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RedBack Tools founder Jake Tyson always knew there was a better design for his tools and a better way to make more money than the average carpenter. Proving that a good entrepreneur never gives up, the apprentice created the toolbox for success. Here he shares his wisdom.

“When I was a carpenter, it wasn’t really challenging enough. I knew there was only ever a certain amount of money I could make and that didn’t sit well with me.”

By age 21, Tyson had already developed different ideas and designs for the tools of his trade. While an apprentice’s wage wouldn’t see these ideas off the ground, that was all about to change when he became involved in a motorcycle accident. Time spent in and out of surgery to save his leg for three years didn’t stifle Tyson’s entrepreneurial spirit and in making the most of a bad situation, he read up on marketing and production to help launch his products to the market.

Now 32, Tyson has his accident to thank for his multimillion-dollar hardware business Redback Tools, which has taken the US by storm and seen him dubbed the ‘Handsome Aussie Handyman’. Using the compensation money from his accident, Tyson produced the first prototype of the Maxi Strike Hammer, which became stocked in the world’s largest hardware retailer Lowes and is now about to hit US television screens.

DB: How Did Redback Tools Come About?

JT: When I realised I was no longer going to be a chippy that climbed roofs for a living, I studied up on marketing and industrial design to try and make some of my ideas a reality. After showing my ideas to other carpenters, I knew I was onto something. I started Redback Tools and the Maxi Strike Hammer proved an awesome product to ‘Put The Sting In Your Swing’. I realised the traditional, straight handled hammer was ineffective in a number of situations, which led to this version with a curved handle, to reduce reverberation and allow hammering around corners. I felt the Redback spider was a great Australian icon, making Redback Tools a great Aussie name.

DB: What advice did you seek when getting started?

JT: I went to some of the big multinationals to see if they would take my idea on board and they wouldn’t. A lot of them would say they’d take a license agreement out with me, but I was afraid of getting stuck in the bottom draw never to reappear. So, it was really a case of hit and miss. I really didn’t have any positive advice from many people, especially when I told them I was looking at entering the international market.

DB: How do you go about differentiating Redback Tools?

JT: We differentiate ourselves through our product. All our products are unique in some way, particularly in terms of their use and function. It must be better than anything else available and it has to work and make life easier for the end user. We don’t just add a different colour or a different type of rubber or something like that onto a product, we ensure each product design is actually going to work and make a hell of a difference. I’m still able to get out onto a building site, get my hands dirty and come up with new ideas by speaking to others who are active in the trade everyday. That’s how I do my research and keep it real.

DB: Who is your ideal customer?

JT: We define our customers all the way from the contractors to the DIY-ers. The DIY market is huge at the moment as everyone is tightening the purse strings. They’re a very good market that tends to be underestimated by a lot of companies. Women are another one as they really appreciate new, innovative designs and they are more likely to buy the products because they are new as opposed to chippies who may only replace their hammer once every couple of years. We definitely struck a chord with the female demographic in the US as more than 80 percent of my customer base there is female. This is mainly due to the lightweight usability of the hammer.

DB: What are your favourite and least favourite parts of what you do?

JT: I love working out new ways to market Redback Tools through TV and ‘The Handsome Aussie Handyman’ in the US. My least favourite part would probably be manufacturing and getting all the products up to scratch with barcoding and so on. Dealing with foreign countries and trying to do it from another country makes all the coordinating, manufacturing and product rollout very time consuming. We have someone full time in China and Taiwan, which is very important as he can speak the language and make all the translations.

DB: What’s your biggest mistake so far?

JT: Thinking the product would sell itself. I thought if it was just on the shelf that people would walk past and notice it. If people aren’t educated and if they don’t know it even exists, no one’s going to purchase it. I had stock sitting on the shelves in Australia when we first launched which wasn’t moving as no one even knew there was a new product out on the market.

DB: What has been your biggest ongoing challenge?

JT: Sharing my time between the US, UK and Australia. There’s a hell of a lot of travel and its hard trying to be in a lot of different places at once. For many years I was trying to do this all on my own and then I brought one of my best friends on board. He’s been able to help with the back office stuff so I can concentrate on what I’m better at. This has seen the company completely change over the last six months.

DB: What do you attribute your success to?

JT: I got in so deep that I just had to pull it off. It became an obsession and I ended up doing all my research. I always knew it was going to work, but I knew I just had to find the right ways and the right people to make it work.
In the end, it’s about giving people something great and moving volume. I never concentrate on how much money I’m making, just about how many units of something I have to sell or move per quarter. The rest follows so long as everyone in the business makes good money to keep them enthusiastic and interested.

I’ve been there before with holes in the back of my pants. I have always said your jeans wear away that much from your butt rubbing along the ground that eventually you form a callus until you just don’t feel it anymore, you just have to stick it out.

Jake’s Toolbox for success

• Do your research and find people that know what you don’t.

• Have a go and do it now. The worst that can happen is that it doesn’t work out and you lose some cash.

• Keep it simple. The last time I wore a suit was to a funeral and when I did the deal with Lowes in the US, I was wearing thongs. It kind of threw them off and they didn’t know what they were in for, but it worked for me.

• Remember, people want to make money. Prove yourself. If you can make them look good they’ll do business with you.

• Contract your manufacturing plant out. This works out much cheaper.

Melissa Yen

Melissa Yen

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