Sydney based startup, Seaquatix, proves that entrepreneurial inspiration can strike anywhere, anytime – even while snorkeling off the coast of Asia.
Seaquatix is the brainchild of founders Aprille Lim and Max Mabeka who have developed waterproof cases for phones and valuables using thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) technology and a patented lock system.
“Max and I were holidaying in Asia for about a month. We did a lot of watersports and on one particular occasion, a random tour guide asked if we wanted to go snorkeling. He said the snorkeling spot had crystal clear water and an amazing variety of fish and coral,” Ms Lim said.
“Curious, we decided to go but felt a little uneasy being on a small wooden boat in the middle of the ocean with complete strangers, and even more unsettling was the idea of leaving our valuables in the boat while we were snorkeling.”
“We couldn’t fully enjoy the underwater experience because we were worried about the safety of our things, or worse, the possibility they would leave us stranded in the middle of the ocean with no way to call for help. So, we took turns snorkeling”
When the pair returned to their hotel room, they thought ‘wouldn’t it be great if we had an accessory that allowed us to take our phones and essential valuables with us into the water?’
So, with an idea and the help of social media, Seaquatix was launched in July 2016.
“In our first year, we worked really hard at building our profile and brand. We worked with a lot of influencers and gave away a lot of product for people to use and post about on social media. Although this exercise rarely converted to sales, it did help us build a bank of content we could use to promote the product.”
In its first year, Seaquatix, secured a contract with General Pants Group and online retailers such as Wrapped by RedBalloon, HardToFind and The Store by Fairfax.
“Partnering with General Pants Group was a dream come true. One night after work I was thinking about all the stores Seaquatix would be perfect for and I compiled a wish list – on top of that list was General Pants.
“I had no idea how to get a product stocked in a major retail store, so I went ahead and reached out to the CEO of General Pants group and asked if he would be interested in meeting with us and stocking our product across their stores.To our surprise, he was quick to respond and within a month, Seaquatix secured its first major retail deal with General Pants Group.”
Ms Lim said that partnering with such a well-known lifestyle brand allowed them to leverage of the brand’s credibility, target market, resources and audience reach.
“We are really grateful that they took a chance on us and back us as the partnership gave us our own brand credibility in the market.
“I guess at the heart of being an entrepreneur is taking huge risks and thinking outside the box. In this case, it paid off.”
Despite Ms Lim’s future aspiration to see Seaquatix ‘really scale’ through partnerships with more B2B companies, she said one of her toughest decisions was turning down another retail deal.
“Since we had great success the first time around with our method of emailing the CEO of the company, we decided to replicate this method across the rest of our retailer wish list.
“Funnily enough, the method worked and garnered the same response.”
Seaquatix had managed to secure another meeting with a major Australian retailer that could have really propelled the business, but it was not to be.
“As our interactions progressed, I realised that this retailer knew it held all the power in the relationship and used it to their advantage. We bent over backwards for this retailer to get the product over the line, but in the end, we decided not to do business with them.
“As hard as it was to turn the deal away, it was a really defining moment for Seaquatix and for myself as an entrepreneur. It made me realise how much I believed in our brand and how much I didn’t want to compromise the brand just to achieve scale.”
Social media has been an extremely successful form of marketing for Seaquatix with the products pitched to millennials who would use their products ‘taking selfies in the ocean, chilling poolside, swimming or boating’. However, this year, Seaquatix plans to broaden their target market to include non-water sport activites and those who enjoy the great outdoors.