Rob Rand, 38, is the creative brain behind the KNOBBY underwear which was officially launched in 2014 and is run solely online. This Sunshine Coast small business was self-funded with a house deposit and a $500 credit card.
Q. Why did you create Knobby?
The motivation for starting KNOBBY began in 2011, when I was living in a remote country town in FNQ called Chillagoe, which was occupied by just 200 residents. With the closest shops more than three hours away, making a trip to update my undies just wasn’t going to happen.
I was interested in combining a subscription-based program with my passion for textiles and fashion. I found that current underwear on the market lacked imagination, personality and innovation. The goal was to create a long-lasting product that was fun, cheeky and put a stop to blokes walking around in underwear that had more holes in them than a golf course.
I have a tech background with vast experience in marketing and design having worked for some of Queensland’s leading agencies. I studied Graphic Design at the University of Canberra, graduating in 2000. When I was 21, during my last year at uni, I founded CRE8IVE, which was one of Canberra’s leading digital communication agencies, which I later sold after some great opportunities came up in Queensland.
Q. What’s the impact of being based on the Sunshine Coast for your small biz?
It can cost a little more to get things in and out of here, however we’re so lucky to be based on the beautiful Sunshine Coast and to live in a world where Internet access makes so much possible and makes everything seem close.
Q. Why do you only have a virtual shop?
KNOBBY is a direct to consumer, online company, sold exclusively online and is not available in retail stores.
This allows us to target specific audiences both nationally and internationally. It also allows us to provide a brilliant customer experience from beginning to end that is easy, hassle free and exciting. Receiving a KNOBBY is an experience unlike any other brand.
‘Ready for this jelly’ trunk – Knobby combines imagination & technology
Q. What is your U.S.P.?
The subscription based model offers exclusivity to our members and ensures they receive a unique, one of a kind product each month. Our designs are different each month and we collaborate with designers and artists who offer an inspiring and diverse aesthetic. Each month our customer unwraps a beautifully packaged parcel that contains a quality product with a new design. The marketing collateral is cheeky and fun and tells the story of their new undies. We are a fun, light-hearted brand that connects with customers. We’re witty, cheeky and colloquial Aussie.
Q. Why do you love being part of the small business community?
We love being a part of the small business community, such as being involved in the Telstra Business Awards because it gives us the opportunity to bench mark our business. We can stand alongside other start-ups and learn what has and hasn’t worked in their companies. It’s an opportunity to make new connections and look at the KNOBBY business model critically, so we can pin point how to make what we do even more efficient.
Q. How do you feel being one of the Telstra Business Awards finalists?
To be selected as a finalist was a crazy surprise and really cool. We have grown KNOBBY from nothing but an idea and to now see it alongside other amazing businesses in such a short time is a massive achievement to everyone in our corner.
Q. What are your goals for the coming year and the next five?
We’ve always grown from month-to-month and our goal is to continue doing this as well as maintain our incredible retention rate. The next 12 months are going to be huge for us with some really exciting new products and special editions to be released as well as a few surprises on the way!
“These undies are life changing!” Hayden M (happy customer)
Q. Impress us! Why is your small business so amazing?
KNOBBY is so much more than an underwear brand. We are very much a tech company. We are continually innovating new technology and custom building internal software to streamline our processes. We have developed an innovative custom CRM and order fulfillment platform called Backbone, specifically for KNOBBY because there was nothing on the market that fit our needs. It utilises complex algorithms to maximise efficiency and is constantly evolving to keep up with our growth.
KNOBBY delivers high quality underwear to tens of thousands of members worldwide every month for just $20.
KNOBBY underwear is assembled from the highest quality materials and utilises advanced technologies that help breathe and wick moisture away, along with protecting against bacteria and odour.
Each month, KNOBBY members receive underwear featuring a custom design. These designs are created both in-house and through collaborating with artists around the world. Each designer has a unique approach and creates pieces of art each month for our customers.
We work hard to ensure that when you receive a KNOBBY in the mail it is an exciting experience. The customer unwraps layers of meticulously designed packaging that explains the artwork in fun Aussie humour, before unveiling their new edition to their underwear drawers.
Knobby’s ‘Just Peachy’ collection from the womenswear range
Q. What have been some of the best comments from customers and why?
Our customers engage with our brand and brand personality extremely well and are most vocal on social media. They publicly post hundreds of positive reviews each month and have sent us video reviews, and have even sent us poems and songs.
Q. How many people are in your team?
Our core team is quite small and consists of four full time staff, along with several key contractors, designers and artists.
Q. What has been your busiest time so far?
Every time we release a special edition, they are incredibly popular and sell really quickly. Our recent release of the Vixen g-string sold out completely in just a few hours.
Q. Why is social media a very important part of your small business?
Social media is a key component of our marketing strategy and an integral avenue to communicate with our members. We create quirky messaging and content for our Social Media that rolls out daily.
Facebook and Instagram are our main social channels. We currently have 54,000 Facebook followers and 11,000 Instagram followers, both of which are growing rapidly.
‘There’s a bear in there’ design from the men’s 2017 collection
Q. What’s your subscription model?
Our subscriptions are $20 per month, including postage within Australia and can be cancelled anytime.
“My husband is your #1 fan.” Lucy H
Q. Do lots of women gift the underwear package to their men?
Yes definitely and vice versa. We get messages like this one all the time:
“My husband is your #1 fan! He screams from the hilltops how amazing his undies are (It’s quite funny actually)! Also from a wife’s point of view, you have eased one thing off my to do list now and I thank you.” Lucy H
Q. Do you sell more packages for men or women?
Our men’s line is larger due to the fact it has been around since 2014. Our product line originally consisted of men’s trunks but after a huge interest from women, a range of cheeky bikini, hipster and sports crop rolled out in September 2016 and is quickly catching up to the men!
Q. How did you finance your big idea?
We started KNOBBY with a house deposit and a $500 credit card. There were no loans or investors and we’ve continued to profit exponentially since our first year of operation. We have a unique business model and are very different to other brands that are dependent on department stores, their buyers and the terms that they set.
Q. How does your small business work logistically?
We have a very refined supply chain and are fortunate to work with some of the worlds leading suppliers. We have a purpose built factory in China that allows for greater quality control and efficiency.
I’m still actively involved in the designs and we’re continually on the lookout for new designers, illustrators and artists to collaborate with. We look for talent that is unique and fits our brand personality.
Monthly editions are generally prepared between six to twelve months in advance. We’ve developed our own internal software solutions to assist in stock prediction, which is one of our biggest challenges.