Snowboarder Luke Mitchell loves going off-piste and forging new trails. Now, the owner of Yuki Threads is pioneering a more responsible approach to business – and earning Qantas Points along the way.
In his twenties, Luke Mitchell was “the quintessential snow chaser”, following winter from the slopes of Mt Buller in Victoria to resorts in Canada and Japan. More than simply a passion, it was a way of life and one he wanted to continue for as long as possible.
So he started a side business and he found the perfect niche selling snow-specific hoodies to fellow snowboarders. Since launching in 2010, Yuki Threads has expanded to make more than 50 products, from jackets to socks, with an annual turnover in the millions.
But, for Mitchell, now 36, success isn’t measured solely in financial terms. “As a company we want to set meaningful goals that are going to have a really big impact socially or environmentally,” he says.
The avid snowboarder has already seen the effects of climate change firsthand in warming snowfields and more volatile weather patterns. “In the short term we're going to lose the ability to go snowboarding,” he says, “but long term we're going to lose much more than that if we don’t address climate change.”
It’s why sustainability is a core mission for Yuki Threads. Though the business isn’t 100 per cent sustainable just yet, creating garments with fabrics made from recycled plastic bottles is a good start. The next step is finding ways to recycle the clothes once they’re no longer being worn and to make biodegradable fabrics more affordable.
“I think a true measure of sustainability is to be able to put something back as quickly as you take it,” says Mitchell. “And as hard as we try, we can’t do that at the moment. But that's the goal and that's where we're heading.”
Yuki Threads was inspired by Mitchell’s desire to follow the snow. Regularly travelling overseas to meet with suppliers and explore ski slopes has remained core to his business and, once restrictions are lifted, Mitchell will continue to fly abroad. As well as carbon offsetting all of his flights (and earning 10 Qantas Points for every dollar he spends on Qantas carbon offsets), Mitchell partners with 1% for the Planet, donating one per cent of Yuki Threads’ total sales to environmental grassroots organisations.
Travel is also what attracted him to the American Express Qantas Business Rewards Card. “If I'm going to spend money on travelling anyway, why not try and cover some of that with Qantas Points earned through the Qantas Business Rewards program?” he says.
“I’ve changed all of our debits over to my American Express Qantas Business Rewards Card and it has been super helpful when it comes to making international payments. The convenience is great and the more we spend using the Card, the more our points balance grows.”
With no pre-set spending limit² on his American Express Qantas Business Card, Mitchell can commit to purchasing larger orders of outerwear and apparel while also freeing up cash flow for other things. “And because we have up to 51 days to pay for purchases, when there’s a spike in outgoings because a supplier payment is due we can mellow that out over a longer period until the balance of the Card needs to be paid.”
Plus, Mitchell’s business earns 1.25 Qantas Points per $1 spent⁴ when he pays suppliers with the Card. “That means I only need a few large payments to cover a flight.”
These Qantas Points are already earmarked for future visits to manufacturers in China and Taiwan, as well as textile suppliers in India. “It will be very important to get back over there as soon as we can because, while Zoom is useful, those international relationships are really built on good communication and face-to-face contact,” says Mitchell. “My American Express Qantas Business Rewards Card helps me do this.”
Until then, he’s enjoying having a permanent base in Torquay on the Great Ocean Road. “It’s like the retirement village for the snow industry,” he says with a laugh. “When you finish up with snow seasons and want a beautiful place to get a dog and have some kids, everyone just ends up here.”
And with plenty of similar brands around, “there are great people down here to connect with. I’m pretty lucky to be in a lifestyle industry – everyone loves what they do or they get out.”
Luke Mitchell’s Top Business Tips
Follow your passion: “Succeeding in business is hard, so make sure you've aligned your business with what gets you out of bed,” says Mitchell. “You’re going to spend a lot of time working on it, so think about it before you start and make sure it lights you up.”
Use every tool at your disposal: When it comes to your finances, “look carefully at what’s available and build it into your strategy,” says Mitchell. “The American Express Qantas Business Rewards Card helped us massively through the last year by providing easy access to finance. That’s especially important over summer, which is our lowest revenue period. Knowing we’ve got access to finance if we need it provides peace of mind. Plus, my American Express Account Manager is a legend – she’s a snowboarder as well so it’s just like talking to a mate."
Know your numbers: “I started off in business as a snow bum who wanted to create something meaningful while doing seasons. It took me a long time to figure out that, whether or not you're motivated by money, you need to manage your finances carefully or you’ll always be hamstrung. And if you don’t want to do that, find somebody to do it for you.”