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Q&A with Bondi Sands co-founder

Bondi Sands co-founders Shaun Wilson and Blair James.
Bondi Sands co-founders Shaun Wilson and Blair James

Currently sold in 10 countries and over 10,000 retail stores globally, self-tanning brand Bondi Sands has gone from strength-to-strength since launching five years ago.

Over the next 12 months, the team plans to launch five world-first products and a total of 12 new products across the range.

Here Inside FMCG chats with co-founder Shaun Wilson.

Inside FMCG: It’s an exciting time for the brand, which is now stocked in major retailers including Priceline, Coles and Woolworths. What are the main challenges Bondi Sands faced before becoming a known brand in Australia?

[There] are so many, haha!

Like all start-ups, the biggest challenge initially is getting a strong understanding of the costs associated with your company. Understanding your cost, cash flow and profit ratio mix is vital and as we were both new to the industry and quickly learned how expensive owning an FMCG beauty brand is.

All business challenges provide you with great experience which is vital as issues or challenges in business are a daily occurrence. When we first launched our brand a number of our lotion products turned green and we started to get this customer feedback via social media and email. At the time, it was quite stressful as we just launched the brand with Priceline; but, in hindsight it taught us to confront any challenges front on and don’t panic as ultimately anything can be overcome.

Inside FMCG: How did you target major Australian retailers?

Internally, we always had a very clear distribution strategy. As a brand, we aim to align ourselves with the leading retailers in the world (those that share a similar category vision). You need to be very disciplined in your distribution strategy as ultimately the wrong decision can deeply impact your overall brand equity or direction.

We believed that Bondi Sands from the early onset was going to grow the self-tanning category and we are very proud to say that we are the self-tanning brand in Australia, NZ and UK. It is fantastic that our major Australian retail partner support Bondi Sands as we are not only Australian-owned but also all our products are made in Melbourne.

Inside FMCG: How does Bondi Sands compete with other established brands in the industry?

We compete in all areas of our business. As a private company, we have many competitive advantages including speed to market, business flexibility or nimble, ability to change strategy direction etc. We obviously do not have the financial backing and or resources of some of the multinationals; however, we strongly believe in our own internal company IP, which makes us not only compete but become market leaders.

Inside FMCG: How did Bondi Sands expand globally? Tell us about how you plan to target 20,000 stores by the end of 2019.

Our vision from the early stages was to produce global brand. Once you have defined your brand positioning or product strategy, you must define your sales or distribution strategy. For this to be successful you need to confirm the key markets around the world and then set-up or confirm your distribution pathway.

We pride ourselves on selecting the correct distributors around the world as we consider them staff employees and ultimately, they represent our brand in that country. We are in the process of appointing another three further distributors across Europe (total [of] eight around the world) and we are in the process of executing fully in the USA. We continue to growth 40 – 50 per cent YOY and it does not look like [it’s] slowing down.

Inside FMCG: Can you give any advice to Aussies who want to establish their own businesses in terms of costings, strategies and branding?


You must have someone in your team that is finically astute. No disrespect to any accountant but it’s not about crunching numbers it is about understanding ROI models. There is no size fits all with regards to correct financial management however you must be disciplined in your approach. This is very innovative in itself and it is an important part of any successful business.


Even though we are private company, we do have a very robust business plan process that include all our staff members. We have a business planning retreat each year where our staff globally attend and this the foundation of ensuring everyone contribute to the successful direction of our brand. Planning is the key to success and it ensures you’re not just discussing or confirming strategies six months in advance but you have a clear three-year plan.

A business or brand strategy is to be very inclusive, however, also be mindful of how many experts [will] provide you with feedback. In the early stages of Bondi Sands, we did receive a lot of advices by specialised agencies, which we simply ignored as sometimes as owners, you do know best!

Branding is 360! It is not just the visual identity of what your brand looks like but the emotional connection your customers have with it. What this means is that every touch point a customer has with your brand will impact their overall experience or connection to it. We have clearly defined our brand values with our company and ensure each decision we make reflect these [them]. Ultimately your customers are the judges of your brand so it is important that you seek feedback from them regular to ensure you are achieving your brand goals.

However, the most important advice I can give is surround yourself with great people. People are the true assets of your brand both internally (staff) and externally (agencies, contractors etc.) At Bondi Sands, we pride ourselves on ensuring everyone who represents our brand share our brand values and overall passion.

Inside FMCG: What are your most popular products in the market?

Currently the Dark and Express Foam for Bondi Sands are the market leaders in several countries. Our Express Foam [was] launched last January and sold over 100,000 unit in the first five weeks of [launching the product]. We pride ourselves on global first innovative products and our dedication to provide our customers, this is something the industry now expects from us.

Inside FMCG: Any tanning tips you can share for the consumers?

Use our Bondi Sands Self-Tan Eraser! This world first evolutionary product is perfect for removing stubborn tan and preparing your skin for a fresh layer of self-tan. It is a must for all self-tan users.  

Inside FMCG: Are there new Bondi Sands products Aussies should look out for in the next few months?

We have many exciting products launching over the next 12 months. Currently, we have some social media teasers about a new product launch in June (GLO), however I cannot give too much away as we like to keep our launches very secret! We have over 15 products launching over the next 12 months in a number of categories, our team is so excited for our global customers to love these products as much as we do.

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