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How an Aussie surfer redefined the beach towel and took the world by storm

Techly's Business Success Series

There’s nothing quite like heading to the beach with your mates for some swim, surf and sun. Indeed, everything is pretty much perfect until you head back to the car and deal with a wet, sandy beach towel.

Everyone knows how annoying that is, and Gold Coast local Baz Brown is no exception. Several years ago, on one of many surfing trips to the local beach, Baz idly watched two groups of beachgoers argue after someone shook their towel and covered the lot of them in sand.

In that moment, he wondered why no one had come up with a solution to such a common headache. I mean, he had a point – we sent humanity to the moon almost half a century ago, so why hadn’t we figured out how to make a better beach towel?

Baz, having dealt with his fair share of sandy setbacks, decided to have a go at creating his own prototype of a towel that could repel those pesky granules.

We’re not talking high-tech labs or advanced machining, here. He simply headed to his local Spotlight, grabbed some materials and got to work.

Baz’s journey wasn’t without its hiccups, but he perfected the design over time and eventually launched his own business off the back of a successful crowdfunding campaign.

Dubbed the Sandusa, his unique design is basically a cotton beach towel made with a waterproof backing that sand doesn’t stick to.

Simple? Yeah, sure. Useful? Absolutely one thousand times yes.

The Sandusa is the kind of product that makes so much sense you wonder why you didn’t come up with the idea in the first place. Indeed, it seems Baz’s product truly is the first of its kind.

It didn’t take long for the Sandusa to begin selling by the truckload, and the ongoing success eventually turned Baz’s small startup into a multinational business.

The Sandusa is now sold in over 30 different countries around the world, and it doesn’t look like slowing down any time soon.

Baz kindly took the time to speak to Techly about the product, the journey, and of course, himself!

The incident that sparked your idea sounds like a pretty funny way for a successful business to start. Was this something you had in the back of your mind for a while, or did the thought just come in a sudden lightbulb moment?

“Because I was surfing a lot, my car was constantly full of sand and had that ‘wet dog’ smell all the time. But when I saw the fight on the beach go down it all sort of clicked. It wasn’t like a oh wow I’ve made it moment. More like a let’s look into this in more detail moment.

“It has been a really long journey but I can still remember sitting on the beach at Broadbeach on the Gold Coast and watching the two groups of people pushing each other and flicking sand on one another. It was absolutely hilarious and has started a really amazing journey.”

Girl using Sandusa at the beach

You’ve said the crowdfunding campaign for Sandusa got off the ground after you spent some time with a couple of Australian entrepreneurs in Costa Rica. Can you describe this experience in more detail and explain how it helped you kick things into gear?

“This was really cool. Me and my wife were travelling in Costa Rica. We were staying in this small hut in a place called Santa Teresa and when we dropped off our gear these Australian Guys staying next door yelled out an introduced themselves.

“It was rare to come across Australians so we had a good chat and became really close over a couple of weeks. Surfing everyday and relaxing every evening. They had just moved to Costa Rica to run their online coupon business from a house they rented for the year high up in the hills.

“When they moved in, so did we, and we stayed there for a few weeks talking all things start up and online business. These concepts were completely foreign to me at the time – all I had was a prototype and no idea how to take it to market.

“It was a beautiful house set in the jungle with a massive swimming pool and views out over the ocean. They introduced me to the idea of crowdfunding at a time when it didn’t really exist in Australia.

“They explained to me how it worked and how ordinary people were able to take their ideas and test them in the market place. The whole experience got me so excited that when I returned home I got straight to it. ”

If the Sandusa really is the first sandfree and waterproof towel, did it shock you that no one had invented it yet? Had others already tried and failed?

“I was blown away. There were a few other things in the development stage looking at the problem in a different light, but no one was doing what I had planned so it was really exciting.

“I think like anything it is all about timing. Up until that point the beach towel hadn’t changed much and the market was ready for something new.”

Since you’ve found success, plenty of competition has sprung up at home and overseas. Has this made your job harder, or is it a healthy source of motivation for ongoing improvement of your product?

“I actually find some satisfaction in it. I remember the first time I walked into a local surf store to see if they were interested in stocking a sandfree & waterproof beach towel (It wasn’t called the Sandusa yet).

“The owner laughed and said no – he told me that no one would ever want to buy a sandfree & waterproof beach towel. It really hurt. I was really young and naïve. I thought it was such a good idea and literally the first person in the business I talked to just laughed at me.

“After selling over 30,000 of our unique beach towels in 30 different countries, I do wonder what he thinks now.

“He wasn’t the last person to say no or just write off the concept so to see other people coming out with unique beach products looking at similar issues is really motivating – it definitely keeps us on our toes.

Birds eye view of lady sitting on Sandusa

“However I think the word sandfree is being thrown around a lot recently. It seems products that used to be just mats are now sandfree beach mats. The unique sand and waterproof backing of the Sandusa really sets us apart from our competitors.

“There is no other beach towel on the market designed to dry the user, leave the sand at the beach and protect your car seats on the drive home.”

What keeps you busy outside of your business? Are you still finding time to surf?

“I still try to surf as much as possible but to be honest for a guy that sells beach towels it doesn’t happen as often as I would like.”

Baz, we hope you find more time to hit the surf while your business continues to grow.

To the guy who laughed in his face: we hope you learned your lesson.

About the author

Andrew is Techly’s Editor. Loves: weird gadgets and the Collingwood Football Club. Hates: olives and cardboard boxes.

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