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Four Brothers And A Hot Tap: The Joolca Story | #183

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Ep 183
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Nathan Bush is a director at eCommerce talent agency, eSuite. He has led eCommerce for businesses with revenue $100m+ and has been recognised as one of Australia’s Top 50 People in eCommerce four years in a row. You can contact Nathan on LinkedIn, Twitter or via email.

Mac founded Joolca 8 years ago in his garage, stumbling across the idea while refurbishing used gas appliances. Today it has become an international brand selling ‘home comforts’ to outdoor adventurers all across the world. Early along the journey, Mac had convinced his three brothers to join him for the ride and together they’re seeing how far this little Aussie family business can go.
You can contact Mac at LinkedIn

Mac talks hot showers, customer service hacks and building the Joolca team

In this episode of Add To Cart, we are joined by Mac Slodyczka, the founder of Joolca. Joolca is a completely portable hot water system that can easily be used camping – or off the grid, or while renovating – anywhere where you need the luxury of hot water! Developed by Mac and his team, Joolca is now sold and distributed in four countries – Australia, US, UK and Canada – and sold through retailers including Tentworld and Snowy’s. Mac talks us through how he developed the innovative Joolca solution with his engineering background – and his broader vision of how Joolca could help make anyone feel at home in the outdoors. I think I need that. We also discuss how his three siblings all joined him on his journey at Joolca, the hacks he has developed for great customer service and his approach to bringing great people into the Joolca team. 

“There’s pro and cons to having your siblings all working together in a leadership team, but it’s worked out pretty well actually and it’s fun

Maciek Slodyczka

Brothers in business

“There’s four brothers at Joolca. We all did civil engineering. It’s like we all copied the oldest one because we were too lazy to think of our own direction. We’re all civil engineers, but it just so happens that I’m naturally pretty good at brands and products.

 I started the company.  The first brother joined up, Bart, so he runs our CS side of things. Then it was Jack, he’s the oldest one, he does operations. Then Chris was last. Now, it’s all four of us, so parents are pretty proud, I suppose, pretty happy. Not without its challenges. Obviously, there’s pros and cons to having your siblings working together in the leadership team, but it’s worked out pretty well thankfully, and it’s fun.”

Aussie flavour

“We have this reputation of the Outback and Australians just tough and camping. Australian camping products have a really good reputation overseas, so absolutely, we want to leverage that. It’s just also fun and it means that we stand out, which is a good thing. We’re trying to build awareness, trying to leverage any point of difference we can. People seem to love it. We were kind of worried in the beginning if the Americans will need subtitles to understand the accent or Australian lingo, but it’s been fine and I think they really enjoy it. We want to do, if anything, even more of it, just lean into it more.”

Purpose filter

“Having focus is good for a number of reasons because that means it’s easier to just achieve our goals, which are expanding overseas, doing a good job with selling the product that we have. It’s easier to do customer support, easier to do marketing, all that kind of thing, so we’re really careful about adding products to the range for that reason. 

For small products like accessories, mostly it’s just a matter of customer feedback. If we notice a demand for something small, we just do it. We don’t really do much of a business case development or anything like that.

For big products, and we’ve got a couple of big products on the roadmap, we use our purpose as a filter so it gets run through that first. We ask ourselves the question, “Is it addressing a comfort problem? Is it going to help the customer go out further, stay longer, help the family come along?” If it passes that, then we have a second layer of more of an internal question that we might ask the product team. 

We want the products that we develop to be a class leading, so if we haven’t got a unique angle or a unique differentiation where we think it’s just going to be substantially better than what’s out there, then we don’t want to just match what’s out there because it’s going to make it hard for us to compete. We can’t compete on anything except for having a better products. Yeah, it’s those two things that we use to filter through that noise.”

Questions answered in this episode include
  • How do you incorporate customer feedback into product development? 
  • What’s your process for developing a product?
  • How do you approach the process of hiring staff at Joolca? 

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