- Category: Entrepreneurs Stories
Chris is nothing if not opportunistic. When his wife was offered a trading position in Hong Kong, Chris contacted Champion System, who had been supplying the wares for a bike wholesaler with whom Chris was working in Sydney.
He understood the industry, had the runs on the board and it was clear that Chris was a ‘go-getter’. It meant the powerbrokers in Hong Kong had no hesitation in hiring him.
“I started with Champion System as an employee in Hong Kong in 2008,” Chris recalls. “I was tasked with bringing the business into Australia.”
The Australian arm of Champion System was officially opened in May 2009, after a year of development by Chris.
As it turned out Chris took over the business as his own at the start of 2009.
“The opportunity to work as an employee initially gave me experience, but at the end of the day I was putting in a lot of hours and setting up some big things so I figured I may as well be doing the same thing but getting a bigger benefit out of it by being a business owner.”
Thus Champion System Australia was born with the mantra to carry on the legacy of being one of the best sportswear producers in the world and make the company a dominant force in the domestic market.
“Champion System produces a high quality technical garment at a competitive price. We produce garments for cycling, triathlons, marathons, running, rowing rugby and casual wear that are a high end and can be customised to your tastes. If you’re a club, a team, a corporate, you can get a high quality technical sports garment designed how you would like them: you receive your own colours, logo and identity whilst wearing the best gear available.”
The decision to sell into the Australian market was an important one and a game changer for Chris.
“When I was doing my work from Hong Kong I did a lot of business over the phone and visited Australia regularly. I realised that if I wanted the business to be a success and if I wanted to make it grow then I needed to make an investment in Australia. It was a big decision, but a necessary one.”
Chris took a personal approach – the only way really to run a successful business – by concentrating on quality and service, rather than price. His directive was to look at ways of improving the product and seek new markets to infiltrate.
"If you’re dedicated to something then you can just go out and do it. If you think you can achieve something, rather than thinking about it and passing on your idea to someone else, just go out and try it yourself. Chances are you’ll be a success."
“We identified the corporate market was in need of service and their suppliers for custom clothing were scattered: one supplier provided socks, another jerseys and others casual wear. We saw it as an opportunity to become one supplier with a high quality, competitive product.”
The move into the corporate space provided a dual benefit; volume of sales as well as brand exposure increased among the corporate sector.
Corporate businesses took to Champion System Australia because of the quality on offer.
“We have independent testing to make sure our fabrics do what their meant to do. We have a research and development team that talk to different suppliers to create fabrics based on our needs. They produce fabrics that are unique and industry relevant. Our customers know they are receiving quality products and this builds a quality brand. However, it’s not just the quality of the product that matters it is also the quality of service we offer. It’s not just
the jersey; it’s the whole experience that is high quality.”
That experience is backed up by a platform and system that goes above and beyond what competitors are offering. Chris has built a strong tech base to design an order portal that allows Champion System Australia to handle a large base of customers with a small amount of staff. He is also savvy to the power of online buying.
“The fact that we have a purely online design/order/payment portal is pretty rare in this industry. It is a fully integrated system that allows a customer to log on, do design work, order and pay online. We have a backup office in Sydney and Melbourne for customers to call up with any problemsat any time. The whole technological advancement is really a first for this industry. Other companies have dabbled in it but none have got the whole kit and caboodle as we have.”
Chris’s free spirit has been important to the growth of Champion System Australia. He is not afraid to take a risk, to make a mistake (of which he says he has made plenty), or go for broke on an idea. And he has been supported and mentored by Champion System’s global owner.
“The owner of the business globally was a mentor to me when I started up and gave me a lot of advice of what worked, what didn’t and what to look out for,” Chris says. It was really just drawing on his experience, my experience and getting in there and having a go.”
The growth and success of Champion System Australia can be put down to drive and energy and Chris encourages anybody with those traits to give business a go.
“If you’re dedicated to something then you can just go out and do it. If you think you can achieve something, rather than thinking about it and passing on your idea to someone else, just go out and try it yourself. Chances are you’ll be a success.”
It all comes back to freedom and having confidence in your ability. Once you’ve embraced that creating a business, may be as easy as riding a bike.
If you are interested in updates from Champion System Australia, follow them on Twitter @campsys, Facebook or visit their website at http://www.champ-sys.com.au/