To celebrate some of Australia’s most innovative e-commerce entrepreneurs, we sat down with Rex Kuo from Orbitkey, to learn about his company’s start-up success.
Ditching his career as a pharmacist, Kuo set out to solve a common frustration of everyday Australians – bulky, jangling key chains. In 2013, along with his co-founder, Charles Ng, Kuo introduced the Orbitkey to the crowd-funding community. With 5,000 people seeing value in the vision, the duo was able to kick-start their online venture and turn it into the successful business that it is today.
For Kuo, the experience has been a significant learning curve, but one he’s glad he undertook. Here, he shares some of his inspirations, struggles, and takeaways of starting an online business.
What made you decide to start your own business?
I’ve always been extremely interested in business. During my time as a student and while also working as a pharmacist, I’ve explored various platforms such as retail, fast-food, made-to-order, wholesale, eBay and e-commerce.
What was it about the e-commerce industry that appealed to you the most?
For the Orbitkey Key Organiser, we created a product but needed a way to test demand. After a lot of research, we decided to go down the crowdfunding route –this was a great way for us to receive the capital that was required to turn our idea into a physical product, but more importantly, to help build a loyal group of early-adopters and reach a global audience.
Now that you’re working within the e-commerce industry, what do you love the most about it?
The possibility of scaling the brand and business is what I love the most. We run our e-commerce site on Shopify and it’s been a seamless experience in terms of setting up and growing the business because it’s just so easy. It allows us to have great integrations and plug-ins and work with developers and third-party fulfilment. It’s all super exciting, but can also be challenging. In saying that, however, everyone who knows me knows that I love a good challenge!
I also love to communicate directly with our customers. It’s so important for us to hear from them, as it allows us to adapt and adjust our offerings based on their concerns or comments.
We’ve been able to build strong and meaningful relationships this way and we’ve even set up an insider’s group of our most loyal customers that we continuously go to for advice and feedback.
What did you find most challenging about starting your own online business?
Customer acquisition and driving traffic to the website is always challenging. It took us a very long time to figure out digital marketing! Despite all of the challenges, with Shopify, we’ve been able to get the customer support and one-on-one help that we need to ensure the brand is a success.
What part of starting your own business did you find most interesting?
The fact that the more you put in, the greater the reward. It was such a steep learning curve; in the beginning, you just have to be hands-on with everything. Logistics, manufacturing, marketing, customer service, accounting, design – you name it!
How has your business developed since its inception?
We started our business via a successful crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter, which put us in a great position to launch the brand. Since then, our products can be found in over 1,500 retail stores around the world and we sell to a global audience online. What started as a side hustle for two friends, has grown to a team of 15!
We started off with a single product to help people carry their keys better, and have now evolved into different ranges of products that help with organisation.
Can you identify and explain three of your biggest takeaways about starting your own business/immersing yourself within the e-commerce industry?
Research the market:
Best inventions solve everyday problems, so make sure to research what other solutions are already available. Ask yourself two questions – where does your product sit in the market and most importantly, are there any added values for the user?
Don’t be afraid to share your idea:
Start by sharing your invention with family and friends – get their feedback. Get opinions from strangers and conduct a survey. Remember, not everyone is out to steal your idea!
Start a crowdfunding campaign:
Crowdfunding is a great way to get your product off the ground, raise the initial funding and test demand for your invention. This will all go toward developing a community of early adopters and supporters.
How do you think you have evolved as an entrepreneur in the time since you started your business?
As I mentioned earlier, it has been a very steep learning curve with a lot of trial and error. We made plenty of mistakes throughout our five-year journey, but you definitely become a little bit wiser each time. Eventually, you start to embrace new mistakes as you know it’ll only help you grow. It’s only when you consistently make the same mistakes that you should be worried!
What trend/development are you most excited about in the online retail space?
Improved logistics combined with mobile shopping. We’re definitely seeing a significant jump in shoppers via mobile devices. There’s also an expectation for faster and more reliable delivery, alongside a favourable return policy. If you combine the three (improved logistics, mobile shopping and return policy), offline shoppers are quickly moving over to online shopping.
Physical bricks-and-mortar stores will become a showroom for consumers to trial products.
What’s your number one piece of advice for other entrepreneurs looking at breaking into the e-commerce space?
Don’t be afraid to give it a try, you have nothing to lose! If you’re willing to do the research, put in the hours – it doesn’t require a whole lot of capital to get started!