Best mates David Strangis and Anthony Sacco are preparing to celebrate 10 years in March since founding their business.
Strangis and Sacco were still teenagers when they founded Bronze Snake, a fashion brand aimed at offering new on-trend items every few weeks, available exclusively at an affordable price point.
“I set it up with my best mate Anthony when we were around 19 years old. We just saw, I guess you’d say a niche in the market for affordable products,” Strangis told SmartCompany.
The pair met on the very first day of secondary school, when they buddied up in their year 7 class, and they became business partners one year after finishing year 12.
“One year after (graduating secondary school) Ant was doing a marketing course and I was doing an accounting degree and it wasn’t as exciting as we thought it would be,” Strangis says.
Starting a business seemed “a little more exciting” and Bronze Snake was established.
But like most entrepreneurs, Strangis says the first four to five years were a real struggle.
“You keep seeing a light but then it keeps getting taken away from you,” he says.
But Bronze Snake hit its stride and the company now employs a staff of 42 across their five stores and warehouse.
The growth has landed Bronze Snake in SmartCompany’s annual Smart50 for the past two years, with the retailer taking out sixth spot in 2015 thanks to a three-year growth rate of 468%.
Bronze Snake’s 10th birthday will coincide with Strangis and Sacco getting the keys to their first New Zealand store, which will open on April 1 in Auckland. At the same time, Bronze Snake will launch an online operation in New Zealand.
The Auckland store will be the sixth Bronze Snake outlet, with shops in Perth, Sydney, Adelaide and two in Melbourne, including the original flagship store in Fitzroy.
“We still strongly believe in a bricks-and-mortar store… I think that exposure that you get on the street, to feel the product gives you the confidence to buy online,” Strangis says.
“It’s almost like a different form of advertising,” he says.
SmartCompany caught up with Strangis to find out how he and Sacco manage their time to stay on top of the latest trends and what’s in store for Bronze Snake in the years to come.
It’s not enough for Strangis and Sacco to run a business together, the pair choose to start their mornings together too.
“Every second morning we start the day off with a run, a light jog that turns into a competitive run,” Strangis says.
Then the pair sit down to a very Melbourne breakfast – poached eggs on toast with a side of spinach and a strong latte – at a cafe near their Collingwood warehouse before going over numbers of what has sold and the stock that each of their stores holds.
“Each day is never the same, but nevertheless it’s always fun and I get to do it with Ant and hang out with my best mate every day,” Strangis says.
The pair spends Monday to Friday in the Collingwood warehouse, running numbers, designing products and lending a hand to the online store.
By the time Saturday comes around, they head to one of their five stores to see things first-hand. This gives them the chance to see what’s moving off the shelves and what products customers are liking.
“A lot of the customers don’t know we are the owners and the designers and they tell us what they think – quite openly – and we don’t take offence at all,” Strangis says
“That kind of feedback is priceless.”
Seeing their clientele and what they’re wearing also gives Strangis and Sacco ideas of current styles and trends. As Strangis and Sacco are both designers of Bronze Snake’s products, keeping up with the latest looks is crucial.
Strangis says the pair is constantly on the lookout for changing trends, getting inspiration from their travel and even taking note of what their peers are wearing out at night.
All of Bronze Snake’s clothes are made in China and Indonesia, closely supervised by the business owners for ethical and safety standards.
“And I personally visit each factory to make sure everything is above board,” Strangis says.
Bronze Snake keeps its advertising pretty low key, using Instagram and email marketing, which customers sign up for through their database.
“We don’t bombard (people’s inboxes),” Strangis said.
“We think our products are pretty strong advertising because we think it’s a solid product at a strong price.”
There’s never much downtime for the busy owners who work six days a week and travel monthly for work.
“We enjoy the sun, so I guess heading down to the beach on a Sunday is a good thing,” Strangis says.
However, it’s a different story in the winter months, which has become the busiest season for Bronze Snake.
“I think because with our lower price points you notice that more with the jackets as opposed to our shorts or a t-shirt,” Strangis says.
Nevertheless, the friends do manage to take a few days off during the snow season to get in some quality snowboarding time.
Still buoyed from the success of the opening of their Perth store in December, Strangis says much of Bronze Snake’s resources are currently going into the New Zealand launch.
Success in Auckland will mean the ability for Strangis and Sacco to open an Auckland warehouse to give Kiwi fans same-day shipping and if all goes well, further expansion to Wellington is on the cards.
“Hopefully New Zealand will love the items as much as Australia does and we can get a warehouse in New Zealand to ship the stuff,” Strangis says.
The Auckland store is also test for Bronze Snake to go international, with aspirations to expand globally to Bali and the United States.
The other goal, for many years, has been to open a Bronze Snake shop in Brisbane, Strangis says.
Strangis and Sacco have been searching for a site but so far have not been able to find a suitable location.
With each announcement of a new store, Strangis says their Brisbane fans get frustrated.
“We get abusive comments on Instagram,” he laughs.
It’s one indication of the enthusiasm of the Bronze Snake fan base. Another example was the first Bronze Snake warehouse sale, which was held in August last year. Customers were queuing from as early as 5am.
“(The queue) wrapped around the whole Collingwood Town Hall and police had to come and stop traffic,” Strangis says.
In fact, the business’s security personnel had overslept and they had to delay opening the warehouse because of fears a fashion riot was about to occur. Luckily he was only a few minutes late and the sale was an overwhelming success.
Strangis predicts Bronze Snake’s growing retail footprint will see the brand hit significant growth this year but for this entrepreneur, the best part of running the business is more personal.
“I get to do it with my best mate,” he says.
* This article was modified on 24/4/19 at the request of the founders.