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Top 50 Q&A: Liam Scanlan, Eat Your Water

Welcome to our weekly Q&A with Internet Retailing’s 2019 Top 50 People in E-Commerce. You can find this year’s Top 50 report here, and see our previous Q&As here.

This week, Internet Retailing interviews Liam Scanlan, founder of Eat Your Water. Liam ranked 41st on our list this year.

Short on time? Here are the three key takeaways from the interview:

  • Eat Your Water is currently investigating how it can minimise its impact on the Earth, through more sustainable packaging and more ethical sourcing.
  • Liam co-founded an incubation program to help student start-ups.
  • The most important characteristic in business is persistence.

Internet Retailing: What does an average day look like for you? What are the daily concerns?

Liam Scanlan: Ask anyone who knows me well enough and they’ll tell you I’m not a morning person at all. So in saying that, my mornings are generally quite breezy personally.

In saying that, I’m still heavily involved in all aspects of the company, so there isn’t much that I don’t get my hands on throughout the day. The very first thing I do with my day is write out a to-do list, which literally has everything I’ve got to do in my life on it.

From there, what I generally do is check out all of our communication channels to see if there is any important information that will influence how we go about our day, before packing all orders from the past 24 hours.

In the afternoon, I’ll generally take a look at our social media and how our online advertising is performing, what needs tweaking, what doesn’t and run from there.

I’m a big night owl and it happens to be when I feel most creative, so I do a lot of designing then, often from anywhere for 1 hour up to 8 hours – depending if I am on a roll or not. I’ve never been much of a planner, I take every day as it comes, so every day is different.

IR: Eat Your Water started in 2015 – how has the brand evolved since then? What are you doing now that you didn’t expect back then?

LS: The social media landscape was totally different in 2015, so the brand was able to grow pretty quickly organically during the early stages – so much so that keeping up with demand was a challenge.

Interestingly, as the company and myself have achieved ongoing goals, the underlying mission for Eat Your Water has constantly evolved. While it started as a hobby that I simply wanted to make a bit of ‘side money’ from, it has changed enormously.

A huge emphasis is currently on trying to impact the world as positively as possible, through changing aspects of our business and our we operate. For example, this financial year we have already partnered with Lifeline, amongst other charities and non-for-profit organisations.

We’ve also recently taken on an ethics and sustainability consultant, and are totally revamping the way we pack and send our goods to minimise the impact on our earth.

I never thought as an 18 year old starting a clothing company as a hobby that it would get to this stage, so the amount of new challenges that we’ve taken on throughout our growth has been pretty cool.

IR: Australia is a country with a rich surf culture, but I notice you also sell to NZ, USA, Canada and the UK. Have you noticed certain patterns which each of these regions follow in terms of buying behaviour? How has the surf and skate brand been received in other markets?

LS: The Australian surf culture is extremely unique in my opinion, it is something that I have always been fascinated in despite not being much of a surfer myself.

So it was always going to be interesting bringing our unique taste of fashion to other international markets. However, we have had particular success in New Zealand and USA, while only recently expanding into both Canada and the UK.

In terms of buying patterns, I think the surf culture in New Zealand is rather similar to ours, and their buying patterns are similar. However, the USA often have a different taste in fashion, with products that might perform well here in Australia, not performing as well in USA (and vice-versa).

IR: You’re also a vice-president of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Society. Can you give us a rundown of what the society does, and what your role is there?

LS: The society was founded by four University of Newcastle students, including myself, with the aim to create a space that connected students from all disciplines in an entrepreneurial and innovative ecosystem, laying the platform for student start-ups to flourish.

We organise a range of events that are not only open to University students, but also members of the community, where they can come along and develop their skills, network or just have a bit of a socialise.

IR: What advice would you give to people looking to start up an online business – fashion or otherwise? What has been a key lesson for you? Or something you wish you avoided?

LS: I believe the most influential characteristic to making a successful e-commerce business is persistence.

Things are never going to be easy, and you’re definitely going to stuff up along the way, but it is the persistence that will enable you to grow a successful online business.

In saying that, I wouldn’t change a thing about my journey over the past 5 years, even the colossal stuff ups. I’ve learnt more from the stuff ups than just about anything else and they have been invaluable to the success of Eat Your Water.

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