Table of contents
- The WOD Life
- Founders - Andy Lee & Ben Dineen
- Based in Adelaide, South Australia
- Started in 2013
- 2 founders, 25 employees
- 8 figure turnover
- 377K Instagram followers
Andy, what's your backstory?
Born in Adelaide, my first job was at age 15, selling magazines at the local football matches. Learning how to sell, handling money, talking and interacting with people at a young age was an amazing grounding.
I worked in retail while studying at university. That helped me manage my time, and understand the hard work required to earn money while continuing to develop skills in retail and sales.
Always fascinated with how businesses worked, some of my early pursuits included an eBay store buying and reselling, which later gave me the taste for e-commerce.
Growing up, I had dreams of being a sports star (like every kid), and later on, once I knew I wasn’t going to hit the big time as a sporting elite, those dreams turned to working in Finance on Wall Street. So I pursued a double degree in Law and Commerce, later going on to be admitted to the bar and become a Chartered Accountant. I worked for a big four accounting firm, before going into banking and corporate finance.
While I dreamed of pursuing a career on Wall Street, these studies and active work in banking and finance have been invaluable in the demands of running a business. Knowing the numbers and having the accounting fundamentals have been instrumental across the last ten years in business.
These early jobs, studies and later occupations have all culminated in helping me start, run and grow a business. Looking back on the journey, every moment has played a key role.
However, we couldn’t get anywhere without the passion that has fueled us at The WOD Life. Passionate about fitness and training, together with my Co-Founder Ben. We loved training in our local CrossFit Gyms. While we weren’t professional athletes, we loved the community at the gym, and the mindset and balance that training brought to our lives.
We found that we couldn’t access the products to help support our training. What started as a self-pursuit to help get the products we personally needed really resonated with our friends at the local gyms. We found a gap in the market that people were crying out for.
What started as a side hustle and passion project has grown over the last ten years into something really meaningful and powerful today.
Tell us what your company does?
The WOD Life is a multi-brand retailer, curating the highest quality apparel, accessories and equipment from the best brands on the planet for high-performance training.
Our mission is to help athletes to discover what they are capable of. We do this through developing the training community, connecting them with the products that make their life and training better and easier, all under one roof.
How did you come up with the idea?
Training in local CrossFit Gyms, my Co-Founder and I, being based in Australia, could never access the products we needed to help our training. They may have been available overseas and at multiple retailers, but no one in Australia served our needs in an emerging market.
We were highly immersed in the training community and wanted to create a platform around the lifestyle. ‘WOD’, meaning workout of the day, was central to this. So, The WOD Life was formed.
How did you go about building and launching the business?
As two avid CrossFitters, myself and Co-Founder Ben were personally searching for products that assist our workouts. In particular, we were looking for a super just jump rope.
We identified this product in the USA but couldn’t purchase it individually, so we had to open up a wholesale account.
Taking the plunge, thirty super fast jump ropes were put on my credit card, and shipped to Australia. We sold them to our friends at the gym; the rest is history!
How have you grown the business?
When we looked to start The WOD Life, Ben and I sat down and talked about the experience we wanted to have shopping online. What worked, what didn’t work, what the pain points were and how we could overcome this. To this day, we continue to remove the friction and develop an experience that customers enjoy engaging with and shop with.
Like all good start-ups, we have the early stages, where we commissioned a logo from a freelancer, opened up a free Shopify store built on a shoestring budget and set up a Facebook and Instagram page.
We were lucky enough to win the Shopify ‘Build A Business competition in our first year, which from two guys running an e-commerce store out of a bedroom to a global audience, was amazing validation that we were ‘onto something.
Across the last ten years, we have bootstrapped our way to growth, building the team that can help us achieve our mission of helping athletes discover what they are capable of.
What's your biggest selling product/service?
At The WOD Life, we are lucky to work with some of the hottest brands in training. From Nike, Reebok, Adidas and Under Armour to emerging fitness brands like TYR Sport and R.A.D. Global.
We are most proud and passionate about The WOD Life (‘TWL’) branded products. In particular, our Men’s Flex Shorts built for training are a best seller, together with our Women’s Energy Tights. Squat-proof, comfortable and suitable for high-intensity training, they are adored by our customers!
What have been some of your biggest failures along the way?
As a founder, it’s important not to look at failures. It’s all a huge learning experience as there isn’t a book to read, ‘How to be a Founder’ or “How to run a successful business”. Every decision you make is based on the best available information at the time, so you cannot be too hard on yourself if everything doesn’t go your way or according to plan.
Through all of these moments, whether it be investing in a marketing initiative that doesn’t hit certain return levels or purchasing a certain line of products that doesn’t go as expected, is an opportunity to learn, develop and make a more informed decision next time.
What's next for you and your business?
The WOD Life team is excited to continue our mission of helping people discover what they are capable of. We have more partnerships with leading brands and hot new ones emerging on the training scene.
Also excited about our development of TWL Branded products, particularly the Men’s and Women’s Training Apparel. We continue to collaborate with artists and athletes to create.
What digital tools do you use regularly?
Being an e-commerce business, we are very digitally native. Tools like Slack and Asana help guide workflow. Personally, as a founder, there are lots of ‘to-dos’, so I'm big on the Pomodoro method for time tracking to help stay focused and on task.
What books have been a great inspiration to you as a founder?
The story of Nike Shoe Dog by Phil Knight is always one of my go-to’s, having read and re-read it a handful of times.
The hard thing about hard things by Ben Horowitz is a great one for founders, understanding that not everything will be easy. Inspiring to lean into doing the hard things.
‘How I built this’ by Guy Raz I always love hearing stories of how people have built long-lasting businesses.
Any quotes you live by?
I love the ‘Man in the Arena by Theodore Roosevelt. For me, it is very grounding.
What do you love and hate about being a founder?
The best thing is that I get to wake up every day and work on something that I'm super passionate about with a collection of people who share the same passion and goals.
However, as a founder, you simply can’t turn it off. From wake to sleep, your brain is wired to figure things out, find solutions and develop that next idea. It’s absolutely relentless, so you must come to terms with that.
What do you do to look after your mental health as a founder?
Training is a central part of my life. My goal is to get in at least an hour of training daily to destress from the day, and ensure a level of balance. If it isn’t a CrossFit workout or a run, it can be as simple as a walk with a morning coffee.
In a few words, sum up what it means to be the founder of a business
"Being a founder is about bringing together a great collection of people to strive towards a mission bigger than oneself.
What are the biggest pieces of advice you’d give to other founders?
"As hard as it is, find enjoyment and peace in the journey. While you may go against the grain and stick your neck out there to create something, find ways to enjoy the process along the way because you may never necessarily reach the mountaintop."