Michael Klim has already found success in his career as a professional athlete, but his efforts as an entrepreneur have been just as lucrative.
Klim’s skincare brand, Milk & Co, received a $2 million investment last year from private equity firm Blue Sky Alternative Investment, and sales are continuing to rise.
We spoke to Klim about how the company has been travelling since the investment, and his plans for taking the brand overseas.
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We’re launching in China with 40 distributors right now. Obviously the Asian market is big for us, so Hong Kong and Singapore, where Aussie products are very well regarded. We’ve had the nod of approval in the United Kingdom as well that the range will be launched in 217 stores.
We’re launching a women’s skincare range which will be hitting shelves in the second half of this year. It’s part of the change we’ve made to make Milk a lifestyle brand, so it presents an active lifestyle for something we all try to aspire to, that is, to be active.
I wouldn’t say we’ve rebranded it, but we’ve pulled in the brand a lot. Pharmacies are a big focus for us, and independent grocers.
We want to make Milk more readily available. We get feedback from people who love the brand but can’t always find it. When you’re in retail you need people to find your brand!
We used different imagery for different products sometimes, and our channels were a bit all over the place. We were supplying both Myer and boutiques, and it was difficult. You can be in different channels, there’s nothing wrong with that, but there wasn’t a common bond between segments of the brand. We needed to pull that in and streamline the brand a little bit.
Pharmacies are encouraged to sell cosmetics because the margins are greater. But we’ve had great success with our website, so our distribution is great. Our margins can be anywhere from 30% to 90% depending on the distribution channel.
I think our brand awareness is strong and I think people know the brand really well.
Gaining distribution has probably been the toughest thing, where the demand is there but the access is not. That’s something I almost spend 24 hours a day working on.
As a small company we’ve had to streamline our processes a little bit. Our team has grown, we have more people on board, and we have a full-time person in the UK now. We’ve got reps in different markets, so when you’re dealing with that there are more procedures and reporting obligations.
There’s been a lot that I’ve had to learn. The company has really had to step up to the plate. Cashflow has been a big attention point; we’re investing a lot of money so you have to spend money wisely. Keeping an eye on the cashflow is a big thing.
I love driving this business, so it isn’t just an endorsement. I think people know that I’m not just the face of the company.
This financial year we’ll probably turn over close to $3 million. With the following year, our budget should be around $4.8 million to $4.9 million if everything goes to plan. But we’re very conservative, if these overseas markets take off we might see those figures double.
I’ve actually taken a few things from swimming and have been able to apply them to the business. The most important is communication. I’ve had some really good coaches and teammates, and there were times when things didn’t work out and it’s because we didn’t have common values.
I think communicating is key in business. You need to be able to communicate clearly and that’s something I learned from the swim team, where there were a lot of really good leaders.
I sometimes struggle with time management. There are so many things I’d like to do and I struggled with that in the past. I’m much better at being able to prioritise now. I’ve been trying to do everything, but it gets a little tricky!
We’re still trying to be quite innovative in terms of our products, and I think the website is probably the best example of that. I think it’s a progressive website; we put plenty of time into it. You can get pretty much anywhere in three or four clicks, and we want to make it easy. So we’re not just sitting around, we’re innovating and always improving.