Mark & Amelia
Wild Rhino is about to hit a milestone 25 years, tell us how it all started?
Mark: Wow has it been 25 years all ready? I started the business more or less trading shoes under private label for customers like Myer and very early in that journey I was asked to hold stock of the better selling lines. So, I guess in a sense it was for this reason that the brand was created – to solve a business problem – as I needed some control of the brand.
I had always liked Timberland as a brand and felt that was the direction and type of product that I was familiar with. I liked the way the logo was embossed on the outside of the shoes, so I took inspiration from that and to cut a long story short, Wild Rhino was born.
What was the first steps of Wild Rhino?
Mark: It was just me for a long while & I moved to a corporate shared office in South Melbourne when I brought my first employee on board.
We continued to grow and later we moved to our own office space in South Yarra. I truly thought it was the MCG in there and we would never outgrow the space, but we did outgrow it very quickly.
This coincided with the opening our retail stores, it was also around the time we started buying shoes from Europe as opposed to the Far East, it gave us a much greater & wider selection and a much easier buying process with smaller order quantities which enabled us to be a lot more aggressive with our ranging which was around 2010. We then moved into our current office in 2019 which is a great working space and showroom for us.
Our first store opened in 2014 at Bundoora Uni Hill. Opening a store dedicated to a men’s casual brand would have been extremely hard to justify but we had begun to develop very exciting and much wider product offering so we felt it the right time to have a go. There was no doubt in my mind that the buying behaviour of men was changing as they were becoming much global, more discerning, they are wanting to buy collections and wanting to buy shoes, they love it. The way the consumer acts and behaves is now a lot more aggressive and curious they want to buy shoes and new collections which has really worked hand in hand with us.
Why shoes? Has it always been a passion?
Mark: I just fell into shoes; I was fortunate that I enjoyed the product. I had no idea what I wanted to do when I was younger. I worked in travel for about 8 months, but I wanted a challenge and I wanted to get a job in manufacturing. From there I got a job at Rivers which was a locally made shoe producing company at the time, manufacturing in Ballarat. It was amazing experience working alongside a factory and something I enjoyed and that’s when it all started.
Amelia how did you first get involved in WR & tell us how the business turned to a family business?
Amelia: I remember being around Dad’s samples and cartons at a really young age. They first came to our home, then to his office. Every time I would go to his office I would dig through them all. I would have been about 7 and I would be going through them trying to make them fit even though they were way too big, two left feet & totally different styles. I would beg dad to keep them.
In terms of officially working at Wild Rhino, I started off Merchandising at Myer when I was at Uni, I would go to all the Myer stores and make sure our whole stocked range was actually on the floor & looking good. I also worked part time doing product photography.
When Uni finished, I started to work full time. I moved to Brisbane for 3 months and opened our first QLD Store in Brisbane. I then came back to Melbourne and started working in the office as a Brand Assistant focusing on sales and marketing.
I had been lucky enough to work overseas for one of our suppliers for a year which gave me a great foundation of the footwear industry and the basics I could build on at Wild Rhino.
Mark: Brisbane was huge for Mil because at a relatively young age having had a limited amount of retail experience she was able to go and open the store, recruit & train and did amazingly well.
Amelia: Before my time at Wild Rhino, Marks wife Katharina was working in the business. I guess the concept of a family business wasn’t as much when I joined but when we were lucky enough to have other family working in the business. My cousins Shea, Ned & Adam have worked with us which is what I think really made it that special family feel.
What have you put the success of the business down to?
Mark: Unquestionably in my mind its product, from there the next stages of the business are so much about people. The business is about product but shaping the business and growing the business is all about the people. People and product.
Future plans for Wild Rhino?
Mark: At the moment with COVID it’s just to retain the business as it is. We have a great formula – great suppliers, a very good retail formula which we can grow fairly easily and a strong wholesale support.
Our focus will be growing and developing our digital. The plan is to retain our business in the short term and then carefully look to grow it where we can once we have gotten through the worst of COVID.
With Father’s Day around the corner, what’s it like being the father\daughter dynamic duo?
Mark: From my perspective it’s great, I’m blessed with Amelia, she is constantly growing all the time in her role, I get a lot of satisfaction and feel very lucky. She is very capable very competent and wants to learn all the time, it’s a lot of fun.
Amelia: It’s amazing, I think working for a business that your Dad has created gives you a different sense of drive. You’re so much more passionate about it. I’ve lucky enough to grow up around the business so it sort of becomes second nature and allows you to constantly learn and grow which is amazing. It’s a great working environment, we laugh a lot & have fun together.
What’s your favourite thing about Wild Rhino?
Amelia: The people and the product. We have an amazing team that spans across our head office team, retail staff, agents and our amazing suppliers. We now have a distinct product which we are known for, so when you combine our team and our range it’s an awesome outcome. We’ve also settled into a really great space which reflects the DNA & essence of our brand which makes the time at Wild Rhino so enjoyable.
With Fathers Day around the corner, what’s your favourite thing about working with your Dad?
Amelia: Dad is a very happy go lucky guy. He’s always singing and joking around in the office which I love. He’s very inclusive and always makes everyone feel at ease which is such a special thing about working with him. I love seeing his natural business mind at work and when he’s in product-mode. He’s amazing with product and can really transform a good shoe into a great one. We’ve always have a very special bond and of course there’s challenges working with anyone in your family but I feel very lucky to work alongside my Dad, helping to grow something he has built, especially when laughs are always guaranteed.
Early Bird or Night Owl?
M: Night Owl
A: Night Owl
Knock off drink of choice?
A: Gin & Tonic
A: Sweeping the hair at the hairdresser
Introvert or Extrovert?
Sweet or Savoury
Dressy or Casual
Country or City