If entrepreneurship is in the blood, Ben Kierath is a living testaments to that fact. In the late 90’s, his father Tim founded Hoselink, a household name among Aussie gardening enthusiasts. Almost 15 years on, Ben has followed suit with his own brand, True Protein.
Since getting started with Neto, True Protein has been hugely successful. In the last financial year, True Protein grew by 128% from the previous year. Before that, they experienced 80% growth on the year prior. And there’s no plans to slow down anytime soon, with Ben citing a “very busy marketing plan over the next 12 months”.
It all started 6 years ago, when Ben was living in the UK, and found a protein supplement over there that he particularly liked. The brand was one of the most popular in the world, and Ben soon became a loyal customer. But when he got back to Australia, he was disappointed to find that he couldn’t get access to his favourite post-workout supplement. In fact, he couldn’t even find anything similar. So the spark of a business idea was born.
With Ben still actively working at Hoselink, he decided to take advantage of the seasonal nature of the business, tinkering with his new product in the winter months. After a year of planning and development, True Protein officially launched in 2014.
In the beginning, Ben used True Protein as a bit of a testing ground to try out new ecommerce ideas. If they worked, he could then implement them into Hoselink, which, as an established brand, was not really an ideal ‘guinea pig’ for new ecommerce technology.
One of these new ideas was social media. If you check out the True Protein instagram, you can get a feel for what the brand is about—healthy, happy living with a focus on natural products, physical movement, and giving your body the best of what it needs.
“It wasn’t something that happened immediately. It took a while to get our heads around, but now we’ve got a highly engaged social community that promote our brand and give us invaluable feedback.” As for the ‘influencers’ that generally feature in the marketing plans of sports and nutrition brands, “we’re often inundated with sponsorship applications. But we find that as soon as people start talking about money, that generally indicates their content won’t be as good as someone who genuinely loves our products and what we do”.
Scrolling through the True Protein instagram account, you’ll find an array of shared pictures, and uplifting words from the real athletes that True Protein have selected to work with. By taking a genuine approach to user-generated content, you can see how each of these athletes incorporate the products into their routines, and help support a like-minded community of healthy, active customers.
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Overall, there was a lot of trial and error. Even when it came to sales channels. “We initially focused on brand refinement through our webstore. But the Neto to eBay connection is really good, it didn’t take much effort to branch out there. The new design work also made an impact to our user experience on the website too.” Branching out into a new channel allowed True Protein to reach new customers and grow their brand with minimal extra effort. But it’s not just testing and exploration that’s got them to this point. Ben chose a product that he’s passionate about, and credits that as the reason for his success. “Our whole family is very active. My brother and I are keen surfers, snowboarders, wakeboarders, and we do crossfit 4 times a week”. So it goes without saying that the Kieraths are prime candidates to know if a protein stacks up to the competition.
It also extends out to their product creation “Our Head of Product and Sports Dietician work closely together to create new products, and our team are always suggesting new product ideas” says Ben. In fact, all the True Protein employees love to get active, which means their office is essentially one big focus group. The team are constantly putting forward ideas based on what they’d want to consume, trends in the industry, and what they’re seeing other athletes doing. Once the prototypes are made, they’re sampled by the staff, feedback is given, and they’re tweaked to perfection before they land in customers mailboxes.
So where are they now? Starting out with just 4 products (4 flavours of whey protein isolate, and 4 in the concentrate), True Protein has now grown to stock a total of 300 items across their store in just 4 years.
The ingredients used are “the best you can find, from anywhere in the world”, but keeping production local is very important to ensure the quality of the product. Ben and his team process and pack every single item in their own manufacturing house in Brookvale. Recently, their existing blend facility reached capacity due to rapid business growth. So they built an entirely new room with custom-made machinery that will allow them to handle demand, and take on even more orders as the business grows “It’s quite impressive, there’s a lot of new automation technology in place here”
To help them facilitate their growth plans, both Hoselink and True Protein are managed within the Neto XL team. Both businesses benefit from dedicated account management, on-demand technical support, and access to every single service that Neto has to offer. “It’s really important to be able to get quick answers. When you’re a growing business, you can’t afford to be sitting around waiting for a week or a few days. If something’s not right, you need it fixed immediately, the XL support team gives us the immediate response. Things are fixed really, really fast. That’s what I’ve most enjoyed about working with Neto over the years. They’re Australian, you’re speaking to someone in the Brisbane office, so there’s such a quick turnaround time on issues. It’s a service you can trust.”
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When you’re a growing business, you can’t afford to be sitting around waiting for a week or a few days. If something’s not right, you need it fixed immediately, the XL support team gives us the immediate response. Things are fixed really, really fast.