Muscle Nation has gone from a start up creating activewear in a Sydney study to a $27 million business in just four years.
The e-commerce set up was launched by Nathaniel Anthony and Chris Anastasi, with the duo originally packing orders from a small bedroom. Now, they are planning to move into a 4,000sq m warehouse before the end of the year.
In the past eight months, they have sold more than 800,000 items, while their 2020 Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales gave the business a major boost with nearly $10 million made across those two days.
Mr Anastasi admits the brand first started off targeting males.
“Muscle Nation sounds very male dominated and it started off with male training gear we liked and we went live to market. Then the fitness community and athletes got on board and we had blogs and workouts and nutrition advice, so we became a bit of a health hub for people to see more than activewear,” he said.
“Having a lot of eyes and feedback on social media we expanded really quickly into fashion and these days we have to stay on trend. We worked really hard on style and bringing out new collections, designs and colours every four to six weeks and it meant we didn’t over commit to stock as we wanted to bring collections out more frequently. We worked out demand in the market for cuts, style, length and types of design through trial and error but this helped us pivot fast to where demand is.”
In the early days it was hard to imagine the business turning into a huge money maker, said Mr Anastasi.
“The biggest challenge was the cash flow,” he explained. “We would sell a lot but the next order would have to be big enough to fulfil growth, so we were reinvesting money from the sales and we weren’t really able to get ahead until a few years down the track.”
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The boys spruik social media as a big part of their success but it also landed them in trouble last year after “homophobic” Instagram posts resurfaced from Muscle Nation’s account in 2017.
During a heated exchange, Muscle Nation’s official Instagram page referred to one troll as a “fa***t”, while a rep added “you deserve to be beaten up by a pack of lesbians”. The posts were taken down and the boys said it was a valuable teaching moment for them.
“The event taught us about the work we need to do every day to fight unconscious bias, to be more aware of inequity in our society, and to be more sensitive about the language we use,” they said.
Muscle Nation’s best-selling product is their high waisted “scrunch bum” leggings which are designed to be “booty-enhancing”, with 100,000 sold since 2016.
“We were the first brand in Australia to release scrunch bum leggings and from there that’s how we revolutionised the industry,” claims Chris Anastasi. “It gave us a good footprint into the industry, and the jump from a start up brand to being a brand that everyone knew within a short of period time.”
The brand has also pivoted since it started with 80 per cent of customers now female and almost two million pieces sold overall. The duo said they are on track to make $50 million by the end of the financial year.
Last month, Muscle Nation released its first sustainable activewear range in conjunction with former WBFF world champion and brand ambassador Hattie Boydle — which they reveal was a huge challenge and involved a lot of testing failures.
It was created from a minimum of 75 per cent of recycled polyester, made of consumer waste and recyclable materials such as plastic bottles. The bottles have been collected, sorted by colour, and then melted down and formed into chips which are then sent to spinning
mills. Here, they were further melted down and turned into yarn to create new fabric.
“We needed a year to source all the fabrics and make sure they were highly durable for training,” explained Mr Anthony. “We have really put these materials through the ringer and
carried out many wear and tear tests to ensure each item stands the test of time, from washing
with rough towels, rolling things on them, and many, many squats.”
But Mr Anthony said anyone can sell activewear and it’s their customer service that sets them apart.
“We have provided an unrivalled customer experience through our website and customer service — we reply to every single person and we talk to them like they are our friends. We find by doing that we are able to create a massive community of cult like fans where they love us so much,” he said.
While it has mostly been about online for the company, it is soon to have a national presence with its supplements range launching into the national grocery market by the middle of the year.