Meet the entrepreneur striding forward in sustainable, comfortable footwear

Aussie Soles

After discovering the wonders of foam-based holey clogs nearly 20 years ago, Craig Taplin built Aussie Soles, offering a unique range of arch-supportive thongs, sandals and slides crafted from eco-friendly materials.

At a glance

With the funds from several Prospa small business loans, Craig Taplin was able to:

  • Invest in research and development for sustainable materials
  • Expand Aussie Soles’ marketing activities
  • Improve supply chain and inventory management

Birkenstocks, heavy clogs and sandals were the only footwear Craig Taplin had access to when he was working in hospitality and as a photographer two decades ago. After stumbling on lightweight, bright-coloured, holey clogs while on a trip to Canada, his feet – and life – would never be the same.

“I knew I’d found the perfect business,” he says. In 2004 he launched Aussie Soles, starting with a range of kids’ clogs that Craig sold on a market stall just outside of Noosa in Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.

Since then the company has expanded its business models, selling directly to consumers and through wholesale and retail stores.

The company offers a variety of foam thongs, clogs, slides and sandals with different arch support heights, catering to individuals with various foot conditions. “Our shoes take away the pain from things like plantar fasciitis, heel spurs and bunions,” says Craig. “The material is very soft and moldable to the feet – it’s pretty magical stuff.”

A focus on sustainability and innovation

As the company has grown, so too has its focus on sustainability and innovation.

By using recycled materials and collaborating with environmentally responsible suppliers, Aussie Soles is leading the way towards a greener footwear industry. For instance, the straps on its Starfish range are made from recycled plastic bottles, giving them the appearance of leather while being eco-friendly and cruelty-free. “We take bottles from the ocean and landfill and put them on your feet,” says Craig.

Craig and his team have also developed a new environmentally-responsible closed-cell foam made with sugar cane. “No one else is making thongs with plant-based foam or blended foam material,” he says.

Last year was a challenging one for the brand, with freight costs and shortage of containers causing shipping issues. To remedy the situation, Craig set up a warehouse in Hong Kong to ship the company’s products to wholesale customers.

“We airfreighted them in so instead of spending possibly three months without any shoes, we had them shipped to Hong Kong in two days, packed within a week and delivered to stores,” he explains. “So we didn’t lose too much business that year but with the extra cost of the warehouse and increased freight costs, it was a pretty tough year for us.”

Aussie SolesAdapting and expanding with Prospa’s support

Over the past few years Craig has taken out a number of small business loans with Prospa. These have helped the company to weather challenging times, as well as invest in marketing, inventory management, and research and development.

“The application process with Prospa was so easy and they gave me a really good deal right from the beginning,” says Craig. “I’ve opted to take out small business loans each time so I can pay them off and it’s done.”

One of the reasons Craig has stayed with Prospa is the feeling of a partnership. “I just call up and speak to my contact and it’s so simple and efficient,” he says. “We connect our bank account to the platform to do a statement review and Prospa comes back with an offer. It’s pretty much done within a few hours and the money’s deposited into my account the same day – it’s brilliant.”

The funds from Prospa have not only contributed to the creation of new sugar cane materials and improved cash flow management but also helped Aussie Soles expand its direct-to-customer sales with a pre-buy option. With its new range of Ugg boots, customers place orders now and receive their goods in three months’ time.

“The loans have given me the ability to expand the range, as I’ve wanted to add in new products, and it’s given me the ability to order larger quantities, through my pre-season orders,” says Craig.

“Prospa has enabled me to grow and expand the business and the future for Aussie Soles is bright.”

Looking ahead

Despite the challenges of last year, Aussie Soles is on a roll again, having already doubled its turnover. The company plans to continue expanding its product ranges, including the popular category of slide sandals, and introduce a new line of trainers.

Craig’s dream is to list the business on the NASDAQ and expand globally. “My goal is to try and fit every foot on the planet,” he says.

Reflecting on the keys to his success, he says it’s the ability to move quickly with the times. “You can never be prepared for things like pandemics and global financial crises, but when you see an opportunity, take it. When the world needs something different, you need to be a leader, not a follower.”

Need funds to take advantage of a growth opportunity to make business happen? Ask Prospa about a funding solution today.

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