Strategic partnerships and clever market timing have been the key to these Sydney entrepreneurs creating an internationally popular online fashion destination.

The right product at the right time with the right partners – it’s the perfect formula for business success.

Just ask Sam Wood, a director of two online fashion retail platforms. As the COVID-19 pandemic hit early in 2020, Sam and his business partner, Tim Bloore, unveiled Azura Exchange, which sells ‘fast fashion’ items such as apparel, lingerie, swimwear and jewellery. It complements their initial brand, Azura Runway, a luxury fashion retailer launched in April 2019 that sells designer brands such as Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana and Prada.

People in lockdown loved the new option. “Azura Exchange is the one that’s taken off,” Sam says. “It’s for people at home looking for something affordable and comfortable, not a $500 dress.”

The move has seen parent company Azura Consulting’s overall month on month growth spike from about 20 per cent last year to 100 per cent, amid forecasts that the company’s revenue will soon be in the tens of millions of dollars. It is a far cry from when Sam, a business strategist, and Tim, a marketing and branding expert, started their enterprise.

Less financial pressure, more scale-up potential 

The rapid success of Azura Runway and Azura Exchange is enviable.

However, Sam admits that needing to have hundreds of thousands of items ready for sale at any point in time would cause cash flow dilemmas without a trusted financial partner on board.

Enter ScotPac. Recognising the potential of Azura’s business model, ScotPac provided Sam and Tim with Selective Invoice Finance, a facility where their business can submit one or multiple invoices for funding and turn them into an immediate source of working capital, receiving up to 95 per cent of the invoice value within 24 hours.

The arrangement provides instant capital that allows Azura to list its huge inventory on digital marketplaces such as Catch, eBay and Kogan, Trade Me and TheMarket in New Zealand, and Lazada in Malaysia and Singapore, fueling their growth and enabling them to turn their dreams to reality.

“If we hadn’t been able to buy all those products, we could only have grown as far as our cash reserves allowed,” Sam says.

The added advantage is that ScotPac recognises the value of Azura’s invoices as security, unlike banks that typically use personal property as security.

“We did that a couple of years ago where we had put our properties on the line, and it was a very stressful time. The more we grow, the more security the banks would want. If we get up to $1 million a month in turnover, for instance, the banks are going to want close to $10 million of secured assets, which we don’t have.”

Sam says being “in the know” about how Invoice Finance helps with cashflow management has been crucial because many of the digital trading platforms that account for most of Azura’s sales have long payment terms.

“So you’re doing hundreds of thousands of dollars on marketplaces and their payment terms are 30 to 60 days. You need to have a huge bank balance to be able to fund the whole thing – or have a company like ScotPac behind you.”

ScotPac’s facilities have evolved with Azura’s needs and now take the form of a full Invoice Finance service that acts as a line of credit. “It’s definitely given us the flexibility to do what we do and know that the money side of things is in good hands with ScotPac,” Sam says.

Stronger partnerships, fewer hurdles

Sam says one of Azura’s smartest business moves has been to align with ChannelAdvisor, an international e-commerce platform that helps brands and retailers optimise operations and identify the most profitable sales channels.

Describing the service as the “Rolls-Royce of data-migration companies”, it has allowed Azura to outflank many of its rivals. It has also signed an exclusive deal with DHL Express to ensure quick, reliable shipping around the world.

The other piece of the partnership puzzle is ScotPac, which has 30 years of experience lending exclusively to SMEs. Sam says the ScotPac team has been responsive and supportive, ensuring invoices are paid on time and that the general ledger is properly managed.

“Everything is up to date and in line,” Sam says. “It’s made us more responsible and aware of the financial side of the business, not just sales.”

From daily routine to growth machine

Azura prides itself on being more than just a profit-maker, donating a portion of all sales to not-for-profits around the world through its charity partner, i=Change, which shares proceeds with charities working in areas such as human trafficking, bushfire relief and children in need.

Now, with Azura Runway and Azura Exchange bedding down, the goal is to turn funding security into even more business opportunities. The company has released its own activewear brand, Azura Fit, and is ramping up its presence in South East Asia and the United States, knowing that ScotPac has its back.

With the business performing well, Sam and Tim have been able to bring on extra staff, a move that should help them stop working around the clock.

“It has been a lot of hard work and there have been many sleepless nights,” Sam admits. “But watching it all pay off is the most rewarding thing.”