SIX years in the making, Newcastle "carry tool" start-up Tactica has launched its first equity raise as it eyes global markets
Tactica was founded in 2016 by Sydney-raised product designer Mike Chijoff, who studied material science and industrial design before running his own design consultancy in Melbourne.
Now based at i2N Hub's incubator in Honeysuckle, Mr Chijoff previously also worked as a metallurgist for Smorgon, where he gained experience in production, supply chain and logistics.
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He launched Tactica, which began as one multitool product including a universal wrench and bottle opener, after seeing a gap in the market.
A outdoor adventurer, he had grown up using everyday "carry" products like Leatherman, Victorinox and Swiss Army Knives, ultimately viewing them as too alike, costly and heavy.
"I am a mountain biker and I'm outdoors a lot and after running my design consultancy I wanted to create my own product and brand, playing around with materials," he said.
"Growing up using a lot of multi-tools over the years I realised there was a real opportunity to create a modern-day version using materials that are unique."
Believing that many existing products had too many functions and weren't readily adaptable to suit myriad needs, he came up with what he says is a lightweight, non-scratching, adaptable multitool product that can be used by anyone, not just tradies.
"It is an engineering-grade, composite material made 70 per cent from glass and it meant we could do things that weren't currently being done," he says.
The first product, known as the M100, was launched on Kickstarter in 2016. Growing its range to 22 products, Tactica has shipped more than 100,000 units to 100 countries and brought in close to $4 million in revenue.
Designed by Mr Chijoff and employee Jake Baumann in Australia with a manufacturing partner in China, Tactica has to date raised around $1.6m via three crowd-funding campaigns, based on product pre-sales.
"We started on Kickstarter because we wanted to engage with the community from the very beginning so the community helped us start the business and over the years we have continued to involve the community to help test our products so that we ensure we have got our products completely field tested and refined before they get to market," he explains.
Its latest campaign, launched in late June, is being driven so the company can continue to grow, expand on existing local and global markets and seek out new ones. Tactica is moving into products in the outdoor, sporting and adventure markets, including knives and torches.
"Our first crowdfunding was reward-based as people were purchasing the product, this is now the first time we are doing an equity raise so they have a chance to buy a piece of the business ... it's an essential mantra of our operations that we maintain that connection with our supporters. They are the core of who we are, why we exist and why we keep continuing to grow, adapt and create new products."
Mr Chijoff said the timing was right to expand further into the US market with the equity needed to invest in more resources, expanding its inventory and pushing ahead, "because we found once you start down this path you need to be able to sustain it."
Mr Chijoff says buyers of Tactica vary but are predominantly men, from tradies to bike riders and "everyday people" at home, in the office or camping.
Most of the company's sales are online and in the United States, the pandemic prompting it to work "smarter" to pre-empt any supply issues.
Tactica is retailed in Darby Street retailer Steel & Anchor and Mr Chioff says the domestic feedback is important to the company.
"The Australian part is a small part of the global market but it's still a very important part because we love to be able to connect with our community here and talk to customers and get feedback but the bigger picture is the global markets - the outdoor adventure spaces is very big where we are expanding into and from there we are starting to look at specialised areas where we can create value, like snowboarding and dedicated sporting tools and products," he says.
"Then we are also getting into torches and knife category so we can start to create a complement of product that people can utilise."
He believes Tactica's approach to design and innovation will only increase appetite for the product.
"Our product will grow because we design all our products, they are original and we always involve the community in that process too so we know when the product comes out they are a great fit," he says.
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