South Australian based business CapHat® Sun Protection is setting out to combat rates of skin cancer with its one-size-fits-all UPF 45 sun protection accessory. The business has reached milestones in the two years since launching and has gained national television coverage on Shark Tank. Inventor Bernie Sharrad explains how the business plans to increase sun protection awareness among lovers of the outdoors and tackle international export markets.
Where did the company start and what growth have you seen since launching?
We started officially in October 2014. Initially, we started small, distributing the product to just our family and friends. We first made and sold 50 CapHats, then gradually increased our batch size.
The real turning point for us was when we sold 500 CapHats over a weekend at the Perth Caravan and Camping Show in March 2015. It was at that point, my wife Melissa and I realised we had a product that the public is interested in.
We’ve reached some big milestones since then. In July 2015, CapHat was voted ‘Best Clothing Accessory’ by the Australian Fishing Trade Association. In April 2016, we won a Bronze Edison Award for innovation in New York and were featured on season two of the Channel Ten TV show, Shark Tank, where we received a deal from two of the sharks.
I understand that CapHat was born from your own personal experience – can you tell us a bit more about that?
Although, as a business we’ve only been around for the last two years, the CapHat story starts back in 2004 during one hot fishing trip out on the Far West Coast of South Australia. It was there I made the first CapHat out of some paper towel and duct tape, then attached it to my hat.
Back then, I was as naïve as anybody in regards to skin cancer. It was when my wife developed a basal cell carcinoma on her nose that we realised the importance of skin cancer prevention through protection.
According to the Cancer Council, two out of three Australians are predicted to have skin cancer by the time they’re 70. We hope the CapHat range can put a dent in those stats.
CapHat is made from UPF 45 material – where do you manufacture your goods?
We make our CapHats in Adelaide and source the materials from Melbourne. Our camouflage pattern CapHats are made in Fiji.
Your consumers enjoy activities in the outdoors – what functions did you need to consider in the product design?
The main idea behind CapHat is simply that you can wear your favourite cap or hat and be protected from the sun. You can also dip your CapHat in water for an evaporative cooling effect too. We have grip tabs so you can close the CapHat for full protection or secure the tabs behind your neck for a clear view and whilst still protecting your ears and neck.
While the CapHat serves it intended purposes, it isn’t exactly the most fashionable accessory. We created our latest product, the world’s first CapHat Hoodie, to appeal to younger and more fashion conscious consumers.
Has social media assisted in your business growth?
Social media collaboration has enabled us to establish a lot of connections to grow internationally. In less than two years we have more than 500 followers on Twitter, 1,600 on Facebook and a couple of hundred on Instagram. Our plan is to increase our presence on social media over the next 12 months.
Your business ships internationally – where are your most popular markets?
We have shipped samples and products to the US, New Zealand, Fiji, Europe, the UK and South Africa, and that’s where DHL has helped with the transportation.
Having customers in different markets must present a number of logistical challenges. How has DHL helped you to tailor your delivery solutions to get the best results?
DHL has been very prompt and accurate in providing quotes, from small orders to scoping large orders. If I get a phone call this afternoon that I have to get product to an international destination, it’s great to have confidence knowing DHL will deliver what they say and when they say it.
How have you developed your logistics strategy to cope with customer returns?
We’re fortunate that CapHats are a simple one-size-fits- all product, so at this stage we have not had to deal with returns. Developing a customer-friendly logistics strategy is definitely important to us and we are working on it as we grow.
Did you need to adapt your packaging to be ‘delivery friendly’?
CapHats are lightweight but still take up volume. We are hoping to start shipping significant numbers overseas next season with DHL and we have been looking at options like vacuum sealing to reduce the volume of a shipment.
With our online sales, we hope to start delivering with DHL in the future so both us and the customer has the ability to track the progress of the delivery and reduce the number of parcels going missing. We see DHL as a one stop logistics shop for start-ups.
Finally, what role has DHL played in helping CapHat achieve success?
With my 20 years in business, I can tell when I meet someone who is genuine and interested in what we are doing. Everyone I have met at DHL has been incredibly helpful in answering my questions and setting aside their time to come and see us. It means a lot to us because we’re just a husband and wife having a go at something we believe in.
We’re a small business right now and we haven’t gone into logistics in a big way yet, but I know that when we do, DHL will be there to help us out. I’ve got no reason to go get quotes from other logistics companies because with the help DHL has already given me, why would I want to go anywhere else?
For more information about CapHat, visit www.caphat.com.au