The federal government-backed Australian Business Growth Fund (ABGF) has backed it second business run by a woman, tipping $10 million into clothing brand Solbari, which produces clothing, hats and accessories focused on sun protection.
Founder and CEO Johanna Young launched Solbari in 2014, having moved to Melbourne from Europe in 2011 following a career in financial services with the likes of Credit Suisse and Goldman Sachs.
She was shocked the fact that skin cancers now account for 80% of all newly diagnosed cancers, with two-thirds Australians diagnosed with skin cancer by the age of 70.
She identified a gap in the market – sun protective garments that were stylish, light and breathable and developed a range of products from swimwear to sun hats to more formal jackets and trousers that have attracted a customer base of more than 300,000 in over 160 countries. Solbari has grown from 10 employees to 25 in the last three years
Young said the $10m from ABGF will assist their local and global expansion, including wholesale via specialist outdoor retailers such as Paddy Pallin, focusing offshore on the US, Canada, UK and New Zealand markets, building partnerships with corporate Australia and targeting a younger audience.
“ABGF’s support will ensure our journey as a global leader in sun protection continues, further enabling our mission to empower people to live a sun smart life,” she said.
“ABGF’s strategic insights and networks, coupled with a deep understanding of our industry, will be instrumental in our next phase of growth.”
Ghazaleh Lyari, co-head of investments at ABGF said Solbari’s products are not considered discretionary spending but rather essential items.
“Moreover, the versatility of this business model positions it with a diverse potential for growth, opening the door to strategic partnerships that include retailers, corporates with stringent Occupational Health and Safety requirements and organisations whose employees work outdoors, such as council workers, construction workers, sports clubs, and educators.”
In November last year, have invested more than $140 million in companies already, AGBF made its first investment in a women-led business: Inskin Cosmetics, the beauty empire behind the brands O Cosmedics and Ginger&Me, founded by Maria Enna-Cocciolone.
ABGF is a growth capital fund for small-medium-sized businesses offering initial investments of $5m – $15m. The Solbari deal takes the total investmed to $153 million.