Brothers adopt different look in T-shirt game

Unit founder Paul Everest and the work station he calls the 'design immersion pod'.
Unit founder Paul Everest and the work station he calls the 'design immersion pod'.
A design from the Unit range of T-shirts.

A design from the Unit range of T-shirts.

Unit founder Paul Everest and the work station he calls the 'design immersion pod'.

Unit founder Paul Everest and the work station he calls the 'design immersion pod'.

A design from the Unit range of T-shirts.

A design from the Unit range of T-shirts.

It's a tip good enough to print on a T-shirt.

Paul Everest's advice to anyone setting their sights on becoming an entrepreneur is that it's important to use your own skills to make it happen.

"Everyone has a unique talent and skill, and it's about harnessing that and turning it into a business," he says.

"I'm yet to meet a person who doesn't have a unique ability or passion. Once you figure this out, build your world around it. Remember, opportunity doesn't come along. It's here now."

Everest's entrepreneurial words of wisdom are well founded. In the space of a decade, he and brother Ian have built a $23 million a year global business that designs, manufactures and distributes action sports clothing and accessories under the signature brand Unit.

Starting from their parent's garage in 2002 with $600 in start-up capital, the Everests had a clear vision and determination to create T-shirts that had a different look to the other products already on the market.

"I noticed all the other brands seemed to just place logos on tees in a different colour for each new collection . . . how boring," Paul Everest says.

"People were just drawn to the art on our tees from the beginning."

The brothers' aim is to get to a $500 million annual turnover within the next eight years by accelerating global demand and continued brand evolution.

They began their business sponsoring athletes, primarily in motocross and BMX, to increase brand visibility, and put through their first large-scale manufacturing order from China in 2005. Their biggest breakthrough came in 2007 when major surf and streetwear chains, such as Australia’s largest, City Beach, began stocking the Unit brand.

Sales picked up quickly from then as consumers – primarily from the youth market – warmed to Unit's edgy designs, and before too long the brand was in high demand.

Viral marketing and cutting-edge advertising also have helped entrench the Unit brand over time, with Australasian Surf Business magazine recently voting Unit as the second-most popular in-store brand behind Billabong, but ahead of other majors such as Quiksilver and Rip Curl.

"I think success in any field is due to two simple things: belief and follow through," Everest says.

"I believe that the human brain is a reality generator and we are all capable of anything we can imagine."

Everest has an interesting method for spurring his artistic imagination. To help improve his design processes, he built himself what he calls a "design immersion pod". The pod incorporates a converted dentist's chair, a large computer screen and keyboard, aluminium scaffolding, a surround sound system, and an oxygen tank.

"It is the most amazing environment to create art from in terms of graphic design," he says.

Unit now has 80 staff across two offices, on the Gold Coast and in Los Angeles, and has established distribution channels in Canada, France, the UK, South Africa, Switzerland, Sweden and the Pacific Islands.

Everest says although Unit is an Australian brand, the company's marketing does not aim to exploit this. "We prefer to think of Unit as a global brand that likes to challenge the status quo," he says.

This year the brothers are focused on strengthening the business ahead of large distribuitution projects planned for 2013.

"Every three years it's important to take stock of your progress and make sure you have the platform ready for the next stage of growth," Everest says.

"This is where a lot of fast-growing brands go wrong. They move too quickly without putting on a set of new tyres and changing the plugs at key times.

Paul Everest's 5 business tips

1. Exploit your skills. Focus on the skills you have that the average person doesn't have.

2. Put in the hard yards. Vision plus lots of hard work equals reward.

3. Good business management. Overcome cash flow challenges by having robust systems and processes in place.

4. Build a dedicated team. Find talented people to help you achieve your business goals.

5. Achieve work-life balance. Don't burn yourself out. Life is too short.

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This story Brothers adopt different look in T-shirt game first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.