“Over the past 15 years, I’ve done more than just dabble in e-commerce,” says Waddy, “I’ve lived and breathed it, from all types of lenses.”
The path to e-commerce success for Waddy was one far from smooth, having struggled through his childhood and adolescence growing up in Sydney, battling anxiety and depression while initially lacking drive as the man himself admits.
“I had no real drive in school, I wasn’t great at it,” Waddy tells Power Retail, “My mum hadn’t been well, and life generally wasn’t easy for me when I was young.”
For all of his earlier struggles, however, what these struggles taught Waddy both about himself and the world around him may well have led to what came next. There is a stubbornness to some who have struggled after all, refusing to be beaten or to accept the status quo that has tried so hard to crush them, with Waddy a perfect example.
“At a certain point, a flick inside my head switched on, and I decided that I wanted to be my own boss. I was about 23, I had a decent job, but I’ll never forget my old boss telling me that I couldn’t succeed in my own business,” says Waddy, “Things like that drive me – if you want to make sure I do something, then tell me I can’t.”
Still, there is almost certainly no way Waddy could have predicted what would come next for him, as he found himself foraying into the world of e-commerce. The first manifestation of this for Waddy came in the shape of his own footwear brand, Antoine & Stanley, initially launched in 2007. Beginning first as a wholesaler, it wasn’t long before the anxiousness that had previously plagued Waddy in his earlier life manifested itself into a sense of urgency and drive pushing him forward towards success.
That he had experience with struggle, too, came in handy for his ability to not only feel prepared to handle the struggles of starting his own business venture – but also to drive him to withstand and persevere through these struggles.
“I had started as a wholesaler, selling through other retailers like David Jones, and lots of independent retailers around Australia and the world. I learned that wholesale was hard – the margins were low, and the payment terms unfavourable. I was caught in a vicious cash negative cycle, and I couldn’t seem to get ahead from a cash flow point of view, even though on paper sales were great,” Waddy explains, “Bricks and mortar was even harder for me, I didn’t find my groove. I wasn’t able to compete with the bigger companies who had more stores and bigger fit-out budgets.”
“So I tried e-commerce.”
The brand quickly grew with Waddy at the helm, quickly gaining momentum finding its product stocked in more than 200 stores globally, including fashion retail powerhouses David Jones, THE ICONIC and ASOS, on top of five retail stores and an e-commerce shopfront of its own. Such was the success of his brainchild, Waddy was able to sell the brand in 2016, assuming a non-executive directorship role and commencing his new life elsewhere as a self-made e-commerce success story.
His first stop? Online fashion retailer Showpo.
“I had met Jane Lu at a conference once, and I loved her energy and her vision for Showpo. I always thought that if I ever got out of my business, that I would love to work there, and the stars aligned, and I did,” recalls Waddy, “I joined as Operations Manager, then moved to Head of Operations, which included logistics and customer service, but I was lucky enough to work on some great projects, including opening the US 3PL, bringing our domestic warehousing in house in 5 weeks in a 5000 square metre warehouse, and just generally working with legends.”
Waddy had admired Showpo from afar and jumped at the opportunity to become a part of its team, hardly knowing how his own role in its success might eventuate.
“I think just having met Jane, her values aligned with mine, in terms of just getting on with it, being decisive and going after global success. I had seen Showpo grow from afar, from that first meeting with Jane, and thought that they had something special that I really wanted to be a part of,” says Waddy, “I saw it as the best online business in Australia at that time, and I was probably right.”
By the time Waddy would depart Showpo, two and a half years after initially joining the fashion retailer in 2017, the business had grown from a $30 million company to one with a run rate greater than $80 million. It is little wonder, then, that Waddy would launch yet another venture of his own one year before leaving Showpo – with the e-commerce success story’s advisory business, Paul Waddy Advisory, commencing operations in early 2018.
In the years since, working with a variety of brands in an advisory role – including Parcelpoint, MAISON de SABRÉ and Go Vita, among others – Waddy has developed a uniquely keen understanding of the world of e-commerce.
“I’m lucky enough to have a lot of experience now looking under the hood of a lot of businesses,” Waddy explains, “So you get to see what works and what doesn’t.”
Now, having routinely been included in Top 50 People in E-Commerce lists and in 2022 awarded the Industry Recognition award at Australia Post’s Online Retail Industry Awards – beating out high profile names including old pal Jane Lu, Founder and CEO of Showpo – Waddy is increasingly being recognised as particularly in touch with the recipes for success in the competitive world of e-commerce.
He explains it simply, but this ease with which Waddy explains the complex in a simple manner is one of the key reasons he is so highly sought after as an e-commerce expert.
“One key reason for success is to understand the numbers. I am always going on about it, but the most important metric in e-commerce is gross profit. If you can’t tell me your gross profit margin, then you don’t know how much to safely spend on marketing, which means you won’t be in control of your growth,” Waddy explains, “One reason that I see online retailers fail is that creative types often want great brands – but they neglect the fact that they also need to have great businesses.”
“I always say, we need to be known for being as good a business as we are a brand.”
Meanwhile, Waddy’s own brand continues to grow, with the upcoming launches of books Selling Online For Dummies and Shopify For Dummies set to ignite this growth even further. The addition of a subsequent venture of an educational platform, designed around offering e-commerce training courses, leaves Waddy an increasingly busy man even without considering his most rewarding role as husband and father.
“I am married with a lovely wife and 3 little girls, so they keep me busy,” says Waddy, “I am also the co-founder of Ecom Nation, a digital marketing agency, and I am building an online training course for people who want to learn how to start out in e-commerce.”
But for the man behind so much success in e-commerce, with so much on his plate already, there are still no plans to slow down anytime soon.
“I will say – I need new hobbies,” Waddy offers, “So if anyone has any suggestions, get in touch!”
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