- Sarah Jacobs
- Shopify announced eight winners of its inaugural “Build a Bigger Business” contest. UK-based Gymshark took the top spot, with £41 million in annual sales and 215% YOY growth. Winners will have group and personal mentoring from high-profile coaches including Tony Robbins and Tim Ferriss.
The founders of eight of the fastest-growing online retailing startups are headed to Tony Robbins’ Fiji resort, Namale, this week.
They’ll be getting group and personal mentoring from a celebrity cast of coaches that includes Robbins, Tim Ferriss, Daymond John, and Marie Forleo.
They are the winners of Shopify’s first “Build a Bigger Business Contest,” an offshoot of its popular “Build a Busines” competition series. Shopify is an Ontario-based tech company that provides entrepreneurs with an online retail platform. It partnered with Ferriss in 2008 when Ferriss pitched the idea of starting a competition for new startups using the Shopify platform.
The annual prize evolved from minimal funding to in-depth retreats with celebrity mentors including Robbins, who has had many high-powered business clients over the last 30 years – like billionaire investor Paul Tudor Jones. Last year, Robbins approached Shopify with the idea of developing a similar contest for young companies that were further along in their development.
To enter, applicants had to have a business that sold product through Shopify’s platform and had more than $1 million in annual sales. Applicants’ growth was measured between March and July this year. Shopify said there were several thousand applicants across 70 countries. Average gross merchandise volume (product price multiplied by number sold) growth over the five months was 14% total, but over 500% for the top 10.
The company with the highest gross sales gain, Gymshark, and the company with the highest sales gain percentage, Skinnymixers, rang the bell at the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday and will be receiving marketing packages and support from the firm Sid Lee. The panel of mentors selected the remaining six winners based on merit.
“The biggest surprise was how big they became,” Shopify COO Harley Finkelstein told Business Insider. He said that one of the main benefits of Shopify’s contests has been the lasting and fruitful networks that emerge each year.
Meet the winners below:
Ben Francis, Gymshark
Francis founded Gymshark in England in 2012 out of his garage as a fitness apparel brand targeted specifically to men and women in their late teens and early 20s, built around a curated fitness community.
It worked. Gymshark is the fastest-growing brand in the United Kingdom, as ranked by the Sunday Times Fast Track 100.
A representative of the company reported that it expects annual revenue this year of £41 million, an increase of 215% year over year.
Gymshark won the contest’s title of “highest total gross sales gain.”
Nikalene Riddle, Skinnymixers
Riddle developed an online community around free healthy recipes that gained enough traction in her home country of Australia that it compelled her to launch a business around Skinnymixers in 2013.
She and her husband Michael began selling cookbooks while maintaining the community, and they revealed a pent-up demand.
Over the last year, Riddle told us, she went from selling 1,500 cookbooks each month to almost 6,000 monthly, an increase of 300%.
Skinnymixers took the title of “highest percentage growth.”
Michelle Cordeiro Grant, Lively
When she worked as a director and senior merchant at Victoria’s Secret from 2008 to 2012, Cordeiro Grant said that she came to think the company was not connecting with a large portion of its customer base. She decided she would start her own business that would provide affordable lingerie with better fits and looks than what Victoria’s Secret could provide.
The New York-based entrepreneur began working full time on Lively in 2015 and launched in April 2016. That October, she raised $4 million in a seed round led by GGV Capital, and is looking to do to the lingerie business what Warby Parker did with eyeglasses.
Lively was “Tony Robbins’ pick.”
Bruno Aschidamini, Steven Ford, and Brandon Leibel, Sand Cloud
- Sand Cloud
Aschidami, Ford, and Leibel are three friends who met in San Diego and decided to create a line of fashionable, high quality beach towels. They quit their jobs and went all-in on Sand Cloud in 2014.
By the time they appeared on “Shark Tank” in 2016, they had a line of towels and apparel where 10% of proceeds went to marine life conservation. Robert Herjavec invested $200,000 in exchange for 15% of the business.
They grew from $30,000 in sales their first year to $2.5 million in 2016, and told CNBC they expect to bring in $7 million in sales this year.
Sand Cloud won the title of “best raving fan culture.”
Joanna Griffiths, Knixwear
Griffiths launched Knixwear in 2013 on Kickstarter with a bra that could be worn both at work and at the gym. It raised $1.5 million, becoming the most successful fashion project in the crowdfunding site’s history.
Toronto-based Knixwear then released an innovative line of “period-proof” underwear, and now has a full line of undergarments that have been formed around customer feedback.
Knixwear won the title “the disruptor.”
Chris Vaccarino, Fanjoy
Vaccarino started Fanjoy in San Francisco in 2014 as a way to connect musicians with their fans through gift boxes, an offshoot of subscription boxes like ones offered by Birchbox.
He then noticed the rise of YouTube celebrities was becoming a lucrative business, and decided to partner with some of the biggest stars, like Jake Paul.
Today Fanjoy offers both customized apparel and gift boxes, and has worked with clients like NFL and MLB athlete Tim Tebow, fitness guru Jillian Michaels, and the popular band All Time Low.
Fanjoy took the contest’s title of “best scale strategy.”
Allen Brouwer and Cathryn Lavery, BestSelf Co.
- Best Self Co.
Brouwer and Lavery are two New York-based entrepreneurs whose SELF Journal, a journal that guides its user through daily self-improvement exercises, raised $322,000 in about a month on Kickstarter in late 2015.
In its first year of business, BestSelf Co. has sold its journal and other products to more than 100,000 customers around the world.
It won the contest’s title of “best marketing strategy.”
Deeanne Akerson, Kindred Bravely
- Kindred Bravely
Akerson founded Kindred Bravely in 2015 based on a personal need she knew other women must share.
A mother of two, Akerson wanted high quality maternity clothes that moms could wear through pregnancy and then nursing, clothes that wouldn’t be hideous, painfully uncomfortable, or both.
The California-based company now sells a full range of maternity undergarments, nightgowns, and pajamas.
Kindred Bravely was “Shopify’s pick.”