscious, but then produce a product that could’ve been made from recycled materials. We’ve put our hand on our heart and said that’s all we’re going to do,” Dean said.
“Nakie is B Corp certified and has the number one ranked score in the Asia Pacific region in our category, and the third highest score in the world for our category. Beyond product, sustainability is part of everything we do. Our overarching strategy is how we can make a difference, not just a profit.
“We try to remove as many plastic bottles out of landfill, oceans and waterways, and put them into our products. We have also partnered with 10 Tree to plant four trees for every product sold. 10 Tree was the first company to come up with the initiative of planting trees for products.
“There are other companies that plant trees, and while we could’ve planted them in Australia or Canada (where 10 Tree was founded), they’re planted in low socioeconomic countries like Madagascar and Kenya, giving people jobs and planting trees at the same time. In the last month alone, we’ve planted over 300,000 trees.”
Importance of seamless shipping
Nakie has been working with ShipStation for about nine months after trying to find a shipping provider that could do it all.
“We’ve got a 3PL in Canada and we do our picking and packing in-house. We were using another shipping provider, but it was a bit clunky, and they weren’t able to fulfill orders in Canada. We had to manually fulfil the orders instead of them coming through the shipping platform directly.
“With a few other providers, you’re unable to print a label and order slip simultaneously – you need to do one than the other and join them together – but with ShipStation, this was possible, which was super important.
“There’s also the ability to edit the slip, which is particularly useful when customers order more than one quantity of the same product. If there are two or three units, we can use bold text and enlarge the text size, so it’s not missed, which reduces errors in picking and packing, while saving money. We can also colour code products – a green hammock versus a blue picnic blanket.
“ShipStation is also one of the only platforms that integrates with DHL, FedEx and Australia Post, compared to other platforms that only integrate with some but not all. ShipStation is a one stop shop and more user friendly than other platforms we’ve used.”
Leveraging other tech platforms
Nakie uses Facebook Ads and Dean describes Facebook’s data as ‘next level’.
“We also use TikTok, Snapchat and Pinterest, which are all AI-driven and help with advertising creative and intuitive dashboards with campaign reporting, allowing us to scale the business exponentially,” he said.
“For emails, marketing automation platform, Klaviyo is second to none because there’s minimal manual interaction required. It’s all there ready to go. From a profit and loss perspective, we use Triple L which shows real-time data around profitability, margins, ad spend, order quantity and average order value. This helps us keep the finger on the pulse on how we’re tracking.”
Looking ahead to 2024
With rising interest rates, budgets are being squeezed compared to the last couple of years, but Nakie is hoping 2024 will be a prosperous year, given it’s launching a range of new products.
“We just launched a new backpack in time for Black Friday – a 30 litre foldable backpack that can fit into your pocket to take more easily on the go. There’s another couple of products on the horizon that will be released in the next six months.”
Aside from product innovation, another major focus for Nakie is on consumer education. “We are always trying to work out how we can educate consumers, particularly the younger generation, about recycling and hopefully, in the not-too-distant future, they can drive the establishment of manufacturing facilities in Australia. There are currently no local facilities or mills that can turn plastic bottles into fabric so we can only do this in China.
“But we’ve purchased an industry-first shredding machine and plastic moulding injection machine, so we can visit local schools to educate students about the environment and recycling, as well as reusing and repurposing things. We want the students to collect plastic bottles and caps so we can show them how they can give them a new life.”