Four friends sit at a timber dining table with dark blue upholstered chairs, balloons and party streamers
About Us, Popular by Alex Irving 9 minutes

Turned 7, learned 7

As of September 2022, Koala is officially seven years old! We’re skipping the party pies and lolly bags in lieu of donning our Reflection Akubra (they totally exist) to look back over the years, what we’ve achieved (lots) and what we’ve learnt (even more)Who better to tell the story than seven of our cleverest Koalas!

This isn’t a step-by-step guide on how to start a business in Australia (quite the opposite, perhaps), but it is an earnest, exultant answer to the question: what have we learnt in the last 7 years?

You know those internal phrases and acronyms that you and your colleagues are across but make no sense to anyone not employed there? We’ve got those too. We hire dazzling talent who are #ambitious, #curious and #selfless; who can come in hot and GSD (Get Shit Done). Now you can read without scrunching that cute nose of yours in confusion.

 

Vicki Slavina – VP, Operations & Strategy

Success is built by failure

Vicki Slavina – VP, Operations & Strategy

We’ve all heard the quotes about learning from failure. We’ve grown up a lot over the past seven years, and it wasn’t always easy. We made our fair share of f**k-ups along the way; but the more we failed, the more we learned and grew (as people and as a company). 

We launched some campaigns which were flops, but then we learned what our customers found funny and relatable and made lots of winning campaigns.

On the rare occasions when we messed up customer orders, we turned them around to make our customer’s experience even better.

We briefly set up shop in Hong Kong, sending mattresses from Australia, which was perfect practice in what not to do before we successfully entered Japan the following year with a much more localised strategy. Surprise, surprise – Japanese customers are different to Aussie customers, and therefore have different wants and needs (!). Some of our early furniture products in Japan were not fit for the size of Japanese homes. We’ve since designed furniture fit for the local lifestyles, needs and pain points of our customers. 

Every quarter, we celebrate as a company the biggest wins and biggest fails of the quarter. Each team prepares a skit, presentation or video which calls out their biggest wins and, often more entertainingly, fails. We have a big laugh and then go back and do it all over again the next quarter. It’s become part of the Koala tradition. 

Vicki’s fave Koala product? The Beach Bum Cushion and Throw. “I’ve even sent it to my new mum friends in the US for their nursery,” she tells us!

 

Lauren Denny – Director of Talent, P&C

Perfect your a-hole radars

Lauren Denny – Director of Talent, P&C

High-growth companies can be a difficult working environment for even the highest calibre of team members and candidates. Koala is a scale-up company with big, big goals which is not the structure much of the workforce has been exposed to in their career thus far. 

We have definitely always given more focus and weight to candidates who can actively demonstrate resilience and adaptability from their past experiences. This, paired with a lack of ego, is critical for thriving in a start-up as you need to work extremely collaboratively and at a crazy pace, and being an a-hole or set in your ways is only going to present unnecessary hurdles to GSD.  

Fun fact…when our CEO Mitch hired me as the first dedicated internal recruiter at Koala, his only request was don’t hire any assholes” and to date, I have tried to honour that to the best of my abilities. My a-hole radar has definitely been perfected!

“Soft skills” have become increasingly important as well as we are constantly reshaping and rescoping roles and remits to meet the rapidly changing needs and growth trajectory of the business.  

Lastly, in hiring over the recent years, it has definitely been a challenge learning how to balance speed and a consistent quality process. Like most scaling environments, you are literally running while getting dressed and doing everything at once; but reactive recruitment won’t get you the right results, so taking a step back to breathe, as well as putting in some deliberate checks can lead to a more genuine experience and better outcome. 

We’re the first to admit that we haven’t always gotten it right. But at least we tried, learnt and had a heap of fun doing it with some truly amazing and inspiring good humans along the way!

Lauren’s fave Koala product? Her Soul Mate Mattress!

 

Mark Mitchinson – VP, New Ventures

Disrupt or be disrupted, and go after the whole damn bakery

Mark Mitchinson – VP, New Ventures

In today’s fast-paced digital world there are no secrets. Everyone knows everything, and great ideas that help grow your business are quickly copied; the potential of the opportunity reduced.

You can never sit still and become complacent as your competitors will not only catch up but pass you in a blink of an eye. At the same time, you can’t spend time looking at what your competitors are doing as this will not give you a new advantage but an already diminished advantage and you end up chasing a percentage of a pie instead of going after the whole damn bakery.

Have fun chasing new ideas and innovation. Help to lead into the future not copy the past. Take pride in others copying what you do as it means you have done something worthwhile.

Here at Koala, leading and not following is in our DNA. We help disrupt the world around us for the better of our customers, are proud of what we do and have a hell of a lot of fun along the way.

Mark’s fave Koala product? “The best pillow in the world”, the Koala Pillow. 

 

Shota Adam – Marketing Director, Japan

Test and learn and test again

Shota Adam – Marketing Director, Japan

Testing and learning is in our DNA at Koala. Since our launch, we’ve been bold in trying out new channels in which competitors may not find themselves. 

The media landscape of the countries we operate heavily informs our channel strategy. For example, in Australia we know that many customers commute to work via automobile, so the ‘commute’ moment from a media perspective focused on morning radio ads, and disruptive roadside (& metro area) ‘Out of Home’ placements. A famous early example is of course our IKEA ‘NOFNIDEA’ ad. This utilised ‘Out of Home’ in a disruptive way, encouraging customers to not only view the ad but share it, leading to a viral campaign that unlocked new growth for us.

However, in the Japanese ‘morning commute’ moment, the majority of the population ride trains, whilst high-speed internet underground leads to packed subways full of customers streaming videos or listening to audio via their phones. This led to a creative growth strategy built around video YouTube advertising, which is utilized by 80% of internet users in Japan.

Our mentality regarding ad creative itself is to also constantly experiment- with testing and learning at the core. In our recent ‘Push’ YouTube Trueview Campaign: we ensured we had 3 different ‘Intros’ to A/B/C test.

Why? 

The truth is that 90% YouTube users will push the ‘Skip’ button you see after 5 seconds when an ad pops up. Seeing this as an opportunity, we always ensure we have 3 different variations of ‘intro’ so we can learn which ‘intro’ receives the fewest ‘skips’- leading to a larger proportion of customers viewing and engaging with our ads.

Although we have scaled incredible heights since 2015, test and learning remains a core tenet of our creative and media strategies in all markets.

Shota’s fave Koala product? The Calm As Mattress. 

 

Adam Harrigan – Design Manager

Challenge the status quo (and designing tool-free assembly furniture is really hard)

Adam Harrigan – Design Manager 

Overcomplicating the design is never a good thing and certainly not what our Koala customers want. All the work we put into the design and engineering of the product should be invisible to the customer. The blood, sweat, tears and expertise translates to its simplest form or function; meaning it just needs to be really bloody comfortable, or really strong.

And easily assembled! We are almost six years into no-tool developments and stoked to say that all Koala furniture is assembled without using any tools. If I had known it was going to be this challenging I would have prepared myself differently. And maybe ran away. 

The first few products I designed directly targeted customer pain-points, which, in most cases, resulted from poorly made; overcomplicated products. The simple things that we worked on gave us the validation we need to pursue more furniture items in more areas of the home.

We’ve nailed a lot (see what we did there). But, as we move into more complex and sophisticated furniture (think: hinges!), the journey begins towards cracking the code of making new parts, components or pieces of hardware 100% tool-less. But…! When we do crack the code we are going to once again shake up the furniture industry. 

A note on sustainable furniture. We are constantly sourcing and testing new materials to find the right balance between sustainability and high quality.  A highly sustainable material that is poor quality means it’ll end up on the side of the road the first time a customer moves home. 

You have to ensure quality, otherwise, is the design truly sustainable? This thinking has led us down the path of designing and engineering furniture that will last a lifetime. 

Adam’s fave Koala product? The Getaway Sofa. 

 

Stephanie Roberts-Baxter – Business Manager, Sleep & Accessories

Go far and fast with thoughtfully-selected suppliers

Stephanie Roberts-Baxter – Business Manager, Sleep & Accessories 

When you move as quickly as we do at Koala, you need to all be moving in the same direction! 

We have grown so much in the last 7 years and our supply base has grown with us. We spend time investing in the right partners up front – partners who share our commitment to innovation and quality. 

We’re a scale-up, and as we have grown, we have been able to partner with companies that can match the speed at which we grow – specialists in industry innovation, with R&D departments that can support the vision of our talented designers and engineers.

Establishing win/win relationships ensures that all of our partners are fully committed to our product vision and support us when we ask them to move at Koala-warp-speed and to pivot as needed (often!). The right partners share our ambition and are willing to go on a journey of continuous product improvement to deliver the best experience for our customers.

The need for collaborative relationships has never been clearer than during the COVID pandemic. This created extreme market volatility and highlighted the strength of Koala’s supplier relationships. These partnerships were fundamental in protecting supply from disruption and minimising the impact of market-wide price pressures. 

At Koala we believe in sustainable sourcing and ethical manufacturing, and we aim to continuously improve the traceability of our products, as well as increasing the proportion of sustainable materials and components that make up the products we design. Our suppliers, like us, are committed to doing good for their employees and the environment.

Steph’s fave Koala product? The Soul Mate Mattress“the ultimate in luxury”.

 

Belinda Judd – Director, Group Financial Control

Be dynamic in making our customers happy

Belinda Judd – Director, Group Financial Control

There’s one thing I am known to say quite frequently…”there’s never a dull day at Koala”

Thinking big, bold and #ambitious is in the Koala DNA. More often than you’d expect, this means we are full steam ahead, all-in on a project…until we’re not. We aren’t afraid of changes to the plan as we know it’s how we learn and take control of changes in the things we can’t control – the market, the supply chain, our competitors… 

It is incredibly energising to see how the (many, many, many!) changes I’ve seen across not only my time, but the entire 7 years of Koala, have shaped what we have become and what we stand for. Plus, it’s been a lot of fun along the way!

The Koala Team is encouraged to get #curious about the why and the how. How do we scale our processes to give us control, accuracy and the best insights as we grow? We encourage Koalas to challenge and iterate how things have always been done, be creative and lean into the talent that we have. To consider “what is my legacy from being part of the Koala journey?”.

At the end of the day, our customers drive everything we do. Whether it’s our internal partners, our suppliers or the happy people sitting on a Koala Sofa at home right this second;  our customers are front of mind with every decision we make.

Without our beloved customers, we don’t learn, and we can’t adapt. We not only want our customers to be happy with their products but feel really close to the Koala brand and the people who work at the Treehouse every day, creating just for them.

Belinda’s fave Koala product? The Getaway Sofa Luxe Edition!

What have we learnt from writing this?

We have a lot of good things in our DNA (leading not following, test and learning, and thinking big, bold and ambitious). We work thoughtfully, at warp-speed; but have lots of fun while doing it. And, lastly – that all we do, is for you: our beloved customers.

Not a customer yet? Let’s fix that quick-smart. Find the next love of your life at koala.com. 

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