Influencers & Profiles

How the search for clothes that fit led David Lukic to found million-dollar bodybuilding activewear brand Ryderwear

Dominic Powell /

Ryderwear

Source: Supplied

All David Lukic wanted were workout clothes that fit, and he reckoned other people might want them too.

That’s why in 2009, Lukic started bodybuilding activewear brand Ryderwear and ran it out of his Grandma’s garage for two years — much to her chagrin.

Today, the South Australian business turns over more than $1 million annually and is growing quickly; the entrepreneur says it’s well on track to reach $10 million in revenue this financial year, bar the internet inexplicably closing down.

Lukic, who owns the business with his wife Natalie Lukic, spoke to SmartCompany about how the increase of competition in his market has spurred the brand on to bigger and better things, and why he’s still learning, even today. 

When I started Ryderwear, I was a bodybuilder at the time and I couldn’t find any appropriate clothes to wear. I would have to wear all these baggy clothes to the gym, so I just wanted something that would fit, and look good.

I then had a thought that this might be a problem other people would have as well.

I studied marketing at university but I dropped out after six months. I had always wanted to start my own business and I had been working since I was 16, so once I had the idea for Ryderwear I went full-time, straight into it.

I quit my job as a security guard and just took a leap of faith.

I registered Ryderwear in 2009 and the website launched in 2010. I started the business literally out of my Grandma’s garage — the spare bedroom was my office and the garage was my warehouse.

It was on a much smaller scale at that stage, and for the amount of stock I had, the garage was suitable. But that only lasted about a year when sales started to increase.

The garage started to really fill up with stock once we introduced a ladies range, and it began to creep into the lounge room. My Grandma had had enough, so I found an office out of home and I was there for a year.

When I started, there were no competitors I knew of in terms of bodybuilding activewear. I think that was both an advantage and a disadvantage, as when I started I had no idea what I was doing.

If I had competitors, I could have seen what worked and maybe replicate it. I ended up pioneering the space, so to speak, just running purely on instinct.

The market is saturated now — there are so many competitors. It’s great for customers and it’s great for me, as it makes me push myself harder.

The business has been running for about seven years now, and every year we’ve tripled in revenue growth.

We have 25 staff now but for the first few years it was just me — I was customer service, picker, packer, and everything else.

I hired my first employee about three years ago, which was great as it let me step back and look at the business rather than working in it.

You have to crawl before you can walk, and you definitely have to go through a lot of failures before you find success.

I would change a lot of things if I could go back, and I’m still learning even today. The owner of the business is the bottleneck for all the business’ growth.

About nine months ago we noticed our marketing strategy was lacking somewhat, so we decided to fill the gaps by hiring a social media coordinator. Facebook was our original platform we launched the business on, and for the first two to three years it was the only platform I used for marketing.

I never paid for anything, I only did organic posts. My six months of marketing at uni taught me nothing — I just threw myself in the deep end.

About three years ago we started doing influencer marketing with one athlete as a test, and the response was fantastic. We continued down that path with athletes from all different areas.

Influencer marketing is now the number one source of brand awareness for the business, but we also do social, Google and email marketing.

Right now the only thing that would stop our growth is the internet breaking. I’m hoping to have 100 employees in 24 months, and we’re firmly on track to hit $10 million in revenue this financial year.

We have to stay relevant and fresh to keep our customers engaged, and we’re looking to expand our existing customer base into international markets. We’ve also got a whole new collection coming through which has been a massive job but definitely a worthwhile experience.

You need to find your passion, do something you would do for free that you love doing and put everything into that. If you’re doing something you love and making money on top of that, it’s extra.

My goal was just to make clothes that fit, and through that, I found my passion.

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Dominic Powell

Dominic Powell is a journalist at StartupSmart and a tech and music geek. When he’s not writing, you can find him reading or browsing record shops.

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