For Dean and Tegan Leibbrandt, a holiday to Thailand four years ago presented an unexpected turning point in their lives. “We do a lot of scuba diving,” explains Dean, “and seeing the amount of plastic pollution there was a real eye-opener for us.”
A year later the Brisbane-based couple were on the road again, this time for Tegan’s sister’s wedding near Frankfurt, and they noticed how effective the German recycling system was at diverting waste from landfill.
It was “a light-bulb moment” for the keen adventurers, who spend most of their weekends hiking, boating or camping out in nature. Together with Dean’s brother, Jaryd, they began thinking of ways they could help remove plastic from landfill and waterways while doing something they love. Within a year, Nakie was born.
Using recycled plastic bottles to create lightweight, durable fabrics suitable for outdoor gear, the company simultaneously removes the need for other raw materials, reduces carbon emissions associated with production and diverts plastic from landfill. Every hammock is made from approximately 37 recycled plastic bottles and in just two years Nakie products have prevented more than one million bottles ending up in landfill.
“Getting out and enjoying nature is part of who we are,” says Tegan. “Our business is a way to help protect the beauty of the wilderness areas we’ve grown up with and make sure that future generations will have the chance to enjoy them, too.”
The public response to Nakie was immediate, with sales tripling each year since it launched in September 2019, but a growing business has also brought new challenges.
“We had a $20,000 limit on our credit card to begin with; from a cash-flow perspective it was terrible,” recalls Tegan. “We were hitting the limit and having to transfer money on a weekly basis. One time we forgot and our Facebook account got locked out, which effectively shut the whole business down.”
They knew there had to be an easier way and they found it with the American Express® Qantas Business Rewards Card. With no preset spending limit¹ on the Card, businesses can access up to $1.5 million in a line of unsecured funding across a 12 month period, giving them more time to focus on other aspects of the business beyond the finances.
“The Card makes life so much easier,” says Dean. “We can scale up our advertising and know that our manufacturers will still get paid, even on orders of $100,000. That gives us the space to look after all the other things we need to do so the business can continue to grow.
“And having up to 51 days to pay² it off also helps cash flow,” he adds. “That means we can spend more money on advertising so Nakie continues to grow.”
As orders have increased, the range has expanded to include portable blankets, bug nets and tarps made from recycled plastic bottles, as well as a range of titanium cutlery, reusable straws and grills for the open campfire.
But the financial bottom line is just one measure of success for a business that’s been committed to sustainability from day one. In addition to removing plastic from landfill, Nakie plants four trees for every product sold and has now planted more than 157,500 trees in Madagascar.
Far from being satisfied with that, the Leibbrandts will use future sales of Nakie products to fund the planting of half a million more trees over the next five years.
Travel restrictions have prevented the intrepid duo from visiting that reserve to date but they “absolutely cannot wait to go over there” at the next opportunity. And when they do visit, they’ll book the fights using the Qantas Points they’ve earned by paying business expenses with their American Express Qantas Business Rewards Card.
By using the Card to pay for manufacturing, marketing and everyday business expenses, they earn up to 1.25 Qantas Points per dollar spent³ and have more than a million points waiting to be used.
“We’ll be doing a lot of travel with those points,” says Tegan. “We launched this business because of our love for the outdoors and now we’re able to get out more than ever looking for new hikes and locations to create content.
“That helps us sell our products and also gets us out in nature so we get the best of both worlds.”
Unlock the possibilities
Dean, Tegan and Jaryd Leibbrandt share their top small business tips
• The key to… working with international suppliers
“We pay a lot of our suppliers in US dollars and transferring between currencies can be very expensive but we’ve saved a huge amount of money by enrolling for Amex’s FX International Payments⁴,” says Dean. “Sometimes we’re spending as much as $100,000 and the rates are so much better than regular banks that we can save up to $3,000 or $4,000 in a single transaction. It’s easy to use and we’re earning Qantas Points at the same time so now we use the FX platform whenever we pay any manufacturer overseas.”
• The key to… building your brand
“Content is king,” says Dean. “You need content for social media pages, for advertising and for your website, and people don’t want to see the same stuff you posted three months ago. But rather than creating it all yourself, find people who align with your brand and let them amplify your message. We work with content creators all over the world so we can not only inspire Australians to travel with our products but also connect with international customers by showing them content tailored to their market.”
• The key to… reducing operating costs
“We’re a travel and outdoor brand so we need to travel to create beautiful content,” says Tegan, “but we’re also quite money savvy. Using Qantas Points on flights and accommodation lets us reduce our travel costs significantly. By using our American Express Qantas Business Rewards Card to pay all our day-to-day expenses – from petrol to social media ads and suppliers – we’ve earned more than a million points in the past year. Now we can make those points work for the business by booking flights and hotels all over Australia and the world.”
• The key to… maximising your time
“The list of things you need to do as a business owner is never ending,” says Dean “That means it’s easy to get stuck on the small stuff and forget about the need to regularly innovate and adapt, especially when you’re starting out. So, every week we write down the things that are going to shift the dial and grow the business and we make sure to prioritise them.”
• The key to… staying productive on the road
“We love travel – it’s the heart of our brand. But when you’re travelling a lot, it can also really take it out of you. That’s why we take advantage of Qantas Lounges. Being able to have a shower, a coffee and a meal before you jump on the next plane helps you feel fresh. Add fast internet and a bit of space to spread out and they’re also a great place to get some work done between flights. As an American Express Qantas Business Rewards Card Member, we receive two complimentary domestic passes to Qantas Club Lounges every year – which come in very handy.”⁵
• The key to… futureproofing your business
“Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. We diversify our marketing budget as much as possible so if one account or one platform declines in popularity, the business doesn’t come to a complete halt. The same goes for selling to a range of markets. Australia represents maybe 40 per cent of our turnover and we’re very busy in summer but sales are quieter for the rest of the year. By expanding into Canada, the US and the UK, we’re busy for twice as long each year and now we sell our products to places as diverse as South Africa, Pakistan and Mexico.”
Unlock the possibilities for your business using 120,000 bonus Qantas Points* with the American Express® Qantas Business Rewards Card. Minimum spend $3,000 in the first two months of your approval date. New Card Members only. Offer ends 12 January 2022. T&Cs apply. Learn more.
Plus, unlock uncapped points earning potential with up to 2 Qantas Points per $1 spent on Qantas products and services using the Card.³