For any startup, growth is pivotal for business success and becoming a market leader contender is a big goal to strive towards. For Eric Amiel and Thomas Dufraisse, co-founders of BananaLab, they managed to do just that, becoming the second biggest experience offering after RedBalloon within 6 months of launching at the end of 2017.
BananaLab is a Victoria based startup by the two Frenchmen who previously had no experience in business, just a dream to bring experience gift boxes which had been so popular in Europe to Australia.
BananaLab is expected to continue to grow this year as they work towards becoming the first company to sell experiences in brick-and-mortar stores across Australia.
They have over 700 experiences listed on their site and have been picked up by Amazon to be a part of their Launchpad program which gathers products from the most innovative startups in Australia.
Tell us about your startup – why and when did you decide to found BananaLab?
We created BananaLab in 2015 and started to operate in late 2017. We were on our way back from a surfing trip in Torquay when the idea for BananaLab first came. Both hailing from France, we moved to Australia around five years ago. But like many startup founders, and after many years in large corporate firms, we felt the urge to take a risk and create a business from scratch that was more aligned with our values and interests. We both like sports, adventure, and travel, and we were thinking about different ideas. In France, selling experiences via gift-box sets are very popular and we hadn’t seen any in Australia. So it looked like a market opportunity in a space that we loved – we took a leap of faith and went for it, and it worked. Whilst all our competitors were selling experiences one over one, online, we have started to package our experiences per price points at $100, $200, $300 in different gift boxes and sell it. The recipients receiving a $200 box were able to pick 1 experience from our 100+ available Australia wide, where all the experiences proposed in the $200 box were worth $200, making the choice possible. This was the beginning of our success.
What were some of the greatest difficulties you had with your startup at the beginning?
No one knew us…! Okay, of course, we were 2 Frenchies with no network, no market knowledge and no experience in this field but we had a lot of energy and no idea that what we were trying to achieve would be this hard! But we made it, we have been able to build the 2nd largest experience offer in Victoria in only 6 months.
How did you overcome these difficulties?
We have always followed our values, such as the belief in promoting our partners including V8 Fastrack, iFly or La Petite Conserve, which was the best way to promote experiences. They were not aligned with any of our competitors but it was definitely an important key to success for us. Clients are interested in transparency – they want to know who is running the show, who is providing the experience and we are passing on all this information in full transparency, notwithstanding that this is also a great promotional tool for our experience partners.
How will Amazon’s Launchpad program helped your startup to grow?
The only thing we know is that it would give us access to specific privileges such as boosted marketing campaigns and product placement on the front page. It seems to be a great asset for startups – let’s see!
Why have you decided to expand into brick-and-mortar stores?
We will tell you a secret here… There is an important gap in the Australian market. According to an Australia Post market study, published last year, the online market is growing a lot but still represents only 10% of the overall spend in Australia, whereas 90% is spent in brick and mortar stores.
When you think that all other experience providers only sell online, you can easily figure out the huge market opportunity for us.
What’s been a milestone for BananaLab?
Oh, we’ve hit many milestones but the latest one was in October last year when we launched our first interstate offer.
Our offer used to be Victoria only but since October 2019, we now offer experiences in VIC, NSW and also some in other states. By June this year, the offer will be fully national. This is important as it changes the distributors we can work with – we used to be limited to Victorian players or local arms of national companies. Now, we can work with everyone which is a game changer as it will allow us to scale up a lot.
What does the future look like for your business?
Bright! Ha ha ha, to be honest, we don’t know, but we work hard, smart and have built it step by step to ensure resistance and scalability. We are building a long standing company here and have done everything to ensure the solidity of our foundations. Considering the number of leads we are working on at the moment and the positive market feedback we had, I wouldn’t be surprise if you saw BananaLab everywhere in the next few months. We plan to revolutionise the gift market, as a similar concept of ours already did in Europe, which is a big call – we get that. But we understand the challenge and we love challenges! So far, Australians have been very supportive and we will keep on improving our offer and the way we deliver our experiences to keep on putting smiles on every Australian’s face!