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Top 50 Q&A: Vince Lebon, Rollie Nation

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 Vince Lebon, founder of Rollie Nation. Vince ranked 43rd on our list this year.

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

  • Rollie Nation is in the early stages of a brand refresh.
  • While there is no physical expansion on the cards, the brand is looking into doing more pop-ups and activations.
  • The business will collaborate with designer homewares brand Sage and Clare later this year.

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

Vince Lebon: My day is generally built around design, strategic planning and team communication. I block out times throughout the day to ensure I work on critical areas of the business and remain proactive, and not reactive, to my email inbox.

I only spend 45 mins in the morning and after lunch on emails, I tackle the full inbox in one day; generally, Monday or Friday.

I have a general manager who manages the day to day business, freeing me to focus on product, brand strategy and team culture.

I have regular check-ins with the team to ensure they are well resourced and in the best position to deliver on the goals we set.

My daily concerns are to ensure high-level timelines are manageable while building an infrastructure for growth in an enjoyable working environment.

IR: Rollie Nation started out as a way to create comfortable shoes for travel. How has the business’s vision evolved as it has grown?

VL: We are in the early stages of a brand refresh, so I cannot give too much away.

As we prepare for further growth, we are looking to build on our core value and brand promise. We started by creating comfortable shoes, in fun colours and prints, for travel, but what is it about travelling that is so special?

Is it about expanding your perspective, and empathy for the world? Is it about having an adventure, if so, how do Rollies enhance this experience?

Or is it simply, about relaxing and rejuvenating, making you lighter on your feet, and in your mind?

The vision has not changed, but we hope to understand and further develop the emotional connection and customer benefit.

IR: What are some of the roadblocks you’ve run into over the last seven years, and what advice do you have for others to avoid or overcome them?

VL: If you are focused on building a brand, it is possible to do that, and not be making any money.

Be clear on what you are looking to build; and allocate your time and energy accordingly.

If you want to create a sustainable brand, you will require a focus on sales, financial modelling and access to capital, alongside the fun stuff like brand, product and a solid value proposition.

Do not look for the easiest way out or forward, be strategic in your decisions, and with opportunities that present themselves.

IR: Rollie Nation sells through other bricks-and-mortar retailers at the moment. Is there a physical expansion on the cards in the future?

VL: Wholesale is an essential part of our business; we are looking at ways to enhance the Rollie experience within our stockist, and better support our partners.

There is no physical expansion on the cards; however, we do hope to be more active in the community, which will involve pop-ups, activations and brand experiences.

IR: Are there plans to enter more international markets than the ones you currently sell in?

VL: We are looking to expand into more international markets; we now have new distribution partners in Israel and Canada.

I believe there is great opportunity in emerging markets such as China, India and the Middle East in particular.

I am, however, very excited about being back in Melbourne and keen to grow the brand’s presence here in Australia.

IR: Rollie has a history of collaborating with different artists and brands to create new products. How do these collaborations tend to come about? And what is the impact on the business?

VL: When I envisioned Rollie from the very beginning, I aspired to create a brand that was bigger than me, a brand for the people, and designed alongside other creatives to challenge myself and what is the norm in the industry.

Being a creative business owner, working with other creatives felt very natural and empowering to me and the value in doing so was immediate.

Collaborations tend to come about in many ways, whether we have reached out with a strategic goal in mind, a license agreement or serendipity.

The impact on the business can only be defined by “what is a success” for both partners; in many cases it can be sales, but there are other measurements, such as brand awareness, credibility and personal fulfilment, i.e. a passion project.

IR: Is there anything else you’d like to add? Anything upcoming in the business to look out for?

VL: We have a very exciting collaboration launching with Sage and Clare later this year.

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