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Along with some savvy marketing, a unique and yet simple concept to make life easier for four-wheel drive enthusiasts has been the driving force for the international success of four-wheel-drive accessory company, Staun Products.

A four-wheel-drive trip back in 1998 produced an epiphany that would lead to international business success for Lee Davis and Steven Furlonger. Prior to setting out on their own adventure, the four-wheel-drive enthusiasts noticed others squatting to deflate their tyres with anything from sticks to screwdrivers to release enough air to achieve the right level for off-track driving.

“We decided there had to be a better way,” says Davis. “By the end of a week of fishing and a few beers, my partner Steve had written on the back coasters and in notepads some idea of what we could do.”

They spent a year developing a vehicle tyre deflator to the stage where they could patent it. Then came the decision: what do we do with it? “Was it going to be: make a few batches, sell them off and use the money as a beer and boat fund, or do we want to make a serious business of it?” Davis explains.

He did some more market research and felt there was a gap to fill, and so the partners took a giant leap. Davis quit his job managing a large firm, Furlonger quit running his own mechanics business, and Staun Tyre Deflators was born—operating out of a spare room housing only a computer.

Furlonger worked on the manufacturing and product development side of the business while Davis took over marketing and management. “We started building a website, getting on the phone and talking to people, getting them to at least trial and test the product, and eventually buy it.”

Awareness of the product grew rapidly among four-wheel drive enthusiasts and sales expanded nationally through a growing distributor network.


Smart Branding

“Once our website was up and running and we got smarter about web design and how we could use it as a tool, we were able to establish connection with overseas companies that were coming to our site and filling out an application to become a reseller,” Davis explains. In a year, working out of the spare room, Staun had established seven export accounts through the website. This afforded an upgrade and they moved to a double lock-up garage incorporating production and administration.

Through the success of the tyre deflator, Staun built a broad network of distributors (selling to 230 stores Australia-wide) and were able to introduce other four-wheel-drive accessory products under the Staun brand, such as the Under Body Buddy in their Massojet range.

Davis says people recognise Staun’s prominence in the industry and constantly approach them with products to add to their range. “We’ve worked very hard on branding so that we could bring other products in under that brand and people would recognise it,” he says.

With new products on board and a stronger hold on the market, Staun moved into a factory at Nerang, west of Queensland’s Gold Coast. “From there it’s grown, bigger and bigger.”


Export Strategy

Although Staun accidentally fell into export earlier than they predicted, it became apparent to Davis early on that to support Staun’s growth they had to boost volume, and increasing exports was the way to achieve that. He sought advice on how to get access to Austrade’s Export Market Development Grants (EMDG) and whether Staun’s business plan and export marketing strategy was viable. Attending seminars held by the Queensland Department of Trade confirmed they were heading in the right direction.

“Once we knew we were eligible for the grants we could look at marketing into the areas we wanted to move into,” says Davis of finding areas with a high level of four-wheel-drive use. After realising it made better business sense to spend money offshore, they developed, which thanks to the grant, they were able to get back 50 percent of the funds to reinvest back into the business. “As soon as we started advertising in our overseas markets, we had a significant response, which was great for sales.”

Naturally a large part of Staun’s export marketing strategy centres on its website (www.staunproducts.com). Although it prompted some good overseas leads in the beginning, Davis realised it wasn’t achieving its potential. They could only afford a $2,500 website at the outset, but as Davis became more educated in using it as a marketing tool it was time for an upgrade—an investment he says was well worth it.

“With our first website, after about 12 months we were getting around 400 hits a day if we were lucky,” he says. “We ended up spending close to $12,000 on this site and we probably spend around $250 a month maintaining, updating and optimising the site. Our site today gets 13,000 hits a day.”

Davis says they have now driven strongly into 19 export markets throughout Europe, the Middle East, Japan and New Zealand. However, Staun’s biggest market is the US, where they started Staun USA Incorporated in California earlier this year. “Potentially it is our biggest market in this industry and so we really need to be closer to the customers and be able to service them better and be on the same time zones.”

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