We talked to Arthur Koulianos on how StoreWALL provides premium storage solutions for homes and businesses and this is what he had to say.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Arthur Koulianos: Melbourne is out of its second wave, and the economy is gradually starting to lift. Our spirits are also starting to lift as we roll into the festive season and the Australian summer.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded StoreWALL?
Arthur Koulianos: I have worked in product management and sales for my whole working career. I am currently working full time in technology sales but have started my startup as a side hustle, which I work on each evening and weekend. My wife also assists me. Over the past 10yrs, I have had a few side hustles, which have been mainly driven by building a small website (myself) and testing ideas. Some have worked, and others not. I landed on a domain being sold in the US looking at garage storage accessories in looking for my next idea. I looked closer at the stock and then began researching the garage storage market in Australia. I saw a gap, but my product management experience also focused on quality and high quality. I then invested a lot of time looking at potential solutions I could bring into Australia and found a high-quality US product. I thought it would be an excellent fit for the Australian market.
The second key thing I wanted to do was to focus this business on the DIY market. Many of my local competitors require customers to buy the solution and the installation from them. Our model is to sell you the solution and then the advice and contacts on how to get it installed. We also offer installation, but it’s optional. The installation support and advice on installation is there no matter what the customer decides. We also focused on our online store, making our full range of storage options and accessories available to be purchased online.
How does StoreWALL innovate?
Arthur Koulianos: Innovation for us is looking at bringing new products into the market. We have gone from buying them all from a manufacturer in the US to design some of our products that compliment what we bring in. We have also focused on educating our customers about garage storage and how to get started. In a lot of cases, this includes educating people to buy elsewhere.
In line with this education, we have also built calculators to help customers develop their quotes online without needing us to come out. While we still offer design and installation services, most of our customers will buy via the website with minimal interaction.
I also do a lot of testing of our solution as well as our competitor’s systems. This has helped us educate our customers about the differences in a product and where certain products can complement each other and be used in combination, particularly if the customer has already invested in a particular solution and likes what we sell.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Arthur Koulianos: With most people spending most of this year at and working from home, we have seen a massive jump in traffic and sales. So from a business point of view, it has been great. The challenging part has been couriers and the demand for their services with so much being sold online. It has led to us trying out many of them and learning which ones to use for what types of products. This has extended out to how we protect our packaging when it’s couriered 3500km to the other side of the country.
Another big challenge that we have and will continue to face is shipping costs to bring more stock. This has been a high cost for us, which I am determined to understand better and hopefully reduce its impact over time.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Arthur Koulianos: The most significant decision I had to make was to price my product the right way to start making it more profitable and the startup more sustainable from a cash flow point of view. I quickly realized that I had gone through the “let’s just move product phase,” and the effort was not worth it if the profits were not there. The profits are essential because the extra cash flow allows you to build up a balance to bring in more stock. When I started the business, I seeded it myself with my savings. I had to continue to do this for a while; we built some profile and traffic to our site. This year, however, I have been able to grow sales and our orders with the business’s money on its own. Now it sustains itself. The only way to achieve this was to price the products the right way. We are not the cheapest on the market by far. However, the product quality is there, and so is the after-sales support for the customer.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and StoreWALL in the future?
Arthur Koulianos: I look at much of what I do as lessons. Yes, I get annoyed and angry when I think I have done the right thing only for it not to work out. Then I look at it again and figure out what I did right and what I didn’t control the right way. I then make the adjustments and watch for the results. I am also always seeking feedback to understand what is working and not.
I am still working full time while running this startup, and I enjoy the busyness of it all. However, I am always mindful that my full-time occupation pays the bills and so I don’t compromise this. At some stage, one job may replace the other but not for a few years yet. I also have my wife, who is starting to take a more active role in the business.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Arthur Koulianos: Our biggest competitor is the largest home hardware store in the country. They have retail outlets everywhere and in every state. They also sell a competing solution which is considerably cheaper than ours. For me, it’s all about the quality of the product. I used to blog to review our product and our competitors. I have invested time to point out the strengths and weaknesses of all solutions to make informed decisions. I can’t compete directly with this competitor, either in terms of distribution or price. However, for the customer who wants to invest in their garage storage solution, which they want to keep for the next 10-20 years, we are the solution for them.
Your final thoughts?
Arthur Koulianos:2020 has challenged everyone across the world emotionally, professionally, and financially. It is so important to stay healthy, both emotionally and physically. It is vital to find an occupation or startup/hustle that motivates you from a professional perspective. Not just in terms of what cash/profits it generates but the outcome of what the customer is getting from it. If you are enjoying the outcome, then you are in the right place.
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