Owners: Jeremy and Tabitha Fleming
Location: Kurnell, New South Wales
Industry: Retail and consumer products, and events and staging
In March, events and set staging business Stagekings was working on a custom set piece for the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix, building the Ninja Warrior set, and putting giant cricket balls into position ahead of the T20 World Cup.
Then, gatherings of over 500 people were banned, and within a couple of days, almost every job the business had lined up was cancelled.
“We lost $4 million of work in a heartbeat, with nothing left,” say founders Jeremy and Tabitha Fleming.
But, the pair dusted themselves off and, seeing a gap in the market, made a rather unlikely pivot. They started designing and making desks for thousands of hastily-put-together home offices.
Within 72 hours, the IsoKing flat-packed desk, requiring no tools or fittings for assembly, was on the market.
Eight months later, the founders have a range of 60 products (including wooden Christmas trees), and more than 30,000 sales under their belts.
Such a dramatic change in the business came with a fair few challenges. Operating as a B2C business for the first time, the founders had to quickly figure out how to connect with their customers and build engagement on social media.
Both founders have been on the phone to customers, and have been personally responding to customer questions, comments and feedback.
Notably, Stagekings’ social media pages show the full story — struggles and all. And in what has been a difficult year for everyone, this has resonated with people. Ultimately, this transparency has created strong engagement and customer loyalty.
“We were always true to ourselves, and have been brutally honest, transparent and genuine all the way,” the founders say.
The pandemic has seen an uptick in e-commerce activity, so Jeremy and Tabitha were trying to work with an overwhelmed courier industry that was “already, at best, mediocre”.
Rather than hold up deliveries, they reached out to the community, calling on their contacts in the events sector, and ultimately employing a team of event freelancers as delivery drivers.
“We were often delivering within three days of receiving orders, when the national retail chains were taking two to three weeks,” the founders recall.
Resilience Awards judge and Salesforce vice president for growth business Adrian Towsey noted the impressive speed at which the founders completely reimagined their business model, identifying a new opportunity in a difficult environment.
He also made particular note of “their honest and authentic approach to marketing”, and their ingenuity in tackling the challenges in this new space to create positive outcomes.
“I really love how they used their network from their industry to solve the delivery challenge and provide work to those in need,” he said.
Jeremy and Tabitha may have well and truly proven their entrepreneurial adaptability, but they say this year has truly taught them the value of diversifying.
COVID-19 has highlighted the risk of “having all your eggs in one basket”, they say.
But the experience has also helped them pin down some of their values.
From day one, IsoKing has donated a portion of revenue from every desk sold to Support Act, an organisation that delivers crisis relief to people working in the entertainment sector, including physical and mental health support.
The business has also donated puzzle boards to aged care homes, and a portion of revenue from their IsoKing Christmas trees goes towards The Smith Family Christmas Appeal.
All in, the business has donated some $80,000 to charitable causes since March. And that ethos is here to stay.
“We hadn’t considered a philanthropic approach before, but it just seemed so appropriate to help others during COVID-19, and it has now become permanently ingrained in our business ethic.”
This is a business that benefited from pivoting early, pivoting fast, and being bold enough to pivot into the unknown.
For the founders, the key is in just cracking on.
“If you have an idea, don’t over-think, over-complicate or procrastinate,” they say.
“Just get on with it!”