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Bryce & Richard Capp cofounders, Milton & King

Founder Friday with Milton & King: The ‘Happy Accident’ that redefined our business

Our journey to business growth has been multifaceted and rooted in a variety of strategic decisions and initiatives. One of the foundational pillars of our success has been our unwavering commitment to localised manufacturing.

Bryce and Richard Capp, co founders, Milton & King

In 2007, Bryce and Richard Capp, co-founders of Milton & King embarked on their journey with Brycein Toowoomba. What set them apart was more than just offering exceptional, visually appealing products.

Now, in 2023, the duo has expanded significantly, with warehouses in Australia and the US, and an upcoming plant in the Netherlands, scheduled to launch in the coming months.

Their unique business strategy not only delivers quality but also supports local economies. By shifting production closer to their customers, Milton & King reduces lead times, eliminates shipping delays, and contributes to local communities.

In the 2022-23 financial year, Milton & King achieved impressive online engagement. They attracted 834,747 users and generated 9,501,842 page views, reflecting strong demand. Their commitment to customer acquisition was notable, with 22% of revenue dedicated to initiatives like social media ads, influencer programs, and PR.

Efficiency and sustainability were also priorities, manufacturing 400,000 meters of wallpaper with less than 3% waste. Collaboration was key, as they worked with over 20 influencers and relied on retail, which contributed to 70% of sales.

They expanded internationally, partnering with 30 Australian stores and establishing ongoing collaborations with 80 artists, demonstrating their multifaceted approach and dedication to innovation and sustainability.

The beginning

In 2010, Bryce and Richard embarked on their entrepreneurial journey armed with their first printer, thanks to a loan from their oldest brother. Their initial plan involved curating a library of images for canvas prints, targeting interior designers for larger projects. To promote their services, Bryce crafted a brochure, which Richard used for client presentations.

“Now this is where the ‘happy accident’ unfolded,“ Bryce recalls. 

“For added volume and substance, I whimsically included a section in the brochure about our ability to create wall murals and wallpapers. Now we had no idea how to do that — and to be honest didn’t think the printer we had would even be up to the task — however, it looked good in the brochure, so we went for it. Well, the two pages on wallpaper received much more attention than the rest of the brochure, so we very quickly had to work out how to do it. What did we learn? Sometimes you just stumble onto something big. Unforeseen opportunities emerge; when they do, you’ve got to be brave enough to roll with it and adapt.”

Milton & King’s journey to success has been shaped by a series of strategic decisions and initiatives. One key pillar of their achievements is their dedication to localised manufacturing, notably in Dallas. “This allowed us to not only connected deeply with the local market but have also catered swiftly to their specific needs and preferences.”

Bryce’s blueprint for success

Our efforts don’t stop at just manufacturing; sustainability is at the heart of what we do. 

In Bryce’s narrative of their business strategy, they highlighted, “Complementing their on-ground efforts, their advanced digital ecosystem has been indispensable. This ecosystem empowers them with comprehensive financial management capabilities. They are adept at tracking the lifetime value of each user, the average order value, and various other crucial metrics such as cost per new customer, media efficiency ratio, and cost per order. These metrics don’t just offer numbers; they present a holistic narrative of their financial health and guide their advertising and growth efforts.”

Regarding their digital infrastructure, Bryce explained how it played a pivotal role in understanding their customers: “Every interaction, every touchpoint in a customer’s buying journey, is meticulously tracked, giving them invaluable insights into customer behavior. Such data-driven insights, like the time intervals between repeat orders or the ratio of samples sold versus full orders, have been instrumental in devising effective retention strategies and gauging the depth of their customer relationships.”

Furthermore, Bryce elaborated on their innovative business model: “In tandem with their digital advances, their innovative business model, underpinned by strict Quality Assurance Processes and Procedures, has positioned them at the forefront of their industry. Their novel approach of combining a ‘digital inventory’ system with on-demand manufacturing close to their customers has eliminated excessive physical warehousing, leading to considerable cost savings and reduced wastage. Moreover, their global network of agile, smaller factories ensures swift order processing and reduces lead times. What ties these factories together is their digital sharing mechanism that upholds their rigorous quality control standards, ensuring consistent quality regardless of where a product is manufactured.”

Addressing their commitment to sustainability, Bryce emphasised, “Their made-to-order strategy reflects their commitment to reducing emissions from their operations, bolstering local economies, promoting sustainable business practices, and safeguarding against global supply chain unpredict abilities.”

As Bryce progressed on their path of growth, they emphasised the role of actionable insights: “Their strategies are continually refined by actionable insights derived from every facet of their business. Whether it’s identifying gaps in their product catalogue, discerning nuances in customer behavior, or understanding market trends, these insights are their guiding light. They help enhance their product offerings, streamline their strategies, and elevate the overall customer experience. Their ethos revolves around a relentless pursuit of quality, ceaseless innovation, and an unyielding commitment to customer satisfaction.”

Efficiency at the core

Bryce’s core philosophy centres on efficiency, contrasting starkly with competitors’ antiquated mass production systems. Their approach shines in their made-to-order strategy, keeping inventory lean with only white base paper and a digital art database. Achieving less than 3% waste and setting industry production standards exemplify their dedication to efficiency. Collaborating with artists through a commission-based model replaces high upfront costs with sustainable sales-driven remuneration.

In the lucrative US Wallcovering Market, valued at over $5.4 billion in 2020, Bryce envisions becoming the go-to brand for wallpaper, even in challenging market conditions. “Understanding the value and potential of the US Wallcovering Market, we’ve strategized to become a disruptor among established giants. Our brand vision is clear: to be the premier choice for wallpaper, a brand that consumers immediately think of, even during challenging market conditions.”

Their pioneering spirit and adaptability enable Bryce to thrive amidst currency fluctuations, wage spikes, shipping costs, and market volatility. They revolutionise their processes from start to finish and seize marketing opportunities during financial downturns. Bryce’s efficient business model prioritizes direct-to-consumer sales via their online platform. 

“A significant facet of our business model is the emphasis on direct-to-consumer sales through our online platform. This eliminates overheads associated with physical stores, improving our profit margins. This strategy, combined with a globally operated dedicated customer service team, ensures a round-the-clock premium service at competitive prices. Such initiatives not only nurture customer loyalty but also enhance brand trust.”

Moreover, Bryce’s trade and wholesale accounts, along with industry collaborations and a versatile product line, support local businesses with speedy production and favourable terms. “ Our strong associations with industry professionals and our evolving product line extend our market footprint. These partnerships benefit local businesses too, thanks to our swift production turnaround and amicable payment terms. By presenting curated collections and ensuring top-notch customer support, we’ve fortified our brand identity, even in constrained markets.”

Strategically located factories in Dallas, Texas, Toowoomba, Queensland, and the Netherlands reduce freight expenses and hasten deliveries, bolstering customer satisfaction and supporting local economies. “Milton & King embodies resilience. Our decisions, our practices, and our ethos make us more nimble and robust than our competitors. This positions us uniquely, allowing us to weather economic storms, seize emerging opportunities, and expand our market share significantly.”

Navigating challenges

One of our primary challenges arose from our bootstrap-style management and the subsequent expansion. 

Bryce’s entrepreneurial journey, though commendable, hasn’t been without its share of challenges. As a company funded by its customers, capital constraints were their initial concerns, but as they grew, their struggles evolved in tandem. One of their primary challenges stemmed from their bootstrap-style management and the subsequent expansion. With multiple production facilities spread across different borders and time zones, they were suddenly thrust into the intricate web of global logistics. 

“This was further compounded by an expertise imbalance among our teams. In Australia, we pride ourselves on having highly skilled production managers. Contrastingly, a significant portion of our production is carried out in factories staffed by our least experienced team members. 

“Coupled with this is the task of staff management. The essence of this challenge isn’t just about hiring and retaining competent employees but managing a workforce that’s dispersed across various nations, age groups, and cultural backgrounds. As self-taught entrepreneurs, Richard and I have always relied on our instincts and hands-on experience. However, the standards and expectations we set for ourselves aren’t always shared by our employees, leading to leadership challenges.”

Moreover, their product returns and refund process has emerged as an area requiring focused attention. In the US, the current return rate stands at 3.4% of all orders. Worryingly, more than 75% of these returns stem from customers overordering due to a misunderstanding of product sizes. 

“We’re committed to improving customer support and revising our website to educate customers and reduce return rates.

“Expanding into Western Europe and the UK brings new challenges. Establishing local production, multilingual support, and navigating diverse financial regulations is daunting. We’re searching for experienced upper management to bridge expertise gaps, deciding between competitors or new hires.

“Maintaining close-knit directorial communication across distances is our test. Replication isn’t an option, so we rely on our hands-on experience and instinct. Challenges have been our greatest teacher, reinforcing that success comes from learning and evolving, not avoiding pitfalls.”

“Embarking on the journey of entrepreneurship is akin to diving into an ocean of possibilities. The waves may get rough, but the horizon is limitless. Here’s what I’ve learned on my own journey, and some advice for those who wish to start. 

  1. Take the Leap: If you’re considering it, go for it! Being your boss and steering your ship is incomparable.
  2. Celebrate Triumphs: Small successes fuel your entrepreneurial spirit; embrace them.
  3. Anticipate Storms: Turbulent times are part of the journey. Resilience and commitment are crucial.
  4. Self-Reliance: In the early stages, be hands-on; no task is beneath you. It helps you understand your business and instills a strong work ethic.
  5. Empower Your Team: As your business grows, trust and delegate. Empowering your team boosts morale and frees you for strategic growth.

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Yajush Gupta

Yajush Gupta

Yajush is a journalist at Dynamic Business. He previously worked with Reuters as a business correspondent and holds a postgrad degree in print journalism.

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