Owners: Michael Davis and Jon Kapiniaris
Industry: Manufacturing, transport and logistics
Melbourne-based Cheeta Teamwear typically provides clothing and other merchandise for community sports clubs and events.
Come March, however, sports came to a halt, and so did revenue.
But, for founders Michael Davis and Jon Kapiniaris, COVID-19 posed an opportunity to reflect on what’s really important to the business, and its clients.
Its customers were facing the financial burden of keeping their community clubs alive without regular registration fees coming in, and with sponsors backing out too.
Staff started attending council forums and club administration courses, striving to understand what their clients were up against, both in the short term and over time.
Cheeta offered customers free designs to help them pitch to new sponsors, and focused on selling high-margin products, allowing clubs to fundraise without making a large cash outlay.
It also started offering a service building complimentary online stores, including payments platforms and marketing materials.
The founders saw this as a way to help clubs generate income, while “taking the burden off of overworked and already stressed club volunteers”, Davis says.
One brand new club had to cancel its inaugural season, he recalls.
Through its Cheeta Teamwear site, it was able to raise $2,000 within less than a week, and $15,000 overall, with minimal input from its team of volunteers.
Not only is that more cash than you would likely see from a sausage sizzle, but it also improved the club’s chances of survival into next year, and boosted visibility by getting merch out on the streets.
At the same time, Davis knows a bit of downtime can lead customers to review their suppliers. So, he knew it was time to shine — to show his business could add real value, and that it is aligned to clubs’ needs.
“Loyalty is not dead,” he says.
“If you can help someone in the hard times, the financial benefit will come in the easier times.”
Cheeta’s efforts during the pandemic mean the business has a whole bunch of new clients on the books, albeit spending a lot less, on average.
Heading into 2021, restrictions are starting to lift and sports are back on the agenda, and Cheeta’s founders are confident those new clients will stick around.
There’s “a huge opportunity for growth”, Davis says.