Melbourne-based luggage startup July is an official supplier of the Australian Winter Olympic team, in what co-founder Athan Didaskalou calls a “coming-of-age” moment for the business.
July has provided its trademark lightweight cases, branded with the Aussie Olympic insignia, to Aussie Olympians competing in the Beijing Winter Games, which started over the weekend.
Speaking to SmartCompany, Didaskalou says it’s “any brand’s dream” to work with and support the national Olympic team.
The July team submitted a tender, explaining what they could offer and what the business is all about, he explains. The fact that July — a relatively young Aussie startup — was actually selected, marks a “coming of age” moment for the business.
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“These sorts of organisations are looking for young, Australian upstarts to help support the team,” he notes.
“We were just rapt at the opportunity.”
The moment was particularly special for the founders. With the COVID-19 pandemic putting the whole travel industry on hold, the past couple of years have been tough for the business, which saw a 95% drop in revenue.
With lockdowns coming to an end and some travel starting to resume, this represents a new dawn of opportunity for July.
“We held on, and to come out of it all with this … it was quite a symbolic moment for us.”
For Didaskalou and co-founder Richard Li, the win was also symbolic for another reason. This is a business run by immigrants, Didaskalou says.
Li originally hails from China and Didaskalou’s grandparents arrived in Australia some 60 or 70 years ago.
“They would think this is such a proud moment for them — that their grandkids have a business that is supporting the national team,” Didaskalou muses.
“It just feels like a real special thing.”
The start of a strong 2022
Of course, this partnership means visibility for the startup. When Australia’s Olympic athletes are photographed strolling off of the plane, it will be July suitcases they’re trailing.
As Didaskalou notes, these elite sports people receive a lot of ‘swag’.
“We’re the packaging for all the swag.”
That brings brand recognition and also an element of legitimacy, the founder explains. If there were any doubts around the strength of the product and the company’s growth, this should put them to bed.
“We were really excited about what this symbolises and what this means for the future of the business.”
And this is just the beginning of what promises to be a big 2022 for July.
In August last year, the team expanded into the US market, which was — at the time at least — more vaccinated and more mobile, with travellers looking for new suitcases to match their new post-COVID lifestyles.
The US launch was more successful than the founders had ever anticipated, Didaskalou says.
“The Americans have just taken us in and given us a big warm hug.”
While he doesn’t reveal any specific figures, he says July has seen “phenomenal growth” in the US, which now accounts for about 70% of the business’ sales.
Now the founders are anticipating a rebound in the Aussie sector too. After a tentative uptick in movement over Christmas, Didaskalou predicts that people will soon be planning trips to Europe and catching up with family they haven’t seen for, in some cases, years.
“We feel that May, June and July this year are going to be huge for Australian travel,” he says.