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Disrupt Sports has officially opened an office in LA

Disrupt Sports has officially opened an office in Los Angeles and a pop-up store in New York, kicking off its ambitious US expansion plans.

The Sydney-based startup prints customers’ own designs on surfboards, skateboards, snowboards, yoga mats and other sporting items on demand.

Internet Retailing editor Heather McIlvaine spoke to Disrupt Sports founder and CEO Gary Elphick about the move last week. The interview has been lightly-edited.

Heather McIlvaine: When did you open the office in Los Angeles?

Gary Elphick: Technically at the start of July, but really it was about a week ago.

HM: How many people will be working there?

GE: At the moment we’ve got three, however we’ve got an aggressive hiring plan in place.

HM: Are you bringing the team from Australia or hiring local talent

GE: One team member from Australia has moved over. I’m also going to be spending a lot of my time there this year to make sure we continue to build a culture of go-getters who both love sport and the vision of manufacturing on-demand.

HM: Why did you decide to open a local office, rather than continue servicing the US market from Austalia?

GE: We’ve been servicing the US from Australia for some time. Our business is in two parts, our retail arm and our B2B manufacturing integrations, which allow other brands to access our on-demand manufacturing capabilities. Both arms have been growing in the US.

We opened an office in the UK six months ago and that has proved really successful, both for letting customers get their hands on physical product and for better understanding the nuances of that market. In essence, it’s about being close to your biggest market of customers, of understanding the local market and of opening avenues to fundraising. Australia remains our HQ.

HM: Can you give us a sense of the size of your global orders compared to Australian orders?

GE: International markets make up 55 per cent of our orders. We expect to lift that to 80-90 per cent over the coming year.

HM: What will be the focus of the team in LA over the coming months?

GE: A lot of this is about learning more about the local market. Their immediate aim is to raise our profile and customer base in California, both our retail base and our lager commerce/corporate integrations.

HM: What was the aim of the pop-up in New York?

GE: New York City was a lot of fun. The pop-up in SoHo was about showcasing the product, letting people get their hands on goods, which for any customisation company is the challenge. It was about us getting feedback on new lines and meeting designers and overall starting to build the brand in the US market.

HM: Will the fact that you will be based in the LA office impact the business in Australia?

GE: I’ts something that is on the top of my list. I’m very conscious that this is an expansion, not a move. We’ve got some great experienced people on board in Australia who I trust and who are dedicated to what we’re trying to achieve. I have full confidence in them running the day-to-day.

This isn’t me stepping away from Australia by any means. I speak to all our teams daily, keep track on my dashboards and am on call day and night. Ultimately, you hire passionate and very smart people, set them up for success with the tools and understanding of what we believe in and then you get the hell out of their way.

HM: How big is the Disrupt Sports team overall now?

GE: I don’t measure us on the size of the team, more so on the reverse of this, how much are we growing vs how few people we need to operate that. Headcount-wise we doubled this past year, and if all goes to plan, we’ll do the same again this year.

Gary Elphick was named to Internet Retailing’s 2017 Top 50 People in E-Commerce, which can be downloaded here.

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