By Alice Hansen and Make It Tasmania
Bec and Tim Polmear are your typical, affable Tassie-raised folks.
The Founded Ventures business owners started making tea in 2013 in their home garage using ingredients from Gould’s Pharmacy in Hobart. Little did they know that seeking a solution for Bec’s digestion and bloating would morph into their globally sought after brand, Flat Tummy Tea.
“Our tea business was lean initially,” begins Tim. “We had an idea of how to take it to market through our marketing and entrepreneurial backgrounds. We worked long hours and made money day one, so it was profitable from early on. We had guys manufacturing our tea in-house.” Tim adds with a smile, “In our house.”
Within two years The Polmears entered the US market, with manufacturing swiftly moving to New York. Social media figures climbed at a frenzied pace, today totalling 1.4 million Instagram followers.
“We promoted our tea through influencer marketing which has become the main engine of what we do at Founded Ventures,” explains Tim. “Back then, influencer marketing wasn’t all the rage. Today, it’s far more commercialised.”
“We got Healthy Always from New Zealand to promote our tea via her social channels to more than 100,000 followers. We had 17 orders in an hour and thought we’d struck gold. Then we started incentivising through payment. We’ve now done it thousands of times and refined the algorithm we’ve generated, meaning we can predict sales before even collaborating with influencers. We had year on year growth of 700 per cent while owning and running the company.”
By 2015 the Polmears had based themselves in Perth, Western Australia, and were operating with a team of 20 people. Business was booming, but it was also stressful and demanding. When they received an offer to sell their business to a publicly listed company in the US that year, they took it. In a short two-and-a-half years, the pair had developed an algorithm that redefined their future. But for them, it was time to put lifestyle first and return to Tasmania.
“We came back not knowing what we were going to do,” says Bec.
“We were pregnant at that time. We sold the business and worked in it a further six months, building a strong relationship with the company who acquired us. We’re still involved with the tea on a strategic, consulting level. They were looking for new brands to pump through our algorithm and we agreed to build brands specifically for their business model, which they in turn run. We do the branding, strategy, vision, operations, website and product development for a turnkey business and sell it to them to run. They have a team of 30 running each brand between the United States and Canada. We love it, because we get to do the part we enjoy here in Hobart and are now working on a third brand with them now.”
Their next ventures were Sneaky Vaunt (lingerie), which launched in February, 2017, and Queen Pegasus (cosmetics), which launched in September, 2017. The cosmetics venture started strongly, with Kim Kardashian as the face of the brand and over 21,000 Instagram followers in week one.
“We’ve worked with some of the biggest celebrities in the world, from Hobart,” explains Tim, “even though our market is the northern hemisphere and our suppliers and manufacturers are worldwide. We’ve only been to Canada once. They’ve been here six times. Being an online business, it doesn’t really matter where we are based.”
“Skype is a wonderful thing. It’s inexpensive to run business from here, there’s good internet and we have a cool building in the middle of Hobart for decent rent. Our home, on five acres, is just 20 minutes from our office,” he adds. “We knock off on a Friday, and in two-and-a-half hours we’re relaxing in paradise in Bicheno after a big week in the office. Where else can you get that lifestyle?”
Founded Ventures has a full time employee dedicated to researching trends. Predominantly, their market is 25-30 year-old US women who are into social media and beauty.
They begin new ventures with around 120 ideas, research about 60, test 10-20, then invest in samples of five before narrowing it down to the final one. It’s a time consuming process that ticks over in the background to establish the next product.
“We’re fortunate being online. We can be here and think as big as we want and make it happen. We love the idea of one day thinking of a Tassie product. We have this fresh amazing produce and industries such as our Tasmanian whisky, which have grown immensely. It’s an exciting time to be here,” says Bec.