Being an entrepreneur is close to being a magician. One minute there's nothing there, and then—hocus pocus—you turn a grain of an idea into a tangible entity. I genuinely live for that magic. Three years ago, there was no such thing as AKU, but there was this idea: an idea to unite and empower people, tell stories and create identities through custom teamwear solutions. While the advice of many was to do my research and plan, I began by diving in headfirst. I assembled a team of highly talented friends, almost misfits to the corporate world, we researched, had conversations, sampled many many factories, made mistakes and most importantly, listened to my gut, my team and the community about what they really wanted from a lifestyle come teamwear company that they couldn’t find anywhere else. I used this feedback and my own intuition to develop the core pillars that drive our company: ACCESSIBILITY, PEOPLE CENTRIC, AKU-MMUNITY (Community) and simply, FUN. The ability to empower a voice and an identity for our customers and unite people is critical for us, and we set out to create company values that reflect this ethos at every turn. We followed no strategic approach, and through trial and error and learning from every failure, each step we’ve taken helped create a company that’s taken on a life of its own.
Just Get On With It
One of the founding AKU team members bought me a Tim Ferriss book. I hate self-help books. But there’s a line in the book which says, "An entrepreneur isn't someone who owns a business, it's someone who makes things happen". This resonated with me and why entrepreneurs are willing to work 80 (or more!) hours a week to bring their vision to life. It's why we usually say no to weekend outings or social events. It's why we’re up well past 3AM balancing our day job and our dream. It's why we're aggressively driven and focused—to be successful, we have to be.
What makes a magician's act so appealing is that the illusions appear effortless. But to choose the right card, pull the rabbit from the empty hat, or cut an assistant in half and then restore them to a perfect whole takes weeks, months, even years of practice before taking a stage.
I’ve heard it said that entrepreneurs naturally possess a certain sense of ingenuity or innovation to forge their path, and while that may be true for some, I can assure you that not every successful entrepreneur was born ready - it’s definitely not for me. Talent, aptitude, and connections can give you a leg up, but all the talent in the world becomes irrelevant if it isn't applied to anything. At the end of the day, what moves the needle is the fortitude to keep going even in the face of countless roadblocks. I’ve made some big mistakes for international teams, we've delivered a national teams kit an hour before they were boarding a flight in our first year, I’ve had so so many people say “no”, and as an entrepreneur, instead of stopping in your tracks, let these failure become the wings of learning that propel you forward.
Entrepreneurs have an innate desire to create something one-of-a-kind, to give life to an idea and watch it flourish. The same way a single match can ignite a brilliant, awe-inspiring fire, the initial spark for a project or company can grow to become something huge, far-reaching, and impactful. I’ve made some lifelong friends with people I would never have thought of speaking to from AKU, I’ve played on the international futsal courts of Thailand, I’m in a group chat with international coaches and players talking about what movies we should be watching. All forged from a single match, a simple idea.
Being a Magic Maker
Today, AKU has a somewhat broad reach. We’ve got some work to being a household name but we work with national and professional teams and kit out clubs, teams, athletes and everyday people across Europe, Asia and of course, our home Australia. It's taken time, effort, calculated risk, a whole lot of guts, and a dedicated, aligned team to bring all of this to fruition. The pay-off has been well worth it, though, as we see literally thousands on thousands of AKU kits across a range of different sports with the AKU-MMUNITY continuing to grow and flourish.
One of the most important ways we do this is by making our products and services accessible to our customers in the most non evasive way, listening and hearing their stories, their vision for their teams or businesses and not only telling their stories but collectively celebrating the AKU-mmunities successes. We try to spend a lot of our time out of the spotlight and allowing our customers to take the stage, through our content and the entire user experience. So many stories we hear inspire or humble us, teenagers starting a futsal academy, a group of old high school friends forming a team to maintain contact, semi professional teams with dreams to be professional.
Our approach may be in stark contrast of how entrepreneurs are perceived—as risky Silicon Valley hot shots willing to roll the dice and be disruptors. The truth is that all the magic happens right in the middle, at the fulcrum between humility and confidence, through genuine human connections where you're able to hear what your customers need while being headstrong enough to make it happen.
This magic is the match that lights my fire as an entrepreneur, and it's what keeps me going to just work through the struggle and do the daily work. Just like David Blaine can make an entire car disappear from a stage in front of a packed theater, I know that the value of my company can disappear in an instant if it isn't managed properly or by making the smallest of mistakes. It's not enough for me to have a company that's performing well or keeping clients happy. I want us to move past the dinosaurs in the industry, flirting the grey lines of being a lifestyle and teamwear company, and continually looking forward to what's on the horizon. Abracadabra—creating something from nothing.