Carving a niche: The meteoric rise of the Stylerunner sisters

- April 4, 2014 3 MIN READ

In every business, you have great sales months and not so great sales months. It’s something that nobody ever has 100 percent control over. What everyone does have control over is the service provided to paying and potential customers – this line of thinking is why twins Julie and Sali Stevanja have been able to build their brand Stylerunner into a household name, in a very short 18 months.

The business has taken the ecommerce space by storm by carving out a niche in the high-end and highly fashionable market of sports wear – a growing industry worth billions. The company has launched at a time where sports fashion is beginning to become a popular market globally, with brands such as Nike and Lorna Jane stepping up with highly functional designs that are finding face-time by shoppers as much in the supermarket isle or local coffee shop as gyms and fitness classes.

Collaborations such as adidas by Stella McCartney are becoming more and more popular as brands seek to take a slice of the growing space.

But it wasn’t an easy road that the Stevanja sisters have had to tread in order to realise their dreams of creating a globally recognised marketplace. In fact, just five short years ago, the universe tested the Stevanja family, when Sali was diagnosed with breast cancer.

During those troubling times, Sali maintained a blog where she goes into great detail about her tumultuous journey which involved multiple surgeries, chemotherapy, a double mastectomy and breast reconstruction – all at the age of 27 and with no prior history of breast cancer in their family.

Sali’s circumstances was an eye-opener and really made the sisters look at their overall fitness, health and lifestyles; and in many ways, the experience instilled in them an unwavering level of persistence that would come in handy when launching Stylerunner less than two years ago.

A bootstrapped venture, scaling fast

Like all good startup stories, Stylerunner started with a computer, internet connection and a kitchen table. The initial set up was a little more than most ecommerce sites, with the Stevanja sisters deciding to back their gut instincts from the start paying a premium of approximately $2000 to secure the domain stylerunner.com. This was a strategic decision that paid off.

Within the business, Julie champions the analytical side of things and Sali takes care of the day to day hustle on the ground. Being twins, they admit they have a harmonic ying yang dynamic that’s proven to be one of the biggest assets for their business.

Due to high growth, over the last 18 months they’ve had to move twice, first into a small space where the team sat surrounded by walls of products; and the energy was reminiscent of a wall street trading floor. Currently, with 8 full time staff and a growing list of suppliers, the operation has relocated to a new multi-level building on the outskirts of Sydney’s CBD district.

When they talk about their traction, there’s still a hint of disbelief by the pair. When asked to reflect on what they have built in such a short amount of time, I got the feeling that they find their success a little surreal. And more, it’s the people they have caught the attention of that has really blown them away.

The Stevanjas confirmed with Shoe String that there have been a minimum of three very serious acquisition offers to buy the company, all of which have been turned down. The pair clearly aren’t interested in an easy exit, they are building an institution.

This doesn’t mean they are closed to partnering with the right people when opportunities arise. In fact, they are currently meeting with a few high profile executives from multibillion dollar companies and discussing opportunities around partnerships and collaborations.

A huge recent win of this sort was when Foxtel approached them to be part of their new hit cable show The Face which stars and has Naomi Campbell as an executive producer. This is a dream strategic partnership for any fashion-focused venture, and you can be guaranteed that it will create hundreds of thousands of dollars in publicity for their brand.

In the episode which airs on Fox 8 next week, both Julie and Sali Stevanja act as guest judges when the teams on the show compete to create a campaign based on a brief for their brand.

Tune in next week to see Julie and Sali on The Face

Tune in next week to see Julie and Sali on The Face

The Stylerunner team has big plans for the next 12 months. Whilst the company would not reveal their exact revenue forecast for the year, it would be safe to say that it is going to be in the seven figure territory.

There is also some talk of doing some more Stylerunner collaborations in the same way they created their own line of yoga mats with the brand Kamuka. As their brand grows more powerful and their customers become fervently loyal, I see them being approached for more opportunities like this in the future.

One thing is for sure though. If traditional sports outlets aren’t aware of who Stylerunner is yet, then they definitely will soon.