“Some look at things that are, and ask why. I dream of things that never were and ask why not?”
The playwright George Bernard Shaw would have been impressed to know his adapted words have provided so much inspiration for Julie and Sali Stevanja, cofounders of Stylerunner.
Despite living separately in the fashion conscious cities of London and Sydney a few years ago, Julie and Sali both found it near impossible to find stylish active sportswear that suited their tastes.
During a Skype call, they realised the gap in the market then and decided to seize the fantastic opportunity to start sourcing and selling fashionable active wear to other women.
After asking “why not”, they set up Stylerunner together less than three years ago. Since then, Stylerunner has grown into a multimillion-dollar business with more than 15 staff selling fashionable active wear online around the world. It has an annual growth rate of 500 per cent.
Julie and Sali’s determination to research the best practices and discover the most technologically advanced and innovative business models in the world have been fundamental to Stylerunner’s success.
“Innovation has been a driving force. We want to do things differently and we believe customers deserve a new more rewarding and satisfactory experience when they are shopping and that requires constant innovation. If we want to set ourselves apart and do things differently, it is all about continual innovation,” said Julie.
“Ultimately, people see us as a retail company but I see us as a technology company that sells active wear and one that strives for continual innovation to stay up to date with the latest technologies.”
“Ultimately, people see us as a retail company, but I see us as a technology company that sells activewear and one that strives for continual innovation to stay up-to-date with the latest technologies”
Stylerunner has shipped to 65 countries to date and the business has secured deals with some of the world’s leading active wear brands including Nike and adidas by Stella McCartney. In 2013, Sali and Julie were named 17th and 18th on Australia’s list of Top Women Entrepreneurs Under 40.
Julie said having the right workplace culture and approach to innovation have really helped the business to grow rapidly.
“A lot of it comes down to culture. We encourage all of our staff to think like entrepreneurs, to think about how to try things differently. We tell them we are not upset if things fail. If anything, we want to keep pushing boundaries until things do fail to see where we can maximise our opportunities.”
“We encourage all of our staff to think like entrepreneurs, to think about how to try things differently. We tell them we are not upset if things fail. If anything, we want to keep pushing boundaries until things do fail to see where we can maximise our opportunities”
Julie and Sali actively reward employees who come up with new suggestions beyond their regular work. It’s a strategy that keeps everyone engaged, inspired and happy and according to Sali, it helps improve the business.
“When someone in our dispatch team comes up with an idea and it is rolled out across the board and it is something that has an impact globally, that is such an exciting and rewarding time for them as an employee of ours as it is shows we have an incredible team that is contributing to the vision as much as we are.”
Collaboration is also really important at Stylerunner. Julie said staff are encouraged to work together, share ideas and receive feedback.
“We say at work that feedback is the breakfast of champions. A lot of people are guarded about what they do but we think that if you share and allow people to come in with some suggestions then overall the enterprise is going to be more innovative and greater.”
“A lot of people are guarded about what they do, but we think that if you share and allow people to come in with some suggestions then overall the enterprise is going to be more innovative and greater”
And it’s not just internal collaboration. Working closely with external partners has also had a great impact and delivered faster results. For example, Stylerunner has collaborated with Nike on their NTC Tour and adidas on City 2 Surf and Georges Antoni, who is one of Australia’s top fashion photographers to create an exciting new campaign and is also the world’s only global e-tail partner for international icon, lululemon athletica.
“It’s not so much about the money or the exchange. It’s about what we can do for you to benefit your needs and what can you do in return for us to benefit our needs as a business. It’s about working smarter not harder and collaboration is key,” Sali said.